Who gets to keep the ashes of a cremated person?

This is a very common question and issue! If you are facing this situation, it's important to know what kind of rights you may have. This often comes up in situations where a parent has died and a relative or new spouse is refusing to return the remains, or a portion of them, to children of the deceased.


A deceased person's ashes, or remains after being cremated, are known as "cremains". Rights to these cremains are based in law MCL 700.3206. Make sure you know who has the right to make funeral arrangements as this is important as to who has the rights to the cremains! Click here to read more about who has the right to make funeral arrangements.


Under MCL 700.3206, the person who is designated as the funeral representative to carry out the person's final wishes is the one that gets to decide what to do with cremains. If the deceased did NOT appoint a funeral representative, this appointment will generally go via the lines of inheritance, with the spouse of the deceased receiving first priority to have them, then children, parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives.


If a person is married when they pass away and their spouse receives the cremains, generally, they become the widow or widower's property.


The exception to this is when a spouse fails or declines to exercise their right within 48 hours after receiving notification of the decedent's death, they then have affirmatively waived the right to make a decision about the possession of the cremains. MCL 700.3206(3)(e). Then, the person in possession of the cremains may have the right to keep them.


Long story short, make sure you have your wishes documented properly by visiting an attorney for estate planning! Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471