Cremation is becoming an increasingly popular method for paying tribute to a loved one who has passed. In addition to its eco-friendly, smaller global footprint, a decline in religious traditions, and its lower cost than burial services, the simple fact that it allows family members to equally divide the decedent’s ashes amongst them also accounts for its growing popularity. In the past, families would decide who amongst them would receive the ashes of their loved one. Thankfully, those days are gone, and families can now divide the remains into individual keepsake urns, and then equally divide those between family members.
If your loved one has passed, you may be wondering if it is even acceptable to divide their ashes amongst family members. Regardless of what the law and religions have to say about it, if it was your loved one’s wish to be cremated and then have their remains shared between family members, that is what should be done to pay homage to your loved one’s legacy. We will explore the topic in more depth here, reviewing the various legal, religious, and personal implications of dividing cremated ashes.
Depending on differing theological perspectives, the standpoint of religion varies in its views on dividing cremated ashes. According to Muslim and Jewish religious traditions, the act of cremation itself is looked down upon as it is seen as an action that dishonors the human body. Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions, on the other hand support and even strongly encourage cremation, but do not offer any specific guidelines as to how cremated remains should be handled. The Christian church is silent, on the matter altogether.
What we can take away from religion’s position overall on dividing cremated ashes, is that if the religion is in support of this method of memorializing a loved one, it generally does not have stipulations mandating specific ways that cremated ashes should be handled. Keeping all the remains in one urn, dividing them amongst various containers to be shared between family members or even scattering them amongst different locations would all be equally acceptable options. Therefore, it would then be up to the family and/ or decedent’s preferences to decide how the cremated ashes should be handled, and if they will be shared between family members.
The law is also silent altogether on the question of whether it is acceptable or not to divide cremated ashes or not. Legal implications only come into play when there are family disputes regarding how cremated remains should be stored or divided amongst them. If there is a disagreement over how to share cremated remains, the family members can discuss the matter in court to come to an agreement.
Handling a loved one’s remains is always a sensitive and emotionally charged matter. If your loved one explicitly expressed that they wish to be cremated, to properly honor their wishes, you should then proceed to do so. Regarding the separation of their ashes, if your loved one did not leave specific instructions on how they wish their ashes to be handled, it is appropriate to assume that they would approve of dividing their remains amongst family members. However, if they did explicitly state that they do not want their ashes to be separated, then you are then morally obligated to fulfill his or her wishes, to honor your loved one in the way they would prefer to be memorialized.