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unclaimed ashes

Dignified Memorials with Unclaimed, Stored, or 'Unwanted' Ashes

Every year tens of thousands of sets of ashes go unclaimed from funeral homes, storage centers, and elsewhere. In addition, many more sets of ashes are passed down in families and the person receiving them never knew the person or pet or they simply have ashes sitting in a closet or basement for years. So, what do you do? In this blog we explore why ashes go unclaimed, have been sitting for years, or are 'unwanted' and unique and affordable ways to honor the person or pet whose ashes are in your possession.

Why Do Ashes Go Unclaimed? | Reasons Why People Have 'Unwanted' Ashes | Top 3 Things to Do with Unclaimed, Stored, or 'Unwanted' Ashes

Reasons Why Ashes Go Unclaimed

unclaimed cremated remains

There are many reasons why ashes go unclaimed. This can include the following:

  • The family cannot afford the cremation service performed and has the impression they’ll be “forced to pay” if they attempt to pick up the ashes (in most cases this is not true!)
  • The family feels no connection between the ashes and the person who passed and decides not to pick them up
  • The family is too upset to see or hold their loved one’s ashes
  • A person stops paying for a storage unit that includes an urn and the contents go up for auction
  • A person or pet dies and there is no way to identify the remains (much more common with pets)

Many times, the unclaimed ashes are held by the funeral home who will make multiple attempts to contact family or next of kin to pick up their loved one’s remains. If they don’t pick them up, different states have different rules on the length of time the funeral home must hold the ashes.

Reasons Why People Have 'Unwanted' Ashes

unwanted ashes

There are many reasons people have ashes that may be 'unwanted'.  Some of these reasons include:

  • A friend passed and there are pet or human ashes found in the home with no next of kin
  • You have ashes of a long lost relative or pets you’ve had over time and you don’t want to pass them down to your children or others who never knew the person or pet(s)
  • You receive ashes from family and you never knew the person or pet
  • The ashes are accidently left in a closet or basement during a move and found years later
  • It makes you sad or upset to have ashes in the home

Top 3 Things to Do With Unclaimed, Stored or 'Unwanted' Ashes

scatter ashes

With any set of ashes, it is important to recognize that they represent a living person or pet and shouldn’t just be thrown away. There are many unique memorials you can do to honor them without breaking the bank. This includes the following:

  • Scatter Ashes

One of the simplest thing to do is to scatter the ashes in your possession. If you didn’t know the person and a place special to them, you can pick a beautiful outdoor location to perform the scattering. This can be as simple as your backyard or at a nearby scenic place. To do the scattering, you can order a scattering urn online for anywhere from $30 to $100. This includes the Eco Scattering Urn, which is an all-natural urn made from bamboo and helps you scatter with control and ease. Alternatively, you can use the bag the ashes come in to scatter, or a coffee can, small bucket, or other item found around the home to scatter. Be sure to pay attention to wind conditions and hold the ashes out away from your body to scatter to avoid having the ashes blown back on you or others. This can be a beautiful cost effective way to honor the person or pet and give you peace-of-mind that you’ve done something special for them.

  • Bury Ashes

Another common and affordable way to honor a person or pet is to bury their ashes. This can include placing the ashes in an eco-friendly biodegradable burial urn (costs $70 or less) or other container found around them home then burying them at a special place. You can mark the spot with a memorial stone, tree or other item.

  • Plant a Tree with Ashes

Planting a tree with a person or pet’s ashes is becoming quite popular and it’s a beautiful way to give back and honor them. The Living Urn bio urn and planting system ranges from $129 to $179 and makes it easy on families or funeral homes to plant a tree memorial at a place of their choosing with a person’s or pet’s ashes. You can select a tree or shrub from the wide array of options offered by The Living Urn or pick one up at your local nursery to plant with the proprietary system. If you have multiple sets of ashes in your possession and want to plant multiple trees, discounts are available through The Living Urn.

In Summary


With the many unique and affordable memorial options available, sets of unclaimed or unwanted ashes should never simply be “thrown away”. Consider scattering or burying the ashes, or planting a tree memorial. This can be a simple way to honor the person or pet and give you peace-of-mind that you’ve done something special for them. Alternatively, a few different small or keepsake urns can also be an option for you or your family.

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