How Long do Funeral Directors Keep Ashes for?

Blogs & Articles Article How Long do Funeral Directors Keep Ashes for?
Coffins, Caskets & Urns

As cremation becomes a popular alternative to burial, those looking into funeral plans or loved ones planning a funeral need to consider how long ashes can be kept by the chosen funeral director. This is an important question to raise when looking for a trusted undertaker as some people prefer to have the full funeral service conducted at the crematorium, while others would rather have a service elsewhere either before or after the cremation.

In this guide, we outline how long funeral directors keep the deceased’s ashes for and how funeral homes and family members can store ashes.

How long do funeral directors keep ashes for?

In December 2012, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) published guidelines explaining that unclaimed ashes must be kept and stored for at least five years by a funeral home, with substantial efforts being made to identify the rightful recipient of said ashes before a funeral company could dispose of them accordingly. 

After the expiration of the five-year timeline and a recipient hasn’t been located, a funeral director may scatter the ashes at a chosen crematorium or an appropriate location such as a cemetery or land with the owner’s permission.

How are ashes stored after a cremation?

Once the funeral service has been conducted at a crematorium, the deceased are typically cremated as soon as it has finished. After the body has been cremated (it takes around 5 hours for the process to be completed), the cremated remains will be ground up into ashes and sealed into a container for the funeral director or family to collect.

See this guide if unsure about what’s involved with the cremation process.

Immediately after cremation

An urn is not a mandatory part of a funeral plan and as such, ashes aren’t always placed into one. If an urn has not been selected, ashes will be placed and stored in a basic container.

Storing ashes in the following weeks, months and years – Funeral Director

If a funeral director is in possession of the deceased’s ashes, they will typically be stored within the funeral home or a columbarium – a room or structure located within a cemetery or chapel.

Storing ashes in the following weeks, months and years – Family

If the deceased’s family have collected the ashes, there are a number of ways you can store ashes.

  • You can place the urn permanently within a columbarium
  • You can scatter or bury the ashes in a cremation, burial plot or private land
  • You can keep an urn on display in your property
  • You can keep the remains within a memorial in the shape of a memorial rock, grave marker, headstone or bench within gardens of remembrance

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When a family hasn’t yet collected the cremation ashes of a loved one, funeral directors are expected to hold ashes for at least five years before disposing of them accordingly. 

Researching funerals, cremations and related topics can be one of the most difficult times you can experience, but there is additional support and advice available. At our funeral homes, we have experienced and personable undertakers that can help guide you through the process – from initial death right through to the end of the service.

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