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Considering Cremation? 5 Legal Issues

By Betty Wang, JD on November 20, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Are you considering cremation? There are many legal issues that come with that.

While it's not easy to think about one's final days, it's always best to be prepared, especially if you have particular wishes about what happens to your body after your death.

Cremation is a popular option. Many people specify a special manner or location for their ashes to be interred or scattered as a profound way to cap off their life. If you're thinking about cremation, here are five legal issues to keep in mind:

  1. Making the request. Remember, cremation is not usually the default option for the body of those who've passed. Make sure that you actually make a cremation request. Also, don't put it in your will, since your will may not be read until weeks after your death. Make sure that your executor is aware of your funeral plans and cremation wishes.
  2. Restrictions on seaside scatterings. Many like the idea of their remains being scattered at sea. There are rules for this, however. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), burial at sea of cremated remains must take place at least 3 nautical miles from land.
  3. Flying with crematory remains. Are your last days going to be spent in a place where you don't want your ashes to be scattered? If your loved one will be traveling with your remains somewhere else, keep in mind that while the TSA generally allows transporting crematory remains, you'll also want to check with your particular airline.
  4. Special permits may be required. If you want your ashes to be scattered in a particular public location, there may be a permit required. Many national parks including the Grand Canyon do allow scattering -- however, this requires a permit and permission from the chief park ranger, according to Time.
  5. Your state's laws. Depending on which state you are in, the laws about cremation can vary greatly. For example, Illinois doesn't allow disposing of cremated remains in a location where the remains are commingled with another person. So if you wanted to do this with your spouse's remains in Illinois, you may want to think again.

Preparing for one's final days can be difficult in many ways, even if you're choosing the "simple" option of cremation. It's best to contact an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure that everything is carried out in a manner that adheres to your wishes.

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