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How long can you keep cremated ashes at home?

Quick Answer

There is no set time limit for how long cremated remains can be kept at home. Many families choose to keep their loved one’s ashes indefinitely. However, some states have regulations that require ashes to be disposed of within a certain time frame, often 2-5 years. The best practice is to check your state’s laws and adhere to any requirements. Ultimately, the length of time is up to the family’s discretion.

Storing Ashes at Home

Keeping ashes at home is a very common practice. Many families find comfort in having their loved one close by and choose to keep the urn in a special place in their home. Here are some things to keep in mind when storing cremated remains at home:

  • Choose a secure container – An urn helps protect the ashes and contains them safely. Urn styles range from basic plastic or metal to personalized ceramic or wood.
  • Decide on a location – Many families display the urn on a mantel, bookshelf, or table. Others keep it in a more private place like a bedroom. Choose whatever feels most meaningful.
  • Consider climate conditions – If you live in a very hot or humid environment, keep the urn somewhere climate-controlled to prevent damage over time.
  • Allow visitors to pay respects – Let close friends and family visit to see the urn and pay their respects if they wish.
  • Handle with care – Be very careful moving or handling the urn to avoid spilling any ashes.
  • Avoid opening – There is no need to open the urn once the ashes are placed inside. Opening frequently releases dust into the air.

Following these tips allows ashes to be safely kept at home for as long as desired.

State Laws on Keeping Cremated Remains

Most states do not have laws dictating how long ashes can be kept at home or setting a time limit. However, some states do have regulations related to the final disposition of cremated remains:

State Law Summary
California Ashes must be disposed of within 2 years, either by scattering, burial, entombment, or inurnment.
Connecticut Ashes must be properly disposed of within 5 years.
Indiana Remains cannot be kept for more than 2 years without filing plans for final disposition.
Louisiana Cremated remains must be disposed of within 60 days.
Michigan Ashes cannot be kept for more than 60 days without a plan for final disposition.

These laws are designed to prevent cremated remains from being left in storage indefinitely. Most states with laws of this type require ashes to be disposed of within 2-5 years after cremation. Families should research requirements in their specific state.

Reasons to Keep Ashes at Home

When a loved one is cremated, their ashes allow them to be kept nearby in spirit. Here are some of the top reasons families choose to keep ashes at home:

  • Feeling of closeness – Keeping the urn nearby provides a sense that the loved one is still present.
  • Convenience – The remains are close at hand for revisiting and memorial activities.
  • Cost – Avoiding the cost of interment saves money.
  • Flexibility – Ashes can be kept until the family is ready to make final arrangements.
  • Personalization – The urn can be displayed and personalized in a way not possible at a cemetery.
  • Connection for future generations – Children and grandchildren will be able to visit the ashes.
  • Simplified memorial visits – Friends and family have just one place to visit the departed.
  • Custom tradition – Keeping ashes at home allows families to create their own meaningful memorial tradition.

Having ashes in the home brings solace and meaning to many as part of the grieving process.

Reasons to Avoid Indefinitely Keeping Ashes at Home

While keeping ashes at home is very common, some families later regret not interring or scattering their loved one’s cremated remains. Here are some reasons ashes are ultimately not kept at home indefinitely:

  • Burden on survivors – Family members who inherit the ashes may find them an unwanted responsibility.
  • Lack of closure – Some families don’t find keeping ashes at home provides a sense of closure or peace.
  • Guilt over lack of final disposition – Family members may feel guilty over not following through on plans for burial, scattering, etc.
  • Relocation – Moving to a new home leaves the family unsure what to do with the ashes.
  • Disagreement – Conflicts among family may arise over where/how to store or dispose of ashes.
  • Changes in laws – Stricter state laws may start requiring disposal within a certain timeframe.
  • Expense – The cost of a final resting place may be a barrier to interment down the road.

These downsides occasionally lead families to ultimately decide to inter the ashes or scatter in a meaningful place.

Considerations for Inurnment After Keeping Ashes at Home

For families who opt to keep ashes at home for a period of time before final interment, it’s recommended to consider the following:

  • Research cemetery, mausoleum, columbarium, and cremation garden options nearby.
  • Determine if a double occupancy niche for two urns is preferred.
  • Compare pricing of options within your budget.
  • Decide on an urn suitable for inurnment if needed. Check size requirements.
  • Plan a small committal service at the time of interment.
  • Notify the cemetery of plans for interment in order to schedule it.
  • Understand the cemetery’s rules for items left at the niche such as flowers, photos, etc.
  • Designate someone to manage niche care and payments if needed.

Taking these steps makes for a smooth transition from keeping ashes at home to final interment when the family is ready.

Scattering Ashes After Keeping Them at Home

For families who prefer scattering ashes, it can still be done after keeping them at home for an extended period. Here are some tips:

  • Check local laws on scattering ashes beforehand.
  • Obtain any necessary permits for the location.
  • Choose a meaningful spot your loved one would appreciate.
  • Decide whether to scatter all or just some of the ashes.
  • Plan a scattering ceremony and invite close family/friends.
  • Select a biodegradable or water-soluble urn if scattering in water.
  • Follow any requirements for scattering ashes on public lands.
  • Consider scattering ashes in multiple locations for family who live apart.
  • Allow attendees to participate by scattering a portion themselves.

Scattering provides family and friends with closure and a chance to say goodbye after keeping ashes at home.

Permanent Storage Options for Ashes

For those who wish to keep ashes close indefinitely without interment, there are some permanent storage options to consider:

  • Display the urn in a secure cabinet, on a shelf, or in a niche.
  • Place the urn in a special cremation bench designed to hold ashes.
  • Inter the ashes in a private columbarium vault on personal property.
  • Ask your local cemetery if they allow private family columbaria.
  • Inquire with your city about dedicating a bench or tree memorial for the ashes.
  • Convert or build an structure like a memorial garden wall or pyramid.
  • Purchase a memorial statue or boulder engraved with details and containing ashes.

These permanent options allow ashes to stay in the home or on property while properly memorializing the individual.

Tracking Where Ashes are Kept

To avoid ashes being lost, misplaced, or disposed of improperly, it’s important to keep track of where they are stored. Some tips include:

  • Create a written record with the location and relevant details.
  • Designate a point person or executor to manage the information.
  • Store records in a secure, designated place and inform others where it’s kept.
  • Update the record any time the ashes are moved or relocated.
  • Include the record with estate planning documents so heirs are informed.
  • Give a copy of the record to the designated contact person or executor.
  • Inform additional family members about the record and its location.

Carefully tracking this information prevents accidental loss of ashes kept within the family.

Reflecting on Grief When Ashes are at Home

Having a loved one’s ashes at home for an extended time impacts grief and remembrance. Some important considerations include:

  • Family members may experience ongoing grief with daily reminders.
  • It can be comforting to talk to the departed loved one at the ashes.
  • Rituals like touching the urn daily may help some through the grieving process.
  • Gradually integrating the ashes into everyday home life is helpful.
  • During holidays and milestones, focus on memorializing the individual.
  • If grief becomes complicated or prolonged, seek counseling support.
  • Let children participate in remembrance activities and discuss their feelings.

Navigating grief while ashes are in the home is a highly personal experience families approach in their own way.


There is no set time limit on retaining cremated remains at home. While practices vary by state, families typically have discretion when it comes to keeping ashes. Many find comfort, meaning, and convenience in storing ashes of their loved one indefinitely. Others prefer to eventually inter or scatter them in a final resting place. Tracking the location, communicating plans, and allowing family members to participate can make the experience more meaningful. However long ashes are kept at home, they provide families with a continued connection and remembrance of those they’ve lost.