Everything You Never Knew About Disposing of Your Remains: Pt. 2 – Cremation from Austin Estate Planning Attorney Elizabeth Ziegler

Disposition of Remains - Cremation

Cremation has been part of human history since ancient days.  Archeological evidence from around the world show cultures following the practice as early as 8,000 B.C.E.  The practice has gone through times of favor and disfavor, depending on religious acceptability.  However, in the 21st century, as concerns about lack of burial space and environmental impact of embalming grow, cremation has seen a boom in popularity.

In 2020, the National Funeral Directors Association estimated that over half the people in the country chose to be cremated, as opposed to be buried.  This figure is up from the roughly even split back in 2015, and the projections into the future show the practice becoming even more favored.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Often the reason people choose cremation over burial is, quite simply, the cost.  Though slightly less wallet-blistering than full casket burial, cremation arrangements are still quite pricey.  In Texas, prices for a cremation will set you back about $3,720. Yikes!

Due to the steep costs, there are certain companies which offer funeral and cremation options on the cheap. Even though final estimates are impossible, due to all the potential extras, companies like the Neptune Society quote around $2,000 for cremation and the professional services that go along with it.

Though do remember, these estimates are simply for the cremation and funeral itself.  Purchasing a niche at a cemetery or columbarium will increase this amount and may include all the same issues of final resting place addressed in our earlier post.  Even if you choose to remain in a family home or to be scattered somewhere, your chosen location could present some issues.

Careful Where You Scatter

Naturally, since cremains are much more mobile than a grave, there are more options for what to do with your remains once you’ve been reduced to ashes.  While some families opt to keep cremains in their homes, other people find the daily reminder of death a bit too morbid.  If there are no volunteers to store your remains, you may want your ashes scattered in a certain beloved location.

While touching, this can be a real thorny problem for your loved ones, especially if it’s illegal to sprinkle ashes in your chosen spot.  Oh yes, it’s possible for your loved ones to incur legal consequences when honoring your wishes. So, a few thoughts before you start making plans to remain forever in the Grand Canyon or the Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s Not That Simple

Texas law lays out some ground rules when it comes to sprinkling ashes, namely if it’s on your own private property, then no problem! Or if you have the written permission of the owner of private property, again feel free to scatter your remains there.

Texas law also allows you to scatter ashes on uninhabited public land.  This can lead to some problems when determining if the land is public or private.  Often, when wishing to scatter on state or federal parkland or in a local lake or river, you’ll need a special permit from the state beforehand.

One body of water where you can scatter ashes is at sea … provided your loved ones adhere to the rules.  According to U.S. law, at minimum, the dispersal must be more than three nautical miles off the coast, and anything placed into the water (such as human remains or flowers) must be biodegradable.  Additionally, your loved ones must report the action and the location to the EPA within 30 days of the dispersal.

Lastly, there is no prohibition on scattering ashes into the air.  While the federal government prohibits dropping objects into the air which might cause harm to people or property, surprisingly the government doesn’t consider ashes to be harmful.  Even if the ashes may come to rest on private property, the FAA has no prohibition on scattering ashes into the air.

Places You Can NOT Sprinkle Ashes 

As mentioned, often you must have specific permits to scatter cremains on certain types of property. However, there are some places (like sports arenas, universities or theme parks) which may seem public, but they’re actually private property.  And these private properties absolutely prohibit scattering ashes at any time.

Even if it is the most magical place on earth, the Disney amusement parks won’t let you leave cremains behind.  It’s a well-known fact that, despite this rule, people do try to leave behind their loved ones. But rest assured you will be escorted off the property if you’re discovered trying to leave a loved one behind at the Haunted Mansion.

Be Sure to Make a Plan

Even though the figures show that cremation is becoming the more popular choice for Americans, it is important to make sure your loved ones are aware of your wishes.  Putting together a comprehensive estate plan gives you the chance to designate a loved one to carry out your wishes and to tell those loved ones what your wishes are.

If you have an estate plan which needs updating, or if you have never completed an estate plan before, now may be the time to make sure your wishes are recorded.  Give us a call and let us help you put your plan together.

Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate and disposition of remains disposal for families and individuals in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area.  For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.