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Burying cremation ashes at a family grave: frustrated by regulation and red tape

A lady from North Yorkshire has discovered the large amount of redtape and hurdles needed have her casket (cremation urn) buried at a family grave, and she has said that if it can’t be done legally then she would do it illegally.

Mrs Rea wants to have her ashes buried in the same grave as her grandparents. However the local authority has said that she needs permission from all the next-of-kin. And as these are grandparents this includes all her cousins, some of whom she no longer has any contact with.

One can easily see how this can be exacerbated by modern society – dispersed families, divorces and step families.

Mrs Rea, who planned to have her ashes put in her grandparents’ grave in Thornaby Cemetery, Thornaby, near Stockton, said: “My grandfather was a funeral director in Yarm, so I should have been aware of these issues.”

“It must be so emotional for some families who just want to have their mother’s or father’s ashes buried in a family grave, having to contact everyone in their family.

She doesn’t want to ask in case one of them says no then this would cause a big family argument.

Stockton Borough Council are sympathetic, but point out there are six other people with an equal claim to be buried there.

Mrs Rae said: “I’ve said to my family, I don’t want all this legal fuss, just bury my ashes in the grave in secret when no one is looking. It just means I can’t have my name on the gravestone, which is sad.”

Interesting, you can appreciate the poor woman’s predicament, although the local authority does have a point. There does seem like no obvious solution… scattering maybe? But people tend to feel quite strongly about burying or scattering. I wonder if the local authority would have a similar view if she scattered as no actual capacity would be used and thus could she have her name on the headstone…?

If she did chose to do it illegally and one of the family reported this to the authority – would they have a duty to exhume the ashes?!

Also thinking about how would you do it surreptitiously, I don’t envy the family member who gets that job!

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10 thoughts on “Burying cremation ashes at a family grave: frustrated by regulation and red tape

  1. Reply
    Terry Beaugh - 6th April 2020

    Two Questions: I want to be cremated and want my ashes to be near my Mom’s grave. Can this be done and do I have to get permission to do this? My wife agrees with my wishes. Any info is appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 7th April 2020

      Dear Terry

      Yes it can be done and yes you do – here is some information https://scattering-ashes.co.uk/help-advice/interment-of-ashes/

      I hope this helps

      Kind regards

  2. Reply
    John Catlow - 14th May 2019

    What is the minimum depth of excavation for the internment of a casket containing ashes in a family grave which originally was designe to take 4 coffins but only contains 3. My sisters ashes have recently been interred and the hole made was so shallow that when the turf was relaid it did not finish level with the surrounding grassed area. Surely there should be some regulation as to the depth of placement!!

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 20th May 2019

      Dear John
      This does indeed sound woeful. So what you were saying is that the cemetery never dug it deep enough in the first place and this has resulted in that ashes casket not really even being covered! Which would also mean that the coffin below must be incredibly shallow? In the first instance I would approach the http://www.fbca.org.uk who set the standards and codes of practice and would be able advice you properly and guide you if there is recourse needed.
      Please feel free to reply to this if you need further assistance, it would be interesting to hear what was said if you wished to share it.
      Kind regards

      1. Reply
        Mark - 4th March 2020

        There should be at least 3ft between the last coffin and surface ashes in our cemetery go in to a depth of 2 ft so plenty of room but the council do not have to guarantee the 4 burials states but law says they have to have the 3ft from last burial to surface

  3. Reply
    Pauline Lewis - 17th June 2018

    I am trying to get permission to inter a friends ashes in the grave with his dad as well as his mum’s ashes. His mum’s ashes were put in a collumbrian did a set time but that time is now up. Her second husbands ashes were scattered. On learning that his dad has a grave (he is buried with his dad & 4 other family members) & learning his mums ashes are safe I thought I would request permission for both lots of ashes to be buried I grave so mum dad & son can all be reunited. My reply was I need to get a letter from his younger brother who no one can find then they may change their mind. I need to also provide details of the grave owner & be a descendant of them. As my friend is the eldest son surely he has automatic right.? The grave was first used in about 1895 so how do I know who the owner is?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 19th June 2018

      Dear Pauline
      That is a truly complex situation, this a very kind thing you are trying to do. However, it will be challenging. The brother is the mothers closest living relative and thus it is his decision, the law doesn’t account for ones that are not ‘engaged’ in family life. Sadly, your friend doesn’t not have an automatic right and the older the grave the more people are likely to have a claim to it. Establishing a right is outside on my knowledge. For complex ecclesiastical issues we send people in the direction of Shoosmiths legal firm, although I appreciate there may be no resources to this. I know people who have gone and ignored everything and scattered ashes over a family grave, but we could not suggest this a a route for obvious reasons.
      Kind regards

      1. Reply
        Pauline Lewis - 14th June 2019

        Hi Martin I finally got to lay my friend to rest with his parents in the family grave. I was able to get his mum’s ashes too as the cousin had not collected them. The brother sadly passed away January 2019 but was buried in a paupers grave as the cousin did not claim the body to cremate him. I was happy it was sorted.

        1. Reply
          Richard Martin - 17th June 2019

          Hi Pauline thanks for letting us know, that was a good thing you did and I am glad you are happy with how it turned out. Best wishes Richard

  4. Reply
    Stephanie Fox - 19th December 2017

    I have a similar problem. It seems insurmountable.

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