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Can we keep an urn at home? Can we freely choose the place of  dispersion  of the ashes of the deceased? What to do in case of disagreement?


The law requires respectful, dignified and decent treatment of the ashes after cremation. It is not possible to share them, nor to keep them in an urn at home. The possible destinations  of ballot boxes are strictly enumerated by law.


After the cremation, the ashes are kept in an urn. Pending a decision on the destination of the ashes, the urn is kept in the crematorium for a maximum period of one year. Within this one-year period, either the ashes are kept in an urn, which can be buried in a grave, or scattered in a space provided for this purpose in a cemetery. It is also possible to scatter the ashes in nature, in the sea or the ocean. It is then necessary to make a declaration to the commune of the place of birth of the deceased. However, the ashes cannot be scattered in a public place (public road, park, stadium or river).


It is authorized to scatter the ashes outside the metropolis to respect the last wishes of the deceased. Authorization to transport the ashes outside mainland France or an overseas department is then necessary. It is issued by the prefect of the place of cremation or the residence of the applicant. You can also send the ashes by post (registered mail is highly recommended), or transport them on your own. If you are flying, you should find out if the airline considers the urn to be carry-on baggage. You must have a copy of the death and cremation certificates with you. For the scattering of the ashes abroad, you must inquire about the modalities with the consulate or the embassy of the country of destination.

Who decides the fate of the ashes?

The will is the most effective means of expressing the wishes of the deceased. If they are not respected, penal sanctions are foreseen. In the absence of a clearly expressed will by the deceased, there is no legal rule to regulate the fate of the ashes. In case of disagreement on their destination, it is necessary to seize the civil judge who will seek the presumed will of the deceased by addressing the spouse, the children, the parents… The high court will then designate the last spokesperson for the deceased to organize the fate of the ashes.
Société d’Avocats DAMY , Nice, What does the law say about the ashes of a deceased person? 2022 Update