If you’re thinking about burying the ashes of someone who has been cremated, you might have some questions about how it all works. How is the burial of ashes in a churchyard different from burial on private land? How can you arrange the burial of ashes in an existing grave? What’s the average cost of burying cremated ashes? We’ll answer all these questions here …

 

The law on burying ashes in a grave

Burying ashes in a grave is very common and fairly easy. Legally speaking, when ashes are buried in one place in a container, the guidelines are the same as those for the burial of a body, with fewer rules around grave placement and depth.

There is a bit of paperwork involved: the person responsible for the burial needs to obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial from a registry office. They, or their funeral director, will then need to return the slip at the bottom of the form to the registrar within four days.

Once you’ve registered a burial, you’ll need an exhumation licence to move the ashes anywhere.

  • If you’re burying ashes in a churchyard or cemetery, you’ll also need to buy the “exclusive right of burial” for the plot. More on this below.
  • If you’re planning on burying ashes on private land, you’ll also need to get the landowner’s permission before you go ahead with the burial. The landowner should check the title deeds of the house to make sure there aren’t any covenants that might restrict the burial of ashes. They will also need to keep a record of the burial somewhere safe – usually with the deeds.

If you’re scattering ashes instead of burying them, you don’t need any paperwork – just the permission of the landowner.

 

Burying ashes in your garden or on private land

Burying ashes at home in your garden can be a very personal, flexible and affordable alternative to a traditional funeral.

You could, for example, arrange a direct cremation without a funeral, and then hold a private service at your home when you place the ashes in their final resting place. Or, you could bury the ashes after a funeral as part of an intimate memorial gathering with friends.

Some practical details, aside from paperwork:

  • How deep are cremated ashes buried? There are no specific rules about this, but it’s a good idea to bury them at least a metre deep.
  • What kind of urn do you need? If you think you might need to move the ashes later on, a waterproof container may be best. However, if not, consider a biodegradable urn – these can be made of paper, cardboard, sand and even salt, among other things.
  • Do I need to ask the Environment Agency or local council? No – unlike the burial of a body, you don’t have to consult with the local council or the Environment Agency.

One thing to remember when burying ashes in the garden is that if you move and don’t take the ashes with you, you might not be able to get permission to visit the grave from the new owners. Be careful!

It can be hard to know what to do when burying ashes in grave plot to mark the occasion. One nice idea is to give everyone present a little sachet of wildflower seeds to scatter on the grave.

 

Burying ashes in a cemetery or churchyard

Many UK councils predict that they’ll run out of space for burials within 20 years. Among other things, this means that it’s extremely rare that you’ll be able to own a burial plot “in perpetuity”.

Instead, burial land is essentially leased. You purchase an “exclusive right of burial” that says that only you can decide who can be buried in the plot for a set period of time (usually 25-100 years). Once the time is up, a reminder letter will be sent to the owner of the exclusive rights the chance to renew.

If the exclusive right of burial is not renewed, the person buried there won’t be moved. But any headstone on that plot might be taken away, and other people may also be buried on that land.

If you’re the sole owner of an exclusive right of burial, you might want to take steps to make sure it goes to the right person after you die. You can:

  • Transfer or share ownership of the exclusive right of burial during your lifetime.
  • Leave instructions in your will as to who should get it.
  • Do nothing and understand that ownership of the exclusive right of burial will be inherited by your next of kin. This is usually your spouse, if you have one. If not, it might be shared equally amongst your children.

You can find more information about transferring burial rights and how to bury cremated ashes here.

If you’ve inherited an exclusive right of burial jointly with other family members, and you’re planning the burial of ashes in an existing grave, you’ll need permission from all the other owners. This can be an issue if there’s limited space. However, there’s also the option of scattering the ashes over the burial plot instead.

 

How much is a burial plot for ashes?

The average cost to bury ashes is around £450, but the price can be as little as £100 or as much as £1,700 depending on the cemetery/churchyard and the type of grave chosen.

It’s a good idea to compare costs for a few different cemeteries and graveyards nearby, bearing in mind that most charge less for local residents.

In addition to the burial fee, you might expect to pay:

  • About £1,600 for a direct cremation without a funeral (£1,195 with Beyond)
  • £3,596 for a standard cremation with a funeral
  • Around £40 a year for grave maintenance
  • Between £50 and £300 for an urn
  • £916 for a headstone or memorial plaque

We hope this article has helped demystify the process of burying ashes. If you have any questions, pop them in the comment box below. We’re here to help!

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