Sacred Universe
Scattering of Ashes in CA Cremated Human Remains

Scattering of Ashes California law requires written acknowledgment of the following disclosure when cremation is to take place:

“The human body burns with the casket, container, or other material in the cremation chamber. Some bone fragments are not combustible at the incineration temperature and, as a result, remain in the cremation chamber. During the cremation, the contents of the chamber may be moved to facilitate incineration. The chamber is composed of ceramic or other material which disintegrates slightly during each cremation, and the product of that disintegration is commingled with the cremated remains. Nearly all of the contents of the cremation chamber, consisting of the cremated remains, disintegrated chamber material, and small amounts of residue from previous cremations, are removed together and crushed, pulverized, or ground to facilitate inurnment or scattering. Some residue remains in the cracks and uneven places of the chamber. Periodically, the accumulation of this residue is removed and interred in a dedicated cemetery property, or scattered at sea.”

If cremation is chosen, a written authorization must be signed before cremation can proceed. This must be done by the person(s) having the right to control the disposition of the body. This authorization, or a separate contract, indicates the location, manner, and time of disposition of the remains and includes an agreement to pay for the cremation, for disposition of the cremated remains, and for any other services desired. (If you wish to arrange for your own cremation, you can legally sign the Declaration for Disposition of Cremated Remains form yourself.) In addition, a burial/cremation permit (Application and Permit for Disposition of Human Remains, VS 9) must be issued by the county health department. The funeral establishment usually arranges to obtain this permit as part of its services.

California law does not prohibit the person authorizing the cremation to be in attendance if he or she wishes, and some facilities may be able to accommodate more than one family member. Crematories that do not allow viewing the cremation process must disclose that fact in writing prior to signing any contract. There may be a charge for attending the cremation. Check with the crematory for its policies.

A casket is not required for cremation by California law, but a combustible cremation container is. The container must be one that can be closed and is leak-resistant. A cardboard box constructed for this purpose is acceptable. You do not have to buy the container from the funeral establishment or crematory, but it does have to meet the standards set by the crematory.

You should make a decision about removing all personal possessions of value, such as jewelry or mementos, before the body is taken to the crematory. Pacemakers, most prostheses, and mechanical or radioactive devices or implants must be removed by funeral establishment or crematory staff prior to cremation, as they could injure crematory personnel or damage equipment.

By law, all cremations must be performed individually, unless a multiple cremation is authorized in writing and the cremation chamber is capable of multiple cremations. But only a few crematories have this capability.

After the cremation has been completed and the cremation chamber has cooled, the remains are swept from the 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.

Disposition of Cremated Remains

In California, you may choose any of the following 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 the 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; or
  • 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 a licensed cemetery, cemetery broker, crematory, registered cremated remains disposer, funeral establishment staff member, or the family. All cremated remains must be removed from the container for scattering. Avoid inhalation of the dust from the cremated remains, since there may be health risks. 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 receipt of the remains, unless the person with the right to control disposition is notified in writing of the reason for the delay.

11 Comments to “Scattering of Ashes in CA Cremated Human Remains”

  1. Mike Andrews, MSgt, USAF, Retired says:

    I am making plans in advance for the disposition of my body after death, and I have chosen cremation. It is my wish to have my cremains scattered on the summit of Mt Shasta in Northern California.

    I have been told that doing so would be illegal, but that is not clear to me from reading the information on this website. Please give me a definitive answer: Would it be legal for my cremains to be scattered on the summit of Mt Shasta following my death sometime in the future?

    Thank you.

    Mike Andrews
    Chattanooga TN

    • Managing Director says:

      In all my research, the scattering of human remains across the country appears to be loosely left up to the family of the deceased. Your family and/or friends only need to be comfortable with their actions.

      Legally a ceremony outside of city or town limits and on uncontrolled public lands is of no interest to the authorities. I do caution everyone to avoid public announcements of the ceremony as issues are never issues until they are thrust upon us.

      Thus, my standard response often applies… there are no “cremains police” in any state to ensure proper etiquette, permits, or permission are obtained and used. There is no health, safety or environmental issues to be of any consequence to the public. Your own moral compass/judgment can be equally right within the reasons of common sense.

      When it comes to non-specific public land, (e.g. rural woodlands) don’t ask, don’t tell is as fitting advice as any. No laws say “yes” and no laws say “no.”

      Be advised that cremated remains can be stark white, a little like aquarium gravel, and therefore rather conspicuous, not at all like the “ashes from a fireplace”. You may wish to consider a shallow burial unless you’re scattering in water. It is also highly advisable to use roads (areas) less traveled for the scattering ceremony; cremation and/or scattering are equally offensive to many people and cultures.

      As a guide, you should not scatter ashes within 100 yards of public roads or walks or public trails.

      Within all the literary writings at all levels; federal, state, and local legislation – the only commonly agreed point of principle I have found is that the container which carries the remains must be disposed of separately – preferably is a waste receptacle.

      All my best


    • Managing Director says:

      Supplement to my previous response. Mt. Shasta and surround wilderness are under the authority of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

      IAW their public guide @ you are required to obtain a permit to climb to the submit and no dogs are allowed.

      As noted already… there are no references, warning, notices, permits, passes or official comments for memorialization whatsoever on this government website which is the highest authority for this region. Thus my previous response is quite accurate.

      All my best


  2. Shirley Sax says:

    I want to move to northern calif soon. I live in Hesperia ca. We have our sons cremated remains at home with us. He is in a sealed container we bought from the funeral home. We want to keep him with us can we remove his remains from Hesperia.

    • Managing Director says:

      Yes.. You may take your sons remains with you.

      There are no issues to be concerned with and no permits needed. Transporting rules & regulations are for funeral home directors only.

  3. Melanie says:

    My friend just asked me to scatter his and his mother’s remains together in some quiet, beautiful place. He has other next of kin but doesn’t think they will carry out his wishes. What does he need to do to ensure that his and his mother’s remains are turned over to me to carry out his wishes?

    Thank you

    • Managing Director says:

      First, please excuse my candid language. I don’t wish to sound disrespectful I simply need to remain impartial.

      As a friend, you have no rights. Unless your friend (I assume is still alive) proceeds to court to extend you those rights.

      They could simply include such terms in their last will & testimony but be forewarned that wills can be overturned in a court of law thus this does not secure anyone’s last wishes.

      It would be best for you and your friend to contact an attorney for consultation. Any advice provided here is purely hypothetical and without full disclosure of all facts. Simply put… if a family member wishes to extend their authority you cannot possibly win unless you show they are unfit to make executive decisions for the deceased.

  4. Mommy R says:

    My cousins wife stood on the shore at Long Beach and chucked his ashes in some sort of packaging overhand into the water while you could hear chuckling in the background because his remains were floating. Very disturbing video and obviously illegal. I have the video. Who can I turn it over to?

    • Managing Director says:

      No more illegal than flicking your cigarette ash into the water.

      Candidly, human ash has no health, safety or environmental issues to be concerned about thus they are no more offensive than ash in a campfire or barbeque.

  5. Ana Navarro says:

    My son Committed sucide last night and I have no money he was on ssi is there a low cost way to have his remain cremated so I can keep them? thanks for respond email

    • Managing Director says:

      My condolences on your loss.

      Most often the city, county or state will cremate when there are no family members with the financial sources or death benefits associated with the deceases’ employer.

      Unfortunately, such services are usually completed without the remains being claimed so it may be difficult to keep your sons remains.

      You are best to check with local services. A local funeral director can make special arrangements with family where city, county or state personnel cannot make without violating their employers regulations, thus putting their job in jeopardy.

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