The Golden Rule of Spreading Ashes 4

Thank you to everyone who has submitted questions! This blog wouldn’t be alive with you. With all the campaigning for this years election and interviews for the book, it’s nice to spend some time writing about what I know best; Death. Here are a couple questions we recently received.


-Why is a permit needed when spreading cremation ashes? What about for spreading them at sea?

I obviously don’t write the rules, so don’t take this answer as gospel truth. But, when it comes to the spreading of ashes, a permit is required simply because ‘they can’. I don’t know of any official reasons why it is required. Now, if you’ll stand by while I put my tongue in my cheek….I will say a lot of people dispose of ashes throughout the world, in various ways, and never ask permission. There are no cremains police running around arresting people. The position of almost every party involved is, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone of authority interrupted the beautiful and emotional act of spreading your loved ones ashes to cite you. There is one Golden rule: Take the identifier out of the ashes! Don’t just dump them. There are identifiers (usually round metal tags) that are put in the cremains at the crematory. Though the risk is very minimal, if someone finds the identifier and decides to check on whether a permit was acquired, it can be traced back to you.  Be careful and/or follow the rules.

Things are a little different when it comes to spreading ashes at sea. The law states that the cremains should be put in a permanent container designed to sink them to the bottom of the sea. It has something to do with the Clean Water Act. I am guessing they don’t want a bunch of loose ashes hanging out in the water. The permitting process would be helpful for you to discover all of the rules involved. For instance, you are supposed to be at least three nautical miles off the shore before dropping any cremains. You are also directed to determine the coordinates of where you have dropped them and report back to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within 30 days. This is understandable, as they would like to be aware of the points that permanent containers are being dropped in to the ocean. Again, though, I am quite certain many people spread ashes out in the sea without following these guidelines. It is really more a moral decision than anything else.


-How much time goes by before a body gets stiff?

The time for a body to get stiff (or go into rigor mortis) varies based on several factors: age, muscle build, temperature, etc. A general rule is that a body will start to go into rigor about 2 to 4 hours after death. It should be in full rigor after 6 to 10 hours. Rigor will typically start receding around 20 hours and be pretty much gone after 24 hours or so.

Have any other questions? Throw them my way! Don’t forget to subscribe so you can be notified when the answers pop up.

(We received a question related to investigating a suicide by a person named Andy. Hey, Andy, if you’re seeing this, send a quick email to so I can get back to you! Very intriguing stuff and I’d like to send you some thoughts I have.)

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4 thoughts on “The Golden Rule of Spreading Ashes

  • Christine Faulkner

    If my husband only got a little bit of my is mother’s ashes, from her original urn.. Would there be a tag inside? He got a tiny urn, small enough to go to fit in your pocket. They sealed it at the funeral parlor. Would they put a tag in there as well?? Her dying wish was to have some of her ashes buried at her parents head stone here in Milwaukee, while the rest of the other ashes went up north. Can we do this legally??? Can we dig a hole and place the urn in there. If we can get down at least 2-3 feet down in front of the grave stone???? Thank you for your input Christine Faulkner

    • Korttany Post author

      Hi Christine, I help run things on the blog side. I sent Jacquie your questions and here is her response: “I am not sure if there would be a tag inside. A tag was likely put in the primary jar of cremains. The contents of the jar was then distributed in to the smaller urns. There is no way to tell if the main tag wound up in the urn your husband got. You can look through the remains for a tag if you wish. If you aren’t comfortable with that, take it to a funeral home where they can open it up for you and let you know. It probably wouldn’t be the first time they have been asked. As for burying it by the headstone, you definitely would not want to dig in a cemetery without permission. I would recommend asking a person who works there if it would be okay to do so. (They may want to charge you a fee.) I hope you get to carry out those final wishes in one way or another, and I am sorry for your loss.


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