Disposal of Cremated Remains
Oct. 20, 2021
Our clients sometimes request our legal opinion regarding the lawful disposal of cremated remains of a family member. The staff at Malm & LaFave, S.C. is available and able to help families with any specific questions you may have.
Several Wisconsin statutes and other guidelines address the issue of cremated remains and what can legally be done with them. The following references concerning the legal disposal of cremated remains should be considered.
Wisconsin Statutes: Wis. Stat. 440.80(2) states: "Manner of Disposition: A person may dispose of cremated remains only in one of the following manners: (a) Placing the remains in a grave, niche, or crypt. (b) Disposing of the remains in any other lawful manner, but only if the remains are reduced to a particle size of one-eighth inch or less."
Wis. Stat. 287.21(2) states, in pertinent part: (2) Except as provided in sub. (3), a person who does any of the following may be required to forfeit not more than $500: (a) Deposits...any solid waste on...public or private property.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:
As indicated above, there is no legal right or authority for a person to dispose of ashes in public waters or public lands. However, DNR states on its web site that spreading a small amount of ash material from one cremated body is not going to be noticeable, and it will be quickly incorporated into the soil and not likely to cause any environmental problems. It further states on its web site that DNR would not cite a person for spreading ashes from one cremated body of a family member if done inconspicuously.
Environmental Protection Agency:
The EPA has issued a general permit under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act that authorizes the burial of cremated human remains at sea...of any depth provided that such burial takes place at least 3 nautical miles from land.
United States Post Office Rules:
Cremated remains may only be shipped using the United States Post Office priority mail express or priority mail express international. There is a short video available - https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Shipping-Cremated-Remains-and-Ashes
Airline and TSA Guidelines:
Flying with Cremated Remains is allowed; however, TSA recommends using containers that do not hinder the security process, such as containers made of wood or plastic. Furthermore, various airlines have specific requirements for traveling with cremated remains. For example, Alaska Airlines requires either a death certificate or a burial transit permit, which can generally be provided by the funeral home. Clients should contact their airline before traveling with cremated remains.