A guide to burying ashes
If you’re considering burying the ashes of a loved one after a cremation, it’s important that you understand where you’re able to do this in the UK and what laws you’ll need to abide by.
Whilst many families choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes, burying ashes in a grave is a popular alternative and can be a fairly straightforward process.
This guide will explain the options you have.
Burying ashes in a grave
Burying ashes in a grave is very common and fairly easy; whether it’s in a cemetery, churchyard, crematoria garden or woodland burial ground. You can bury them directly in the ground, or them in an urn before placing them in a burial plot.
The person responsible for the burial needs to obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial from the local registry office.
If you’re scattering ashes instead of burying them, you don’t need any paperwork – just the permission of the landowner.
Burying ashes in a cemetery or churchyard
If you’d like to bury your loved one’s ashes in a cemetery or churchyard, you’ll be required to sign a burial plot application form which is typically issued by your local council or cemetery.
Once you’ve signed this form, you’ll need to purchase an ‘exclusive right of burial’. This is typically purchased for a period of 25-100 years and states that only you can decide who can be buried in the plot. If your family already owns the exclusive rights of burial for a grave, and you can produce either the deed of exclusive rights of burial or evidence that you are the person to have the burial rights, then arrangements can be made for an interment to take place.
If you would like burial plots that are next to each other, you can enquire about purchasing or reserving multiple plots. If this is the case, we’d advise you to arrange to speak to your local authority about buying a plot and talk through their specific rules and regulations.
Woodland burial sites also offer plots for the burial of cremation ashes. If this is your preferred burial option, there may be a requirement for you to purchase a biodegradable urn.
Burying ashes in your garden or on private land
In the UK, it’s legal to bury ashes in your garden or on private land, as long as you have the landowner’s permission to do so.
Burying your ashes in your garden can be very personal and is it is the perfect alternative to a traditional burial if you want to keep the ashes close by. It is also an affordable alternative to a traditional burial. You could, for example, arrange a direct cremation without a funeral service and then hold a private service at your home and place the ashes in their final resting place. Or you could bury the ashes after a traditional funeral, as part of a memorial service or celebration of life with friends and family.
Other things to consider when planning to bury ashes in your garden:
- How deep should cremation ashes be buried? There are no specific rules around this, but it is a good idea to bury them at least a metre deep.
- What kind of urn do you need? If you think you might need to move the ashes at a later date, a waterproof container may be best. However, if not, consider a biodegradable urn.
- Do I need to ask my local council or the Environment Agency for permission? No, unlike the burial of a body, you do not need to seek permission from your local council or the Environment Agency.
It’s important to be aware that if you sell your home one day, the new owner may not allow you to visit the spot where you visit the ashes.
Burying ashes in a garden of remembrance
Most cemeteries and crematoria in the UK have gardens of remembrance which allow for the burial of ashes. They may also offer a range of memorials to help remember your loved one including plaques, benches and trees.
Some cemeteries and crematoria also have an option for above-ground burial for cremation ashes, including a type of mausoleum called a columbarium, built to contain cremation urns.
The cost of burying cremation ashes can vary according to the chosen location. However, you should expect to pay less than you would for a traditional grave.
Unlike a traditional burial, there is no time limit for when you may choose to bury (or scatter) a loved one’s ashes, so you have time to decide where and when you would like this to happen.
Many families choose to hold a committal service for the ashes, as part of a memorial for the person who has died.