Change in the Law Governing the Scattering of Cremated Remains at Sea

Cremated remains destined for scattering at sea cannot be transferred to a “scattering urn” from the original container in which they were stored until seven days before the actual scattering.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed this new law July 10. Sponsored by the California Funeral Directors Association, the legislation attempts to establish a protocol for at-sea ash-scatterings.

“We are respectful of the ceremonies surrounding the disposition of cremated remains but we have seen instances when the container shows the capacity for floating for long periods,’ The association writes in support of the bill – AB 1777 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a San Francisco Democrat.

“There should be an understanding that (the urn) will be absorbed into the water and not be left to float indefinitely.”

Ma’s bill attempts to solve the problem by defining a “scattering urn” as a “closed container containing cremated remains that will dissolve and release its contents within four hours of being placed at sea.” 

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma

However, the bill is quick to point out in its two paragraphs that it should not be “construed to allow the use of a scattering urn when the cremated remains are to be scattered by a plane over land or at sea.”

 Of California’s 230,000 deaths each year, cremation disposes of the half the bodies, the fact-filled Senate Floor Analysis of Ma’s bill informs.

 State law says only one body can be cremated at a time in the same cremation chamber. Nor can cremated remains be co-mingled afterwards.

Says the analysis:

“After cremation has been completed, human remains are swept from the cremation chamber, processed to a uniform size and placed in a sturdy plastic bag sealed with an identification disk, tab or label. The bag is then placed in a durable cremated remains container.”

The analysis notes that a “durable container” is one which “is not easily broken or deteriorated and that keeps the cremated remains intact and free from the elements or from being spilled or lost.”

(In short, durable.)  

Ashes can be interred in a cemetery or in a mausoleum or niche. They can also be kept at home or at a church or religious shrine.  Ashes can be scattered on private or public property if there’s no local law against it and the property owner gives written permission.

More to the point of Ma’s bill, cremated remains may also be scattered over land from a plane or at sea from a plane or from a boat.  But the cremated     remains must be removed from the durable container before scattering, hence the need for the “scattering urn.”

 There was no signing message from the Democratic governor.



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