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Exhumation of Ashes

Exhumation of ashes is the technical name for removing the ashes from the ground.

What do you need to do if you want to exhume cremation ashes?

It depends, on where they were buried:

  • Informally buried on private land including your garden.
  • A registered burial on private land.
  • Buried in a local authority cemetery (in the non consecrated* area) or privately owned burial site such as a natural burial ground.
  • Buried on consecrated* ground for example a church yard.
  1. Buried informally – Although you should not have done this, the good news is if you have not had it registered then there is no to ask permission to remove the ashes.
  2. Registered burial on private land, local authority cemetery or natural burial ground – On un-concreted ground in England and cemeteries in Wales, you will need to apply for a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) licence. These applications are currently free although fairly detailed. You can only apply if you are the next of kin and these will be granted as a matter of course as long as all the paperwork is correct.
  3. Buried on consecrated land (England only) – For the exhumation of a body or cremated remains from consecrated ground, it will be necessary to obtain a Faculty (permission) from the Chancellor of the Diocese (the legal part of the church in that area). This is difficult if not impossible to obtain as the church consider burial to be final. The only way you get this granted is if there is exceptional circumstances.  For more detail of what the Church of deems exceptional circumstance and what factors are taken into consideration go to Church of England rules. It is no longer necessary to obtain an Exhumation Licence from the Ministry of Justice, even if it is intended that the remains should be re-interred in unconsecrated ground (see section 2 of the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2014, amending section 25 of the Burial Act 1857).

The law is Scotland is currently different and you would need to go to a Sheriff’s court to have an exhumation granted, this can be expensive but it is likely that this will change in 2016.

*Consecrated ground is land that has been specifically blessed by the Church.

Exhumation of Ashes

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