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Scattering of Ashes

estate will lawyer kanataMy mother passed away. I would prefer her remains to be cremated but my brother wants a traditional burial. Who gets to make the final decision?

Unfortunately, what to do with a loved one’s remains is often a contentious issue amoung family members. Legally speaking, the person who has the authority to decide what is to be done with the body of a deceased is the estate trustee (executor). An estate trustee is either named in a Will or appointed by the court. If there is no estate trustee, the decision rests (in order of priority) with the deceased’s spouse, adult children, or parents.

My father told me that when he passes away he wants his ashes scattered at his favourite fishing spot. Is this allowed?

In Ontario, the scattering of ashes is governed by the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 33. A person may scatter ashes on private property with the prior consent of the landowner. However, if the landowner wishes to allow repeated scatterings, they will be required to establish the land as a cemetery and obtain the proper licencing.

Ashes may be scattered on Crown lands, including those Crown lands covered by water, if the land is unoccupied and there aren’t any signs posted which prohibit the scattering of ashes. If the chosen spot for scattering happens to be lands owned by a municipality, it will be necessary to check with the municipality to determine whether there are any by-laws in place prohibiting the scattering in that particular location. So, to answer the question above, it may be possible to fulfill dad’s wish depending upon the location of his favoured fishing hole but a little homework may be required to ensure the scattering is allowable.

It is legal to transport cremated remains out of Ontario. If the intention is to scatter the ashes in another jurisdiction, the laws of that jurisdiction must be consulted to ensure the intended scattering is permitted.

Many celebrities have had their ashes scattered, mostly in bodies of water. The ashes of Maria Callas, the famous opera singer, have been scattered in the Aegean Sea. Half of the ashes of Jerry Garcia were spread under the Golden Gate Bridge while the other half were scattered in the Ganges River, India. George Harrison’s ashes were also spread in the Ganges whereas John Lennon’s ashes were scattered in New York’s Central Park. The ashes of Alfred Hitchcock were said to have been scattered somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and the ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr. were spread in the Atlantic Ocean.

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