Cremation in Georgia: What Surviving Family Members Need to Know

After the death of a loved one, surviving family members must carry out funeral arrangements according to the wishes of the deceased.

Transport and disposition of the body as well as choosing a final resting place are just some of the factors you need to consider. 

Cremation is a common method used in the disposition of a loved one’s remains. There are rules in Georgia that families need to comply with as you move forward in this process. 

Understanding the Cremation Process

Cremation reduces the body to bone fragments through the use of heat. The remaining fragments are placed into a cooling pan, then processed to make the remains consistent in size before being placed into an urn.

Family members can place the remains in a cemetery, columbarium, cremation garden, or at home. Some families scatter ashes on private property or public land.

Alkaline hydrolysis, considered an alternative to cremation, can offer a more earth-friendly option due to its use of less energy and elimination of the release of matter into the environment.

Georgia defines cremation as the process used to reduce human remains to residue using heat or any chemical, mechanical, or thermal process that is professionally accepted.

Georgia Laws and Cremation 

The laws in Georgia related to cremation regulate where family members can store or scatter ashes. Under Georgia state law, a loved one’s ashes may be kept in a crypt, grave, or at home in a container.

The type of container used is not regulated by state law. But crematories and funeral homes are required by law to inform surviving family members that alternative containers may be used and make them available.

Alternative containers can be made of a variety of materials, such as cardboard, fiberboard, and wood.

There are no public health concerns related to the ashes. As a result, families can scatter ashes in a wide range of settings and locations. But you do need to consider zoning rules and city laws depending on the location you choose.

Scattering Ashes in Georgia

If your family decides to scatter your loved one’s ashes, many cemeteries offer scattering gardens designated for this purpose. 

Families often choose to scatter ashes on private land. There are no laws restricting the scattering of ashes on your own property. If you plan to use land privately owned by another party, you’ll need to get permission first.

When scattering ashes on public land, such as a local or national park, you need to make sure that you comply with local, county, and federal regulations first. Zoning rules may also outline the use of public land for the scattering of ashes. 

If you plan to scatter ashes at sea, Georgia law requires you to file a statement with the health department, and you may not scatter ashes at sea later than fifty days after the cremation has taken place. 

State laws require at least three nautical miles between land and the site where ashes are scattered. Families also have 30 days to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when scattering ashes at sea.

Ashes may be scattered by air, as they aren’t considered hazardous by the federal government. When scattering ashes at sea or by air, the ashes must be removed from their containers.

Understanding cremation and the laws that regulate the transport and disposition of ashes helps you and your family carry out the funeral process with peace of mind. 

Having an attorney who can help you comply with state and local laws gives you the protection you need to carry out the wishes of your deceased loved one and surviving family members.