Be aware of state regulations and check providers’ licenses
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, 2015 was the year cremation officially became the top funeral choice of Americans. But before you choose this option for yourself or your loved one, the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Cemetery and Funeral Bureau (CFB) reminds you to be aware of key California rules and regulations surrounding this increasingly popular U.S. practice.
BEFORE AND AFTER CREMATION
Among its many regulatory responsibilities, the Bureau licenses cremated remains disposers, crematories, and crematory managers. When planning or seeking services, consumers can check the licenses of the approximately 1,000 state-regulated cremation professionals and facilities—as well as related funeral service providers—via DCA’s online license search tool at https://search.dca.ca.gov.
Once a cremation is complete, the law allows any of these methods of disposition of cremated remains:
- Placement in a columbarium or mausoleum. There may be additional charges for endowment care, opening or closing, recording, flower vase, and nameplate.
- Burial in a plot in a cemetery. There may be additional charges for endowment care, opening or closing, recording, outer burial container, flower vase, and marker.
- Retention at a residence. The funeral establishment or crematory will have you sign a Permit for Disposition showing that the remains were released to you and will file it with the local registrar of births and deaths. You may not remove the cremated remains from the container and you must arrange for their disposition upon your death.
- Storing in a house of worship or religious shrine if local zoning laws allow.
- Scattering in areas of the state where no local prohibition exists and with written permission of the property owner or governing agency. The cremated remains must be removed from the container and scattered in a manner so they are not distinguishable to the public.
- Scattering in a cemetery scattering garden.
- Scattering at sea, at least 500 yards from shore. This also includes inland navigable waters, except for lakes and streams.
Cremated remains may not be transported without a permit from the county health department and they may not be disposed of in refuse.
Cremated remains may be scattered as described above by employees at a licensed cemetery, cemetery brokers, crematory employees, registered cremated remains disposers, funeral establishment staff members, or the decedent’s family.
All cremated remains must be removed from the container for scattering, with the exception of those remains placed into a scattering urn for scattering cremated remains at sea from a boat. Scattering may also be done by any person having the right to control the disposition of the cremated remains of any person or that person’s designee if the person does not dispose of or offer to dispose of more than 10 cremated remains within any calendar year.
The county health department must issue a permit for disposition, and boat/aircraft operators must notify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after scattering. State law requires cremated remains disposers who scatter by air or boat to post copies of their current pilot or boating licenses and the addresses of their cremated remains storage areas at their place of business. The law also requires disposers to conduct scatterings within 60 days of receiving the remains, unless the person with the right to control disposition is notified in writing of the reason for the delay.
If a death occurs outside of California, arrangements can be made for the body to be cremated elsewhere and for the cremated remains to be shipped to the decedent’s designee.
Whether you prefer increasingly popular cremation or another funeral option, to ensure peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones, be sure to discuss your wishes with those closest to you. You may also want to talk to an attorney about the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed.
CFB’s “Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases” (also available in Spanish) offers many additional tips and insights to help you make your own arrangements or to assist a loved one. For more information and consumer resources, visit www.cfb.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Four Tips for Planning Your Funeral