Cremated Remains Found In Unoccupied Residence

By Paul Larson

MILLBRAE – I recently received a phone call from a local realtor who was shocked to find an urn with cremated remains located in the closet of an empty house under renovation. He had been told by someone working on the property to just throw these cremated remains into a dumpster, which didn’t seem right, and he wanted my advice. I told him that under no circumstances are cremated remains to be thrown into a dumpster. In cases where unidentified human remains are discovered, the County Coroner’s Office is to be notified so they can investigate and determine the appropriate course of action.

Discovering unidentified or seemingly abandoned cremated remains is disturbing but not uncommon. Stories of cremated remains being found on their own in an unoccupied house or apartment is a problem that is significant and needs to be addressed.

I’ve met with countless families at the Chapel of the Highlands who’ve selected cremation as the final disposition. Even though these families have decided on cremation, this is still not the final step of the process. The next-of-kin is required to inform us on where the cremated remains are to go after the physical cremation has taken place. The cremated remains can either to be inurned in a cemetery, scattered at sea or taken to the residence of the next-of-kin. Those who select to keep the cremated remains at home feel a desire to have their loved one’s ashes close to them, or simply have not decided on a final location to place their loved one’s cremains.

The key concept for these families to understand is that keeping cremated remains at home is a temporary solution and not a final destination. Some may think that the cremated remains will be passed down to following generations and cared for in their family, but this idea is not being realistic. It is important to be prepared with a plan to place the cremated remains in a more permanent location such as a cemetery or having them scattering at sea. At the Chapel of the Highlands we regularly assist families by guiding them toward a comfortable solution when these types of situations come up. Even after long periods with cremated remains being kept at home we can always help families in making the correct decisions and to plan for the future.

Remember, if cremated remains are kept at home, no matter how well intended, unforeseen situations can and do come up. The next-of-kin, who has custody of the cremated remains, may become ill or pass away without leaving instructions on what to do if the cremated remains are left behind. No matter what the situation you can call us at the Chapel of the Highlands and we will help in finding an appropriate solution for placement of the cremated remains.

If you are still keeping cremated remains at home please plan a permanent disposition by leaving instructions in a will, with family or an executor. This will help insure that the cremains will be given a final resting place and shown the respect they deserve.

If you ever wish to discuss cremation, funeral matters or want to make pre-planning arrangements please feel free to call me and my staff at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS in Millbrae at (650) 588-5116 and we will be happy to guide you in a fair and helpful manner. For more info you may also visit us on the internet at: