California Laws on Spreading Ashes

Few people realize that laws exist to regulate the spreading of ashes after a loved one is cremated. Federal and state legal codes contain these rules to protect the people attempting to scatter ashes and others who may be affected but are not a part of the scattering ceremony. These protections include licenses, permits and notifications that take place before and after the process.


You cannot choose just any location for spreading the ashes. You can scatter them only in designated areas within a cemetery, like a Scattering Garden, or on a cemetery plot. The ashes can be scattered over locations that are not regulated by local ordinances, but you must have permission from the property owner first. Scattering at sea is only possible once you are 500 yards from the shore. Scattering ashes over lakes and streams is governed by local ordinances.

Licensing and Permits

Before the ceremony can begin, you must get a permit from the branch of the California Department of Health located within the county where you plan to scatter the ashes. This is called a Permit for Disposition. The person who will handle the ashes during the scattering must be identified. Scattering ceremonies over land and water will require boating or pilot licenses from the vehicle boat or airplane operators.

Permitted "Spreaders"

The only persons permitted to scatter the ashes are the deceased family or licensed personnel of the crematorium or funeral home. These facilities often offer scattering services performed by the licensed personnel to take the planning burden off the family.

Other Requirements

California legal codes state that the ashes must be removed from the container before scattering, and must be distributed so that passersby will not be disturbed after the ceremony by the remains. The ashes must be scattered within two months or 60 days from the time the body was cremated. Otherwise, you must provide a valid reason for the delay or maintain the remains in an urn.

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