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After cremation, a common choice is to bury the urn in a grave like you would a casket. However, even this comes with a couple of different options and variations. Here is what to consider when burying an urn. 

Can I bury an urn?

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Like a casket or coffin, an urn can be buried in most countries including Canada.  Due to size and type, urns tend to have more flexibility on where you can bury them. Nonetheless, there are rules and regulations to follow. Below are some urn burial options and considerations. 

Urn burying considerations

Before any funeral services can take place, a few things must be done. First, the death should be reported to appropriate authorities. Then, once the death has been reported, paperwork must be completed.

In Ontario, the paperwork begins with registering the death by completing and submitting the Medical Certificate of Death and Statement of Death to the local municipal clerk's office. After the death has been registered, a burial permit must be obtained. All paperwork can be completed by family or with the help of a funeral provider. 

The urn type is also something to consider. Many will opt for a biodegradable urn for burial. These materials such as paper, clay, plant material, bark, and other substances will naturally decompose over time. These styles are an environmentally friendly option if the ashes will be buried or committed to a sea, lake, or river. 

Burying an urn at a cemetery

Many cemeteries offer the option for urns to be kept at their facility. There are two options available in many cases – burial and internment in a niche or columbarium. A columbarium is a structure used to store and often display urns containing cremated remains. These often have areas called a niche. This is a shallow recess, usually within a wall, that holds the urns and other keepsakes that help memorialize the deceased. Some cemeteries will also allow you to scatter the remains on the property.

Burial options vary depending on the cemetery. However, many facilities have designated areas such as urn gardens and burial or scattering plots. 

In Ontario, families can buy rights to bury or scatter remains in a registered cemetery. They can also purchase rights and place remains in a columbarium. Before making this purchase, the cemetery must provide a price list, its by-laws, and an explanation of any restrictions on the rights being sold. These rights can later be resold to a third party (if permitted by by-laws) or back to the cemetery owner. 

How many urns can be buried in a plot?

The number of urns buried in a plot depends on the type of plot and the cemetery's bylaws. Cemeteries often offer various types of plots, including single, companion, or family. Most of which can hold at least two urns, while others may hold four or more. If you are unsure how many urns a plot will hold, it can be discussed with a cemetery before purchasing. 

Burying an urn outside of a cemetery 

When burying urns outside of a cemetery, it is vital to check the laws in your areas. For example, in Ontario, burying urns on public land outside of a licensed cemetery is not permitted. However, ashes can be scattered on most public property and and on private property with permission from the land owner. 

If you are in an area where burying urns outside of a cemetery is permitted, it is crucial to pick a location carefully. For example, if you choose to bury in your backyard, keep in mind that the house or property may be sold at some point. Be sure to bury it at a depth of three feet or more so it will not accidently surface. 

If you bury in unoccupied public property, the area may be developed down the line. For this reason, many may opt to bury at a cemetery or scatter in another place of choice. 

Like cemetery burials, it is best to use a biodegradable urn so that it decomposes over time. A unique option you can choose is to combine ashes with seeds or a tree sapling to grow into a tree in later years.  

Burying an urn on private property

If you own property or have permission from a land owner to bury an urn there are some guidelines to follow.

1) Permission: Seek permission of the property owner. If that is your family then this won't be an issue. If this is a friend or distant family member, don't assume you can burying the urn. Be sure to ask permission.

2) Depth: The rule of thumb is to bury the urn at least 3 feet deep. If that’s not possible, you should be sure that there is at least 6 to 12 inches of soil covering the buried urn. If in doubt, at least 36 inches (3 feet) deep is a safe bet.

2) Leave no trace: Bury the ashes in a biodegradable urn so that it decomposes over time leaving no trace of the interment. Burying a more hardy urn like a stone or ceramic urn risks that someone may come across the urn in future by accident. You don't want a future owner of your cottage, for example, to someday dig on their land and find an old urn in the ground. ]

See also: Cost to bury an urn

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