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Scattering Ashes UK Law

Legal Differences between Scattering and Interment of Cremated Remains in Law

Legal and Physical Differences between Scattering and Interment of Cremated Remains in English Law

This is Scattering Ashes interpretation of the Law as it stands

Scattering of Cremated Remains

Definition: Scattering involves dispersing cremated remains (ashes) over a defined area, such as in a garden, at sea, or over land.

Legal Considerations:

  1. Consent: Permission from the landowner or relevant authority is required before scattering ashes on private or public land.
  2. Regulations: There are generally fewer regulations governing the scattering of ashes, but local by-laws or specific site regulations (such as those from the Environment Agency for scattering at sea) may apply.
  3. Environmental Impact: Scattering should be done with consideration of the environment, avoiding areas where it might cause ecological damage.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity: Respect for local customs and practices should be maintained.
  5. Finality: Scattering is considered a final act and usually does not involve any further formalities or ongoing responsibilities.

Interment of Cremated Remains

Definition: Interment involves burying the cremated remains in a defined and often permanent location, such as a grave, a columbarium niche, or an urn garden.

Legal Considerations:

  1. Permission and Rights: Interment typically requires purchasing the rights to a burial plot or niche. Permission from the landowner or relevant authority is mandatory.
  2. Regulatory Compliance: There are specific regulations governing the interment of remains. This includes compliance with cemetery regulations and sometimes local council rules.
  3. Documentation: Interment involves more formal documentation, including the recording of the location in cemetery or columbarium records.
  4. Maintenance and Care: The site of interment may involve ongoing responsibilities such as plot maintenance fees or adherence to cemetery rules regarding monuments and markers.
  5. Permanence: Interment is usually intended to be permanent, with legal and procedural frameworks to protect the integrity of the resting place.

Physical difference between Scattering and Internment (or specifically the burial aspect)

We can’t find any relevant case law so We think this involves some or all of the following:

  • Digging
  • Placing ashes as a whole
  • Below the surface of the ground
  • Earth/Soil replacement
  • Turf cutting

If you do Inter… then the law kicks in if you want to move the ashes!

Exhumation of Cremated Remains (digging up ashes)

Definition: Exhumation refers to the process of removing cremated remains from their place of interment.

Legal Considerations:

  1. Permission Required: Exhumation requires legal permission from the appropriate authorities. This can include the Ministry of Justice and, if the remains are buried in consecrated ground, the local diocese.
  2. Application Process: An application must be submitted detailing the reasons for the exhumation and plans for the future reinterment or scattering of the remains. This process ensures that exhumation is conducted respectfully and lawfully.
  3. Reasons for Exhumation: Common reasons include relocating remains to a different cemetery or family plot, moving remains closer to living relatives, or addressing cemetery closures.

If you do need to Exhume then go to our detailed section on the subject – Exhumation


  • Scattering of Cremated Remains: A less regulated process involving the surface dispersal of ashes, requiring permission from the landowner and adherence to any local by-laws. It is a final act with no further obligations and involves no disturbance of the earth.
  • Interment of Cremated Remains: A more formal process involving the burial of ashes, requiring legal permissions, purchase of burial rights, and compliance with regulations. It includes documentation and potentially ongoing responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the interment site, involving the physical act of digging a hole or preparing a niche for the ashes.

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