Uncollected Cremated Remains - Ashes
What happens to uncollected Cremated Remains - Ashes?
Crematoria prefer individual funeral directors to collect the Ashes of cremations they have organised in the absence of the authority of a family member. Due to the volume of cremations that take place, storing, tracking and the necessary administration would be prohibitive and costs of cremations would rise even further.
Individual funeral directors will have policies in place that will be made aware to you - sometimes there are fees involved after prescribed intervals. Some funeral directors will write to you occasionally with a reminder. Practically, this procedure is time-consuming and can escalate unreasonably.
In 2013, the NAFD, National Association of Funeral Directors, which is one of the main organisations that monitor and influence the funeral profession along with the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, SAIF, were in consultation with the government and a cross party group as indicated below - their conclusion follows:
“At present there is no legislation relating to the collection or disposal of cremated remains. The Cross Party Group on Funerals and Bereavement suggested that when new legislation is made it should include a provision which would make it a requirement that bereaved families should collect ashes from a funeral director’s premises within a set timescale unless they have provided a written request to do otherwise. The Cross Party Groups suggested that a maximum time limit of 5 years may be an appropriate timescale. If ashes are not collected within 5 years, then the ashes may be returned to the cremation authority for disposal. Any ashes currently being retained in funeral directors’ premises for a period of over 5 years, and where there has been no contact from the client who contracted for the funeral for over 5 years and where that client cannot be located or fails to respond to correspondence, shall be dispersed in a suitable location at the discretion of the funeral director.”
As a practising funeral director, we monitor quite closely Cremated Remains still in our possession. We write occasionally to families, mostly without any response and state that a fee will be charged for further storage though, none have to date. We are not bound by the suggestion above and are within our rights to return the Cremated Remains to the crematorium responsible for the cremation and, with an endorsement of contents, Certificate of Cremation and indemnification against the crematorium, ‘we’ are well within our mandate for this return. The cremated remains will then be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance, unmarked,a procedure that should incur no further financial charges as this was, an inclusive element of the cremation charge.
Naturally, every effort is or will be made to contact the person responsible for arranging the funeral prior to this action and possibly, a notice in a local newspaper would be appropriate but, with no mechanism to reimburse costs incurred, the funeral director is not bound to pursue any action beyond ‘due diligence.’
Multiple ‘returns’ could be performed at once.
NB. We, Shoobridge Funeral Services understand only too well that the logical collection and disposal of Ashes is anything but, logical. With emotions and bereavement comes confusion and memory disturbance. That we, as funeral directors, inform you of the processes regarding Ashes and may supply you with written information, your ‘balance’ at this time is unnaturally disturbed.
Sometimes you are the executor and not the family member. Some people move away following a death, possibly to be nearer family; remembering all that was said to you when you were arranging the funeral did not remain in your memory.
Sometimes, the ‘informant or executor dies, often without passing on necessary information? When moving house or changing address, who would think to write to the funeral director and inform them?
These problems are experienced by funeral directors every day. That they themselves, funeral directors, are not perfect should be a consideration. Life has taught me, to try and think of the unexpected – what if vandals broke into an undertaker’s premises and came across numerous urns of ashes; would they think they may contain precious metals and scatter them all on the ground? Unusual and unlikely but…..?
Please ensure that any ashes you are responsible for are dealt with properly. The funeral director has people suffering personal loss regularly. His expertise is all-encompassing but very complex and far-reaching.
Helping families in every way possible is his concern, Please assist with the solution.