Many of us do not dwell very long on the topic of how we wish our remains to be dealt with after we pass away. When I finally turned my mind to this question, I was fascinated with the many different beliefs, positions and options available.
One surprising fact that I came across is that here in British Columbia, it is illegal to sell the process of Cryonics, which is the practice of freezing the bodies of those who have died of an incurable disease, in the hope of resuscitation when there is a future cure. Note that it is not illegal to be frozen while you wait for a cure, but it is illegal to sell the procedure in British Columbia. Apparently, elsewhere in the world, approximately 250 people have been frozen after their deaths.
Another growing movement, or rather a reappearing practice, is the idea of having a “green burial.” This means that the coffin is biodegradable, the remains are not embalmed, and no grave liner is used. As with many “green” practices these days, there exist different standards of this environmental practice depending on who you ask. You may also run into difficulties with the practices of certain cemeteries; many of them require grave liners as a means to maintain their landscaping and to prevent the grave from sinking.
Another thing that occasionally surprises me is the creativity with which some people plan the scattering or storing of their ashes. If you choose to be cremated, your body is burned and processed so that all that remains are ashes and small bone fragments. Your ashes may then be stored in an urn and buried or placed in a niche or columbarium.
Many people plan to have their ashes scattered in some meaningful location. In British Columbia, cremated remains are no longer considered to be “human remains” (there is no decomposition occurring), and therefore they are not considered a health hazard. Therefore, there is no provincial law specifically addressing the scattering of ashes.
This does not necessarily mean that you can scatter ashes anywhere you like. If you intend to scatter ashes on someone’s private property, you will need their permission to do so. Each city will also have its own bylaws, and if you are dealing with Federal territory, there are different rules as well. The City of Kelowna has the Memorial Park Cemetery Bylaw which provides for the scattering of ashes in a Scattering Garden. However, you are not permitted to scatter the ashes anywhere in the cemetery other than the Scattering Garden.
Whatever you decide should be done with your remains, you should leave instructions for your loved ones. If you have named an executor in your will, it is your executor who decides how your remains will be dealt with. However, if your preference is written in your will or in a pre-arranged funeral services contract, it is legally binding. Though, it may be a good idea to give your executor a “heads up” if you plan on leaving particularly unusual instructions.
The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.