Who Has the Right to Ashes After Cremation?

After someone dies, deciding who will handle their ashes can be difficult. In most cases, the person will leave behind the last Will to dictate how they would like their ashes distributed. However, some situations leave the family members in a bind and wondering who has the right to ashes after cremation.

There are specific laws in place that dictate who is allowed to carry out post-cremation and have the ashes once the process is complete. These laws vary from state to state, but we've outlined some of the most common factors below.

Hierarchy of ranks - Who legally owns cremains

In most states, the right to your ashes goes to the surviving spouse or domestic partner. If there's no spouse or partner, it goes to the surviving children. Many laws around the world set out this hierarchy of position. However, the dispute can be complicated to settle between the hierarchy's equally ranking members, such as between brothers.

If there is a conflict and multiple family members want to take possession of the ashes, those who wish to have the ashes should consult a lawyer. A lawyer should be able to tell you who has the right in certain situations.

Why dispute over who has the right to ashes after cremation arises?

Such disputes can arise for various reasons. For example, some family members might want the ashes to be scattered at a specific location, while others may wish to display the ashes at home. Whatever the reason may be, the problem roots from the absence of the Will of the deceased.

It is also worth noting, the right to ashes does not only mean that you get to decide what happens to the cremains. In some cases, it also implies that you bear the cost of all funeral arrangements and the cremation process.

How can such disputes be avoided?

The Will is a legal document that lets you control what will happen to your property and assets when you die. It also enables you to name an executor to carry out your wishes after you die and make essential decisions on your behalf, including what happens to your cremains.

Having the last Will can prevent your family from fighting over who has the right to your cremains after your death. Based on the Will, the executor can make sure there will be no disputes among the family members and everything is carried out according to your wishes. 

Your executor is the person responsible for carrying out your Will and distributing your assets to the beneficiaries you've named in the Will. Many people choose their spouse or partner, but executors don't have to be family members. You can appoint a friend or even an accountant.


Although disagreements over who has the right to the cremains happen very often, the family members should think about the deceased and avoid engaging in such quarrels. After all, the body or the cremation remains of the dead is no one's property.

Cremation has been gaining popularity recently due to many factors, including the fact it's eco-friendly, cheaper than traditional burial, and family members can preserve the ashes in different types of urns to keep their loved ones always close.

Previous article Is Cremation a Sin?
Next article What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?