How to Remove Ashes From the Columbarium

Written by talia kennedy
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How to Remove Ashes From the Columbarium
You can remove an urn containing a relative's ashes from his columbarium. (brass urn image by Richard J Thompson from

A columbarium holds humans' cremated remains, which are placed in an urn inside an individual niche. Cemeteries sometimes have both columbaria and burial plots on their properties to serve customers who want their remains interred, or buried, and those who want them inurned, or placed in a columbarium niche. When a family member dies, it can be difficult for his survivors to decide how and where to place his remains, especially if he didn't leave specific wishes behind. His remains may be moved later, but the process can be emotionally overwhelming.

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    Discuss your reasons for wanting to move your family member's ashes from his columbarium niche with all of his survivors. You may have found a place that you feel he would have liked better, want to keep his ashes in your home or want to move them to a new columbarium within the same cemetery or to a family plot. Some cemeteries reserve the right to move ashes if they decide to build on land that is currently occupied by a columbarium, and depending on the purchase agreement you made with the cemetery, you may have the right to select a new niche. It's important that all family members agree to move the ashes. A family member's death causes intense grief in some survivors, so listen to their reasons for why they might oppose the move and try to reach an agreement. If you have new information about your loved one's wishes for his final resting place, such as a legal document of his that you've found, share this with your family.

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    Contact the cemetery in which he is inurned. Ask about the process for and cost of removing the ashes. Each cemetery has its own guidelines for approving a removal request. You may be asked to submit your request in writing. If other family members agree to remove the ashes, ask them to sign your request before you submit it.

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    Choose a new location for the ashes before the cemetery removes them. If you are keeping the ashes in your home, arrange to pick them up from the cemetery. If you want to witness the removal, request to attend in advance. If you are relocating the ashes to a new columbarium, purchase a niche before the date that the ashes will be removed to ensure that you have a place to put them. Arrange for the ashes to be transported if you are relocating them out of the local area. You may need to provide a copy of his death certificate when you purchase a new niche.

Tips and warnings

  • If family members express opposition to removing your relative's ashes and you can't reach an agreement, if you are estranged from his survivors or if the situation becomes contentious, consult an estate attorney to help you facilitate the removal.

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