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What happens if you split up ashes?

It is becoming increasingly common for families to want to split up the cremated remains of their loved one. There are many reasons this may happen – family members may live far apart, the deceased may have been divorced with multiple families, or the ashes may need to be divided up among many surviving relatives. While dividing up ashes may seem straightforward, there are some important factors to consider.

Is it Legal to Split Ashes?

The first question many people have is whether it is legal to split up cremated remains. The short answer is yes. There are no laws prohibiting the division of ashes, so families are free to portion them out as they see fit. However, it is advisable to check for any specific regulations in your state or municipality. Some locations may have rules about scattering ashes on public or private property.

The funeral home should also be consulted when planning to divide up remains. They can provide dividing containers and guidance on how to properly separate the ashes. Funeral directors want to ensure the process is handled respectfully and according to the family’s wishes.

Why Would You Split Up Ashes?

There are many reasons a family may opt to divide cremated remains among loved ones:

  • Family members live in different locations – It is common for relatives to be spread far apart geographically. Dividing the ashes allows each person to have a portion of their loved one close by.
  • Blended families – The deceased may have been divorced and remarried, resulting in multiple familial connections. Each family may want a share of the ashes.
  • Large family – If the deceased had many surviving children, siblings, or other relatives, a family may choose to split the ashes up equitably.
  • Scattering ashes – Some families divide up the remains to allow scattering in multiple meaningful locations.
  • Cost savings – Dividing ashes among urns may be more economical than purchasing multiple full-sized urns.

The reasons for dividing ashes are unique to each family. The most important thing is ensuring the process reflects the wishes of the deceased and provides comfort to loved ones.

How to Split Ashes

When preparing to separate cremated remains, it is advisable to follow a careful process:

  1. Obtain an urn or temporary container – The funeral home can provide specially designed ash dividing containers. You can also use a clean container like a plastic bag or temporary urn.
  2. Choose a clean, dry location – Choose a location like a table where the ashes can be cleanly divided without blowing away.
  3. Pour out the full amount – Carefully pour out all the ashes from the initial urn so you can evenly divide them.
  4. Divide into portions – Depending on the number of divisions needed, separate the ashes into equal piles using a plastic knife or spoon.
  5. Funnel or pour into urns – Carefully funnel or pour each portion into the designated urns.
  6. Seal urns – Make sure each divided urn is properly sealed and labeled if necessary.
  7. Clean up – Use a small vacuum or damp cloth to contain and clean up any stray ashes.

Take your time and be meticulous when splitting up cremated remains. The funeral home may be able to provide assistance or supervision if desired.

How Much Should You Split?

An entire body typically produces between 3-9 pounds of ashes after cremation. This varies based on the size of the deceased. When dividing up ashes, most experts recommend leaving at least one pound of cremains together in a single urn. This ensures each family member gets a meaningful amount for memorializing their loved one. Beyond that, the division is up to the family’s discretion.

Here is a table with some common ash division amounts:

Total ashes Number of divisions Amount per urn
3 pounds 2 1.5 pounds
5 pounds 4 1.25 pounds
7 pounds 8 0.875 pounds

These are just examples – the optimal division amounts will depend on the quantity of ashes and number of recipients. The proportions can be adjusted as needed.

Keepsake Urns for Divided Ashes

Special keepsake urns are available for storing divided ashes. These urns are smaller in size – anywhere from 1 inch to 8 inches. They allow each family member to receive a portable portion of ashes in an urn that is easy to display. Keepsake urns come in many styles and materials such as wood, marble, glass, or metal.

Miniature urn necklaces and jewelry are also popular for holding a tiny portion of ashes. They allow you to carry your loved one’s ashes and keep them even closer. Just make sure to reserve the bulk of the ashes for storage in a full-sized urn.

Dividing Ashes of Pets

The remains of a beloved pet can also be divided up if desired. The process works similarly to human ashes. The veterinarian or pet cremation provider can divide up the ashes amongst urns. Special petite keepsake urns are available for holding a portion of pet ashes.

When splitting pet remains, keep in mind the cremains are more dense and brittle. Take care when handling so they don’t crumble. And make sure the divisions are equal so each family member gets a meaningful amount.

Storing Divided Ashes

It is important to store divided up ashes properly, just like full cremains. Here are some tips for storing portions of ashes:

  • Use urns – Purchase urns sized appropriately for each portion of the ashes.
  • Keep dry – Protect the ashes from moisture which can cause deterioration.
  • Avoid heat – Don’t store ashes anywhere with extreme high or low temperatures.
  • Seal tightly – Make sure urns are properly sealed and secure.
  • Consider display – Display on mantels, shelves, or in columbariums for memorialization.
  • Scatter wisely – Follow laws and wishes if scattering divided ashes.

Always handle the divided ashes with care and respect. Speak to the funeral home if you need guidance storing and safeguarding the cremated remains.

Is it Possible to Reunite Ashes?

Yes, it is possible to gather up and recombine ashes that have been divided among family members. This allows you to once again have the full amount of cremains together in one place.

Some reasons for reuniting ashes include:

  • Permanent burial – To bury the complete remains together in one cemetery plot.
  • Relocation – If family has moved and wants ashes together again.
  • Change of plans – If family decides scattering or division is no longer desired.

To recombine ashes, carefully package up and ship each portion back using a method that safely contains the ashes and protects them from damage. Once received, they can be cautiously poured back into a single urn and sealed. Handle with care and follow any applicable laws.


Dividing cremated remains allows families to share their loved one and feel closer to them even when separated by distance. Each person can memorialize the deceased in their own way. Save at least a pound of ashes undivided, and carefully split up the rest into equal shares placed in individual urns. Treat the ashes with respect, store them properly, and honor the wishes of the deceased.