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Can a funeral director keep ashes until they have been paid?

No, they can’t. Some funeral directors choose to hold ashes until the family pay the bill, but they are not allowed to. It is the applicant’s right under Section 7 of the Cremation Act 1902 and Statutory Rules and Orders, 1903, No 286. Cremation England & Wales.

It must be noted that this is NOT standard practice for the vast majority of funeral directors. However, funeral directors are often small independent business’ and when bills aren’t paid it can have a crippling impact.  And non-payment does happen, funeral costs are substantial and families will often wish to show their respects by arranging a fitting send-off. Sometimes this is without knowledge that it is beyond their means, or what the estate can afford. Also, as many funeral arrangements are made somewhat in haste, it is sometimes the case that commitments for spending are made before agreement has been reached in the family as to who is paying for what – and subsequent disagreements can leave the funeral director out of pocket. So some choose to hold to that ashes by way of an insurance, they can’t and they shouldn’t but you can see why they might consider it.


4 thoughts on “Can a funeral director keep ashes until they have been paid?

  1. Reply
    Robert Johnson - 1st January 2019

    A friend can not afford the $1.200 to pick up her Sons ashes. She has no family to help, so was wondering what other options does she have since she is on a fixed income

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 4th January 2019

      Dear Robert
      It is difficult for me to comment on how it works in the US, however here are some suggestions:
      – go to the funeral director and ask the for terms eg a reduction or payment terms spread over time
      – there are charities that may be able to help by lending the money, here in the UK ones like the Quakers or maybe a credit union may be able to help
      – ask friends if they are able to help in a small way, collectively this may solve the issue
      – or collectively all of the above in some way could solve the issue
      Kind regards

  2. Reply
    Y. Wilson - 3rd March 2018

    If a person signs to say that ashes can be held until the bill is paid, then a contract then exists ? – a person cannot knowingly sign a contract if they know they will renege on it.
    A person can refuse to sign and therefore will be required to pay all monies in advance of the funeral. A good funeral director will help you look at the best way for controlling the expense and help you with DWP or try to assist with any other means to help you pay for the funeral. If a funeral director helps in this way, then it is only fair that you are fair with them.

    Most funeral directors will have terms and conditions and for you to sign.
    16. After the cremation of the remains of a deceased person the ashes shall be given into the charge of the person who applied for the cremation if he so desires. If not, they shall be retained by the cremation authority and, in the absence of any special arrangement for their burial or preservation, they shall either be decently interred in a burial ground or in land adjoining the crematorium reserved for the burial of ashes. In the case of ashes left temporarily in the charge of the cremation authority and not removed within a reasonable time, a fortnight’s notice shall be given to the person who applied for the cremation before the remains are interred. –
    NOTE: THAT PERSON NOTIFIED IS USUALLY THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR not the relative – so it is a grey area as crematoria do not have the public going in to pick up ashes. It can be argued that the funeral director is that person
    NOTE: … first line charge of the person who applied for the cremation if he so desires. It can be argued by signing a form to hold the ashes to the funeral director they have “so desired to do so”.

    Could the Act be interpreted in such a way?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 5th March 2018

      Dear Yvonne
      Firstly thank you for taking the time for sending this in. It is really thought provoking. I am not a lawyer, however we will hopefully be teaming up with one soon. You may have a point, however the advice is from Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors whom I believe have had direction from a lawyer, I presume the funeral director on has proxy rights and the rights still with applicant? I will see if I can persuade a lawyer to add the categorical answer.

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