FAQs: Who Decides Where To Bury Mom’s Ashes?

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Urn - FAQs: Who Decides Where To Bury Mom's Ashes? | Mario Godoy | Lombard Estate Planning Lawyer

We’ve all heard it too often… a loved one’s ashes are resting on a shelf at home because the children are bickering over where to bury the ashes. This isn’t a sign that the departed wasn’t loved, it is a sign that someone didn’t make their last wishes known – and communicate them to a family that is experiencing grief over the death of a loved one.

According to the Cremation Association of North America, over 53% were cremated in 2018, compared to 1985 when only 15% were cremated.

Sadly, deaths too often cause conflict in families, and anger between siblings. An experienced estate planning attorney will advise their clients on how to minimize risk and potential future family conflicts by encouraging our clients to talk to their families and have an open and honest conversation about their wishes and plans.

Some states have laws that provide guidance on whether ashes are considered “property” and where and how you can bury or keep ashes. According to Illinois law 410 ILCS 18/40 you can store cremation ashes in a grave, crypt, or niche. You can scatter ashes in a legally established scattering area, such as a scattering garden in a cemetery or “in any manner whatever on the private property of a consenting owner.”

There are many options available on where to bury a loved one’s ashes, a recent Chicago Tribune article includes:


• a columbarium, or a room in a cemetery or church that has niches for urns

• a crypt in a mausoleum

• burying the ashes in a plot or integrating the remains into a memorial bench, rock or grave marker

• human ashes can even be converted into glass or diamond

Some families choose to divide the ashes so everyone has a memory or to keep the ashes in a decorative urn at home, and rotate the urn between family members.

Making decisions about your final resting place is hard, but it can prevent future grief and family conflict. To give your family peace of mind and to help prevent future family feuds – or even lawsuits! – Lombard estate planning attorney Mario Godoy says there are steps you can take to prevent family conflict and help your loved ones cope with loss.

How to Avoid a Family Dispute Over Burial Ashes

1. Talk to Your Family
Discussing your burial or cremation plans with your family is not easy, but it’s important. What are your family members’ wishes about your final resting place? Consult your family members individually or as a group to find out their thoughts and feelings.

2. Put Your Final Wishes in Writing 
After considering your family’s preferences, decide where you want your ashes buried. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney and document your wishes in a will or trust.

3. Inform Your Family of Your Decision
As much as your family may prefer not to discuss your final resting place with you again, tell them what you’ve decided and where you have documented your wishes. Give them your attorney’s name and contact information, and tell them who you have assigned as executor of your will to carry out your wishes.

4. Mediate Any Issues or Disputes 
In most families, not everyone agrees all the time. And in families that are in stress or in blended families, emotions can run high. If you feel there is a potential for conflict after your death, ask a grief counselor, clergy member or family friend to help your family accept your final wishes.

Deciding and communication your final wishes to your family is never easy, but it provides peace of mind and prevents future family conflict. Contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group probate, trust and estates attorneys in Chicago and Lombard, Illinois, at 630-800-0112.