Do I have legal rights to my partners ashes?

Grieving and frustra asked...

my partner passed, we have 3 children, 2 bioligally. my partners farther paid all expenses for funeral/cremation. he has the ashes in his possesion (which he has not notified me of this fact which my mother in-law informed me of). i would like a small portion of the ashes for myself and 3 daughters to keep for ourselves. his father and family do not want him to be "spread all over the place" and wish to put the cremations in a cemetary. which i am happy to have happen, after i have our small portion. where do i stand here?

Expert Answer

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate.

Legal rights to ashes can be a difficult situation. Unless the deceased put something in writing, such as in a will or in preplanned arrangements with the funeral home, stating who he wanted to have possession of his ashes, they are frequently given to the one who paid the funeral/cremation expenses unless that person is not the next-of-kin. This person can also specify that he is in agreement that they be given to some other appropriate person, such as a spouse or children. The unfortunate thing is that once someone has possession, it's hard to get them to relinquish it.

Here are some things to consider:

  • It's common for a person's ashes to be divided among those closest to him. It is also common for family members to feel that the ashes should be kept together and not divided, which sounds like the case here. Perhaps you can suggest that you would be satisfied with an amount as small as a teaspoonful. Even this small amount is enough to be put into cremation jewelry lockets or incorporated into glass pendants for you and your children.

  • You may want to talk someone whom he respects and ask that person to speak to him on your behalf.

  • You might want to talk to an attorney. Many offer your first consultation free of charge and in that meeting, the attorney will let you know if there is any way he/she can help you.

If none of these give you the resolution you seek, you may have to accept the situation for what it is. In that case, take some time to focus on the positive memories you have of your partner and even some of the tangible things you have, such as photographs or items that belonged to him. There are a few companies that will make a teddy bear from an article of clothing that belonged to someone who has died, or you may be able to sew one yourself. You and your children can come up with other creative ways to use some of his possessions to do something meaningful to you. May you find comfort in knowing that these are things that no one can take away from you and they are exclusively yours and your daughters.