How Does Dividing Ashes After Cremation Work?


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Do you need to divide up the ashes of a loved one after he or she has passed? You can! There are plenty of state laws that tackle scattering ashes, but none about ash division.

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Some families choose to divide up the ashes following the cremation of a loved one. Here are a few things to consider as you handle the cremated remains and what to do if your family members can’t agree on where the ashes should be placed for eternity.

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Why Divide Up Ashes After Cremation?

There may be many reasons you want to divide up the ashes of your loved one. Here are some scenarios that may explain when this would be appropriate.

The deceased requested the ashes to be divided in their end-of-life planning

Your loved one may have planned their own funeral and requested that the cremated remains be divided. If this is your loved one’s final request, then you should probably do what you can to make sure it is fulfilled.

Perhaps your loved one wanted part of the ashes to be scattered at the location of their birthplace, and the rest of the ashes to be scattered near their home where they spent most of their life. Or maybe they want most of the remains to be placed in an urn but they would like a small amount to be scattered at their favorite college football stadium. 

Regardless of the reasoning, following these final wishes is important, whether you agree with them or not.

The family can’t agree on what to do with the cremated remains of their loved ones

Maybe your mom or dad didn’t leave final, written instructions on what they wanted to have done with their remains. If this is the case, you and your siblings may have to come to an agreement on where the final resting location will be.

You may never agree with your brother or sister and might find it hard to make such an important decision together. If that’s the case, you may want to divide up the cremated remains equally and split them among your siblings. Each sibling can distribute the remains as they see fit. 

The family wants to use the ashes to create pieces of jewelry or keepsakes for each member of the family

Another reason you may want to divide up the cremated ashes is if some or all of the family members would like to make a piece of jewelry or a keepsake with them. 

Perhaps you would like a piece of cremation jewelry or memorial diamond that holds a portion of the cremated remains or use the ashes to create a beautiful stone that can be used in a piece of jewelry or decor. Eterneva is one company that makes this possible, transforming cremated ashes into real diamonds in a matter of months. You can also solidify your loved one's cremains into 40 to 60 cremation stones, which you can divvy up however you'd like, with Parting Stone

Even if this practice does not appeal to you, it’s essential to respect the desires of your family members. After all, it might help your sister manage her grief better if she knows that she has a small part of your mom with her at all times. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Who’s Responsible for Dividing Up the Ashes?

Since the courts have not discussed the ramifications of dividing up ashes, no one person is responsible for this process. Here are some things you should consider if you would like to have someone divide up the ashes of your loved one.

Ask the funeral director or crematorium director to divide the ashes

Ask the directors handling the cremation of your loved one if they will divide the ashes up evenly. Some places will charge you to complete this process. Others may do it for free. 

Perhaps you have had the remains of your loved one for months, and you just decided to divide up the remains to be placed in several different urns. Why not return to the crematorium to ask if they will complete this process for you? They may charge you for the services, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

Of course, having a professional complete the division process for free would be the best-case scenario. This means that the family would not have to handle the ashes personally.

Ask a friend to divide up the ashes of your loved one

Handling the ashes of a loved one’s body may be too emotional of a task for some people to manage. If this is the case, you might ask a good friend to divide the ashes up for you if the crematorium won’t take care of the task. 

Give your friend the instructions and materials for the process. These materials may include plastic gloves, ziplock bags, newspaper, a funnel, and perhaps a kitchen scale if you are concerned about the ashes being divided equally. Of course, your friend will need to know how many sections are required.

Finally, you may consider dividing the remains yourself

Perhaps you feel that dividing the remains would help fulfill the wishes of your loved one. Maybe you feel honored to be a part of this process. 

If that is the case, plan the process carefully. Gather the appropriate materials and don’t do it outside on a windy day. Ask other members of the family if they would like to assist. 

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

What Happens After You Divide The Remains?

The ashes have been divided. What comes next?

Ask each family member to pick up their section of the remains

Are your family members conflicted with what to do with the remains of the family member? Doling out each person’s shares may be a complicated process. You could ask a third party to be responsible for the distribution.

Learn about the state laws regarding how to handle cremated remains

Each state has its own laws for scattering ashes. Make sure you understand what is legal in your state.

Even if an area is designated as “public property,” such as a park or wildlife preserve, this doesn’t mean that you can scatter your loved one’s remains there without permission. There are even rules for scattering your loved one’s ashes at sea. 

Handle your portion of the remains as you see fit

Perhaps you plan to scatter your mom’s ashes around the base of a newly planted tree. Maybe you plan to keep her remains in an urn in your home.

Or you might want to create jewelry for you and your children to wear. Whatever you want to do with your loved one’s remains is up to you. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Diving the Ashes of the Ones You Love

We all know how hard it is to lose someone you love. Conflicts can quickly erupt during these extreme emotional situations. 

Do you fear that fights are on the horizon in your family? If so, ask your mom, dad, or other family members to complete end-of-life planning before it’s too late. 


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