Are you allowed to scatter a dead person's ashes in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Cemetery Board makes it very clear on a frequently asked questions page: The burial of a human body in the state is only legal "on land that is designated for cemetery purposes."

There is a chance for those who wish to be buried intact on their own property to be able to do so, but their family would have to apply to the cemetery board for certification for the land to operate as a "cemetery company."

It is much easier for a New Jersey resident who would like their remains to stay close to home to be cremated, as the Garden State is much more lenient when it comes to a final resting place for one's ashes.

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A page all about cremation on the website of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association goes over the options for urns, columbariums, and cemetery burials, but also specifies what a family can freely do with the ashes of a loved one.

Transporting ashes is one concern. According to the NJSFDA, Priority Mail Express by the United States Postal Service is the only way to ship ashes, and to fly them anywhere, they must be part of a person's carry-on luggage rather than checked baggage.

On the other hand, if the intention is to scatter the ashes by air, the NJSFDA said the Federal Aviation Administration's only stipulation is that the act "does not present a hazard to persons or property."

To scatter at sea, the ashes must be at least three nautical miles offshore, and boat owners must notify the Environmental Protection Agency within 30 days of burial or scattering.

That still leaves the question of whether ashes can be scattered in one's own backyard.

The short answer in New Jersey is yes.

The NJSFDA said the state allows scattering on private property with the permission of the property owner, while public property requires authorization from the state, county, or local jurisdiction.

So if a homeowner wants to return to the earth where they lived — perhaps the best idea is to say so in their will.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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