A Simplified Legal Guide To Spreading Ashes

logo 25-July-2022

An important question before you lay your loved one’s ashes to rest is, “Is it legal to spread ashes?”. While there aren’t “scattering police” looking to catch you in the act, there are some places where scattering is prohibited and could result in fines or minor criminal charges if you did happen to get noticed. And, if you’re in the middle of grieving, the last thing you need is to have the authorities involved. So, we’ve prepared this guide to help you determine where it’s legal to spread ashes.

Federal Laws on Spreading Ashes

Federal law regulates the spreading of ashes at sea; otherwise, the states either have laws on the books about this or not.

Laws On Spreading Ashes At Sea

Scattering your loved one’s ashes at sea is a timeless way to memorialize those who have passed. Ocean burials can be a meaningful and healing way to lay your loved one to rest. To have a successful sea burial, read up on the regulations around sea burial. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates burials at sea to preserve our oceans’ health and safety. The rules are simple for scattering ashes—it gets more complicated if you’re burying a body (with or without the casket) at sea. Here are the basics, and to learn more, please visit the EPA’s website.

  • You must be at least three nautical miles from the shore before scattering ashes at sea. The depth of the water does not matter. 
  • Only decomposable items can be scattered on the water. This includes any scattering urns, wreaths, etc. Many florists will make sea safe wreathes that will safely decompose. Don’t use a regular wreathe—they will have plastic and metal wires that will wind up as litter and could hurt marine life. Many people scatter individual flowers to make things easier, which is acceptable. 
  • Finally, after scattering the ashes at sea, you must notify the EPA within 30 days of burial. No documentation is needed, and the EPA has created a simple online tool to help you with this process. Here is a link to that form and a link to a fact sheet to help you fill out the form.
  • A few more notes about sea burials. You don’t need to apply or pay any fees. As long as you follow the rules, sea burials fall under a special MPRSA general permit. And finally, only humans can be buried at sea. The EPA does not permit the scattering of non-human remains. 

State by State Laws on Scattering Ashes

While many states have no laws prohibiting the scattering of ashes, use your common sense. Ask for permission before scattering on private property. Check with your local county and city for any additional regulations. Ask the park director for their OK if you want to scatter at a national park. Most will say ok, and the Rocky Mountain national park has a downloadable form. Be considerate of others and use common courtesy when scattering your loved one’s ashes. 

  • Alabama

There is no state law regulating the scattering of ashes. 

  • Alaska

Alaska has no state laws regarding the scattering of ashes. 

  • Arizona

There are no state laws controlling where you can or can’t scatter ashes. 

  • Arkansas

State laws stipulate that you must have written permission from the property owner if scattering on private land.

  • California

California has a few laws about scattering, including that ashes must not be distinguishable to the public once scattered. Local regulations regarding scattering must be followed.

  • Colorado

Ash scattering in Colorado is allowed if you have permission from the private or public land you’re using. 

  • Connecticut

Connecticut, like many states, doesn’t have any laws restricting where you can scatter ashes.

  • Delaware

State law says cremation ash may be disposed of however the receiver desires. 

  • Florida

Florida has no laws about where an individual can scatter ashes. 

  • Georgia

There are very few state laws about cremation here, but check where you’re scattering with local authorities. 

  • Hawaii

Hawaii doesn’t have any laws on the books regarding ash scattering. 

  • Idaho

There are no state laws controlling where you can or can’t scatter ashes. 

  • Illinois

State law allows ash scattering on private lands with permission and in designated scattering areas. 

  • Indiana

State law in Indiana allows for scattering on private lands with permission, on uninhabited public land, or a waterway. State code requires that you file documents with the local county recorder ten days before scattering. 

  • Iowa

In Iowa, ash scattering must adhere to applicable local rules, and you must have the property owner’s permission to scatter on any public or private land. 

  • Kansas

Kansas has no laws about where an individual can scatter ashes. 

  • Kentucky

Ash scattering is permitted in Kentucky on private land, with permission of the property owner, or in a legally defined scattering area. 

  • Louisiana

There aren’t any laws in Louisiana restricting the scattering of ashes.

  • Maine

In Maine, you can scatter ashes on private property with permission. Approval is needed for scattering on public lands. 

  • Maryland

Maryland, like many states, doesn’t have any laws restricting where you can scatter ashes.

  • Massachusetts

With permission, Ash scattering is permitted on private property and public land like national parks. 

  • Michigan

Michigan has no state laws controlling where you can or can’t spread someone’s ashes.

  • Minnesota

It’s legal to scatter ashes in Minnesota on public property, including lakes.

  • Mississippi

Mississippi has no laws about where an individual can scatter ashes. 

  • Missouri

Missouri has no laws or rules about scattering your loved one’s ashes. 

  • Montana

In Montana, you can legally scatter your loved one’s ashes; they don’t have any rules or prohibitions.

  • Nebraska

Virginia has no state laws controlling where you can or can’t spread someone’s ashes.

  • Nevada

The state of Nevada has no legal restrictions around scattering cremation ashes.

  • New Hampshire

There aren’t any laws in New Hampshire restricting the scattering of ashes. 

  • New Jersey

Ashes can be scattered in New Jersey on private property, with permission if it’s not your own. They can also be scattered on public property, including lakes and rivers, with approval from the state, county, or local government.

  • New Mexico

This state doesn’t have any laws restricting the scattering of ashes. 

  • New York

New York has no state laws controlling where you can or can’t spread someone’s ashes.

  • North Carolina

Ashes can be legally scattered in North Carolina on your property, on other private property with permission, and uninhabited land. 

  • North Dakota

North Dakota, like many states, doesn’t have any laws restricting where you can scatter ashes.

  • Ohio

Ohio doesn’t have any laws governing the scattering of ashes. 

  • Oklahoma

There aren’t any laws in Oklahoma restricting the scattering of ashes.

  • Oregon

There are no state laws around storing or scattering ashes.

  • Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania doesn’t have any laws governing the scattering of ashes. 

  • Rhode Island

This state doesn’t have any laws restricting the scattering of ashes. 

  • South Carolina

South Carolina, like many states, doesn’t have any laws restricting where you can scatter ashes.

  • South Dakota

There aren’t any laws in South Dakota restricting the scattering of ashes. 

  • Tennessee

Tennessee has no laws about where an individual can scatter ashes. 

  • Texas

In Texas, you can scatter ashes on uninhabited public land, over a public waterway, or on private property with consent from the property owner.

  • Utah

Utah has no laws or rules about scattering your loved one’s ashes. 

  • Vermont

In Vermont, you can legally scatter your loved one’s ashes; they don’t have any rules or prohibitions.

  • Virginia

Virginia has no state laws controlling where you can or can’t spread someone’s ashes. 

  • Washington

Washington supports the scattering of ashes on any navigable waterway or land as long as you have the landowner’s permission. 

  • West Virginia

This state has no laws or regulations guiding the scattering of ashes. 

  • Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin has no legal restrictions around scattering cremation ashes.

  • Wyoming

There are no state laws around storing or scattering ashes.

Places Where It Is Illegal To Spread Ashes

If you’re wondering, “Is it illegal to spread ashes?”, better to double check. Local cities, towns, and counties may have their own rules, even if their state does not. It is illegal to spread ashes on private property without permission. And most public lands require you to obtain approval before scattering. 

Places Where It Is Legal To Spread Ashes

It is always legal to scatter ashes on your private property or private property with permission (may need to be written). It’s also legal to scatter at legally designated scattering areas, like scattering gardens in a cemetery.