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Delaware Cremation Laws

When it comes to saying goodbye to your loved ones for the last time, cremation has become an increasingly popular choice over the past few decades. But many are still unsure what they are allowed to do when it comes to scattering a loved one’s remains. 

Each state in the Union has different regulations that may affect what you can do. Here’s a breakdown of the most important cremation laws in Delaware.

An Overview of Cremation Laws in Delaware

Cremation laws in Delaware aren't necessarily vague, but they aren't particularly restrictive either. The relevant language on cremation includes ashes being "disposed of in such a way as is desired by the person receiving them." This means that there are no state-wide regulations that restrict how you may keep or dispose of a loved one's cremated remains. For the most part, except in situations where regulation is out of the state's hands, you have a wide choice in disposition. You can inter them in a cemetery, be it in a crypt, columbarium, cremation niche, or even buried in the ground with a marker such as a headstone. Alternatively, many cemeteries offer dedicated scattering gardens where you can visit and reflect.

Exceptions to these rules are mostly out of the hands of the state. For example, religious requirements mean the faithful shouldn't keep cremated remains at home. Other limitations include federal laws, city and county ones, and the policies of specific cemeteries. Let's get more into that now.

a river running through a forest

1 Land-Based Scattering

Land-Based Scattering

Delaware cremation law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based scattering can take place. These include zero limitations on where you can scatter cremated remains on your own private property. It has become common practice to, for example, scatter a loved one around his or her favorite tree in the backyard.

When it comes to the private property of others, though, that is another matter. If you don't seek permission from the property owner, you could be considered trespassing and be held liable if you scatter on someone else's land.

There are similar limitations when it comes to land-based scattering on public property. Delaware doesn't have any state laws that specifically prohibit doing so, but local cities and counties are within their right to regulate this type of behavior when it comes to how people are permitted to use state-owned land set aside for public use. For this reason, it is advisable to seek permission from local governance before scattering ashes on public property.

2 Water-Based Scattering

Water-Based Scattering

Delaware is located directly on the Mid-Atlantic coastline, and as a result, much of the state's commerce and recreation focuses on ocean and beach activity. With the sea being such a major component in many people's lives, it's natural to consider scattering a loved one's remains in the sea if they enjoyed the water. Again, the state of Delaware doesn't regulate this so much as federal agencies do, as the majority of the regulations for water-based scattering originate from the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Clean Water Act.

Federally, sea-based scattering requires you to be three nautical miles or more from land, and you can't dispose of any non-biodegradable container at the same time. The EPA requires you to notify them within 30 days of scattering at sea. Additionally, seaside wading pools or at beaches is off-limits under the EPA. For lakes, streams, or rivers, it's best to check with whatever state agency that manages that body of water to see if you need a permit.

3 Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains

Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains

Most of the time, scattering the cremated remains of loved ones involves being either over land or sea. However, you can also scatter ashes over the air. There are no Delaware state laws that prohibit scattering from an aircraft or a weather balloon (though you must of course follow all guidelines of aircraft safety).

What is also required is that you be careful when scattering at such height, since federal aviation guidelines prohibit the dropping anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, but accidentally dropping a container from such a height could be extremely dangerous.

Land-Based Scattering

Delaware cremation law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based scattering can take place. These include zero limitations on where you can scatter cremated remains on your own private property. It has become common practice to, for example, scatter a loved one around his or her favorite tree in the backyard.

When it comes to the private property of others, though, that is another matter. If you don't seek permission from the property owner, you could be considered trespassing and be held liable if you scatter on someone else's land.

There are similar limitations when it comes to land-based scattering on public property. Delaware doesn't have any state laws that specifically prohibit doing so, but local cities and counties are within their right to regulate this type of behavior when it comes to how people are permitted to use state-owned land set aside for public use. For this reason, it is advisable to seek permission from local governance before scattering ashes on public property.

Water-Based Scattering

Delaware is located directly on the Mid-Atlantic coastline, and as a result, much of the state's commerce and recreation focuses on ocean and beach activity. With the sea being such a major component in many people's lives, it's natural to consider scattering a loved one's remains in the sea if they enjoyed the water. Again, the state of Delaware doesn't regulate this so much as federal agencies do, as the majority of the regulations for water-based scattering originate from the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Clean Water Act.

Federally, sea-based scattering requires you to be three nautical miles or more from land, and you can't dispose of any non-biodegradable container at the same time. The EPA requires you to notify them within 30 days of scattering at sea. Additionally, seaside wading pools or at beaches is off-limits under the EPA. For lakes, streams, or rivers, it's best to check with whatever state agency that manages that body of water to see if you need a permit.

Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains

Most of the time, scattering the cremated remains of loved ones involves being either over land or sea. However, you can also scatter ashes over the air. There are no Delaware state laws that prohibit scattering from an aircraft or a weather balloon (though you must of course follow all guidelines of aircraft safety).

What is also required is that you be careful when scattering at such height, since federal aviation guidelines prohibit the dropping anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, but accidentally dropping a container from such a height could be extremely dangerous.

Other Delaware Cremation Issues

As demonstrated above, Delaware cremation laws do not place many limitations on how you choose to scatter the remains of loved ones. Instead, federal laws are the ones most applicable, but these laws are nationwide and not specifically related to Delaware. The only local laws that may need to be observed are those for specific cities and counties, if any, and for any private property policies.

Additionally, as cremation has become more commonplace in Delaware and around the country, there are many cemeteries in the state that provide specific support for cremated remains. If you have any questions about the process, you can reach out to the experts at Henlopen Memorial Park, who can help guide you.

References:

Keene, V. A. (2019, September 13). Burial & Cremation Laws in Delaware. Www.Nolo.Com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/burial-cremation-laws-delaware.html

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