Additional Form Required
If you wish to be cremated, California’s Declaration for Disposition of Cremated Remains is needed so that ashes may be removed from the crematory. The mortuary or crematory will provide this form.
In addition, make sure your next of kin or executor is aware of your decision and that you have considered cost or a preferred service provider.
Note: Mortuaries will charge additional fees for an oversized body and not all mortuaries have crematories so there are extra transportation fees, as well other related unique expenses. Bay Area Funeral Consumer Association members have access to negotiated prices for 5 basic plans with cooperating mortuaries that are up to 50% off retail prices. Here is the list of funeral homes contracted with us along with their discounted prices.
What To Do With Ashes
The cremated remains, sometimes called cremains, are given to the family in a container. Usually for a small fee, the crematory can split the ashes if family members would like to do so.
Although you will have filled out the disposition form authorizing the cremation, there is actually no requirement for you to decide up front what to do with the ashes. Simply specify that you will take them home, and then you can decide what is to do with them when you aren’t under pressure.
Cremains may be stored at home in the container in which they were received. Or you can use an urn made of metal, wood, china, or other materials. When choosing a container, you should consider potential leakage and its breakability.
If you want to ship your cremains, UPS provides guidance on how to package and ship remains.
To learn more about your options, download our paper, “What Shall We Do With the Ashes?”
Ground Burial or Scattering of Ashes
- With permission of the landowner, you may scatter or bury ashes on private property.
- Some churches in the Bay Area are installing Memorial Gardens to hold ashes of their members in a permanent religious setting. Expect to pay a fee or donation for perpetual maintenance.
- Cemeteries will store ashes in several ways. Call or visit the cemeteries to obtain current options and prices.
Scattering Ashes on Water
- Some funeral homes will arrange to have the ashes scattered at sea or over some wilderness area by a licensed boat captain or pilot. A few mortuaries have their own planes or boats and may not charge extra for this service if you allow them to scatter at their own convenience along with other people’s ashes.
- The family may scatter the ashes on water themselves if they have a sailboat or motorboat. California law says the scattering must be done 500 yards or more from a shore of the ocean or navigable inland waterways. (for example, San Francisco Bay, a big lake, or wide river). It cannot be done from any wharf or pier. The ashes need to be removed from the container—don’t throw the whole box overboard.
- If the deceased is a veteran, the Navy or Coast Guard will conduct a sea burial at no cost to the family. It will be done at their convenience so the family will not be able to witness it. A flag is required, which the family can obtain from the Veterans Administration and it will be returned to the family. The funeral home will charge postage to send the cremains to the nearest base.