Important Things to Note Before You Scatter Ashes


Scattering a loved one’s ashes can be a beautiful way to say goodbye and return them to nature. However, there are rules that govern when and where this process may occur. It’s important to be aware of these general guidelines before you set out for a scattering ceremony so that you don’t run afoul of the authorities and basic consideration for other people.

Never Scatter Ashes on Private Property Without Permission

Private property owners must be consulted before you deposit any cremains on their land. This is mostly common sense, as owners have the right to determine the uses of their property.

This can get tricky when you mistake private property for public property.

If your loved one was an avid golfer you might think that scattering their ashes on their favorite links would an appropriate send-off. But even though a golf course is used by the general public, it isn’t necessarily public property. The same is true for sports stadiums, private parks, and botanical gardens. Before scattering anywhere, be certain it’s public property or ask for permission.

National Parks Are Generally Open to Scattering

It’s worth double-checking with park rangers for the specific park you’re interested in using, but in general, national parks allow ashes to be scattered. However, there is a process you’ll need to follow if you want to fully comply with the law.

You’ll need to formally request permission from the ranger’s office. A permit may also be required. Cremains can’t be scattered near trails or other inhabited areas, or any ecologically or historically-significant areas.

Uninhabited Public Land May Also Be Fine

A lovely spot in the middle of the woods can provide a fine final resting place for your departed’s cremains, and these areas are usually safe for scattering. However, the laws can vary from state to state, so be sure to check with the authorities first.

Graveyards May Seem an Appropriate Place to Scatter, But Not All Will Allow It

Remember that some cemeteries are public while others are private. As mentioned earlier, you need to ask permission to scatter on private grounds.

Public graveyards may allow ashes to be scattered, but you’ll need to abide by any guidelines they’ve set. Some regions restrict the practice, so make sure you check with the caretakers of the property.

In many cases cemeteries, both public and private will allow scattering in a designated scattering garden, but they may charge a fee.

Scattering at Sea is Allowed

As long as you observe these basic regulations, you can safely and legally scatter your loved one’s ashes at sea.

Cremains can be scattered from either a boat or a plane, but you must be at least three nautical miles from land.

Anything deposited with the ashes, including the urn, must be readily biodegradable.

You must report the scattering to the EPA within 30 days of the ceremony.

The guidelines regulate scattering in the ocean. If you’re looking to spread ashes in a smaller body of water you’ll need to contact the relevant state or local authorities concerning legality.

Be Considerate Others When Selecting a Spot

You should always try to scatter ashes in remote locations, and in a manner that makes them hard to identify. Finely ground cremains will blend in with the scenery, but more coarsely ground ashes can be identifiable.

Because you don’t want your loved one disturbed, and no one wants to discover bone fragments when they’re out enjoying nature, be sure to select a secluded spot and consider burying the cremains under a layer of soil so they aren’t readily discovered.