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Kentucky Cremation Laws

Saying goodbye to your loved ones is never easy. An essential first step, if the deceased has not already done so, is to choose burial or cremation. For many families, cremation is becoming the preferred option. 

The U.S. government has made the determination that cremated remains are inert and safe for disposal, paving the way for universal choice for cremation throughout the country. However, each state, including Kentucky, has different approaches to how cremation is handled. Here’s what you need to know about Kentucky cremation laws.

An Overview of Kentucky Cremation Laws

Fortunately, cremation laws in Kentucky are relatively straightforward. They're also relatively unrestricted in most cases. The law says that cremated remains can be kept by anyone who is legally entitled to own them, such as the next of kin. Loved ones can also place them in a crypt, niche, or even buried in a casket in a grave, or can scatter them in a designated area like a cemetery scattering garden. Kentucky also states that it's permissible to scatter cremated remains on private property as long as the owner consents. You can keep or transport them any way you like in Kentucky with no reservation, though you must obtain a permit prior to cremation.

Besides these clear and permissive state rules, there are no state laws that go into effect when it comes to regulating what you can do with cremated remains. Instead, any other laws will be federal. Non-legally binding rules, such as the policies of specific cemeteries, are situational. Additionally, some religious faiths have specific rules regarding cremation, such as how the Catholic faith requires cremated remains to be kept in a "sacred space" such as a church cemetery.

a river with a waterfall and trees

1 Scattering Over Land

Kentucky Burials and Scattering on Land

As stated above, Kentucky law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based burials and scattering can take place. These include stating that there are no limitations on choosing to scatter or bury cremated remains on your own private property, as you are the property owner and therefore consent to the act. When it comes to the private property of others, though, this is another matter - if you don't seek consent from the property owner you are technically trespassing, not to mention violating Kentucky cremation law.

When it comes to land-based scattering on public property, Kentucky state law is relatively strict, limiting the ability to do so except under the supervision of funeral services providers. That being said, there are no mechanisms in place to enforce these laws on private citizens; as a result, while choosing to spread ashes in public state land is technically prohibited, it often still happens. On a federal level, it's up to the U.S. government, not the state of Kentucky. Many national parks will allow scattering remains if you seek permission beforehand.

2 Scattering Over Water

Scattering Over Water

Kentucky is largely landlocked. However, it does border some substantial waterways, including the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Cumberland River also snakes through much of southern Kentucky as well. There are, of course, countless inland lakes within the state, such as Laurel River Lake and Kentucky Lake and Lake Bartley, which are right next to one another. These are all popular vacation and camping locations, and a native Kentuckian that enjoyed these activities might indeed feel that a final resting place on one of these waters might be appropriate.

None of these waterways are regulated directly by the state, however; instead, they are under the control of federal authorities and laws like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Clean Water Act. For all the lakes, streams, or rivers in Kentucky, you should check with either the EPA directly or any state agency that may manage that body of water to see if you need a permit before scattering.

3 Other Ways to Scatter

Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains in Kentucky

Most of the time, scattering the cremated remains of loved ones involves being either over land or water. However, you can also scatter ashes over the air, though this does, of course, pose a few unique problems. That said, there are no Kentucky state laws that prohibit the scattering of ashes from altitude, which can be done from an aircraft or a weather balloon.

What is clear, however, is that you must be careful when dropping cremated remains, because federal aviation guidelines require you to not drop anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, so as long as you don't drop the container as well then you are safe to scatter by air in Kentucky.

Kentucky Burials and Scattering on Land

As stated above, Kentucky law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based burials and scattering can take place. These include stating that there are no limitations on choosing to scatter or bury cremated remains on your own private property, as you are the property owner and therefore consent to the act. When it comes to the private property of others, though, this is another matter - if you don't seek consent from the property owner you are technically trespassing, not to mention violating Kentucky cremation law.

When it comes to land-based scattering on public property, Kentucky state law is relatively strict, limiting the ability to do so except under the supervision of funeral services providers. That being said, there are no mechanisms in place to enforce these laws on private citizens; as a result, while choosing to spread ashes in public state land is technically prohibited, it often still happens. On a federal level, it's up to the U.S. government, not the state of Kentucky. Many national parks will allow scattering remains if you seek permission beforehand.

Scattering Over Water

Kentucky is largely landlocked. However, it does border some substantial waterways, including the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Cumberland River also snakes through much of southern Kentucky as well. There are, of course, countless inland lakes within the state, such as Laurel River Lake and Kentucky Lake and Lake Bartley, which are right next to one another. These are all popular vacation and camping locations, and a native Kentuckian that enjoyed these activities might indeed feel that a final resting place on one of these waters might be appropriate.

None of these waterways are regulated directly by the state, however; instead, they are under the control of federal authorities and laws like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Clean Water Act. For all the lakes, streams, or rivers in Kentucky, you should check with either the EPA directly or any state agency that may manage that body of water to see if you need a permit before scattering.

Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains in Kentucky

Most of the time, scattering the cremated remains of loved ones involves being either over land or water. However, you can also scatter ashes over the air, though this does, of course, pose a few unique problems. That said, there are no Kentucky state laws that prohibit the scattering of ashes from altitude, which can be done from an aircraft or a weather balloon.

What is clear, however, is that you must be careful when dropping cremated remains, because federal aviation guidelines require you to not drop anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, so as long as you don't drop the container as well then you are safe to scatter by air in Kentucky.

Other Kentucky Cremation Laws

As demonstrated above, Kentucky cremation laws do not place many limitations on how you choose to scatter the remains of loved ones. Instead, federal laws are the ones that are applicable, but these laws are nationwide and not specifically related to Kentucky. The only local laws that may need to be observed are those for specific cities and counties if any, for seeking consent from private property owners, and for avoiding state-owned land.

As cremation has become more commonplace in Kentucky and around the country, there are many different cemeteries in the state that provide specific support for cremated remains. These cemeteries often have scattering gardens, which are expressly dedicated to the scattering of ashes above ground. Others still will help you organize the burial of cremated remains or the internment in a crypt, niche, or columbarium.

StoneMor, one of the best-known and most well-respected cemetery and funeral home providers in the Mid-Atlantic, operates hundreds of cemeteries in the United States. There are two StoneMor cemeteries in Kentucky - Forest Lawn Memorial park in Erlanger and Highland Memory Gardens in Mount Washington. For more information, you can speak with a memorial planning expert from one of these cemeteries today.

References:

Keene, V. A. (2019b, May 16). Burial & Cremation Laws in Kentucky. Www.Nolo.Com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/burial-cremation-laws-kentucky.html

Service like this has become rare. This young lady (Christina Ingram) walked me through everything. Stayed in touch with me afterwards. Even gave me her personal cell number in case I had questions after hours.
Cathy - February '22 Forest Lawn Memorial Park
My advisor was very friendly, helpful, and understanding during the planning process. Their knowledge and experience was a great asset, making the arrangements less difficult and affordable. My family appreciates the time and effort laid out to ensure that the final plans were respectful and honorable.
Scott - October '21 Forest Lawn Memorial Park
My Mom just passed away & had to meet with HMG to go over the arrangements and having never done this before and still trying to handle the passing of my mom, Tammy is the one that I had talked to on the phone and the one that I met at the memorial gardens office. She was very helpful in all aspects of my questions, and even in helping with the stone and wording. At this time in ones life of someone passing I feel she really does care about helping you thru with this loss and that is a gift and she is a credit to the company and I thank her.
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