Can A Funeral Home Legally Keep My Loved One's Ashes For Non-Payment?

There are many questions that arise when a loved one passes away, and one of them is what to do with their remains. I had a lot to deal with when my mom passed away a few years back.

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What Laws Govern Funeral Homes In Washington State? Can They Keep Ashes?

Luckily my home had a little bit of money in her savings account and I spent a little bit of my own money to have her cremeated.

It did get me thinking, what if I didn't have the money to cremate my money, could the funeral homes legally hold onto her remains?

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I think it would be crazy if the ashes were held for non-payment so is it legal for a funeral home in Washington State to legally hold onto the ashes for as long as they wanted --- here is what I discovered:

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In Washington State, once a body is in the care of a funeral home, the funeral home is legally responsible for keeping the remains until they are released to the family or transferred to another funeral home. So, technically speaking, funeral homes in Washington State are allowed to hold onto the remains of the deceased for a bit.

However, this does not mean that they can hold onto the remains indefinitely. Funeral homes must follow strict regulations and guidelines set by the state regarding the handling of human remains.

These regulations specify that funeral homes must provide proper care to the remains of the deceased until they are finally disposed of. This means that they must handle the remains with respect and dignity, and ensure that they are stored in a cool and dry environment.

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Furthermore, the regulations in Washington State specify that the remains of the deceased must not be retained for longer than is necessary. This means that funeral homes must not hold onto the remains of the deceased willy-nilly.

They need to have good reasons for holding onto the remains, such as when the family is still making arrangements for burial or cremation, or when there are legal or financial complications that need to be resolved.

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If a funeral home is found to be holding onto the remains of the deceased without a valid reason or beyond the time allowed by the state regulations, they can face severe penalties. The penalties can range from fines to revocation of their license to operate.

Generally, a funeral home has a right to refuse service and transfer the ashes to the state for disposal or burial.

According to RCW 68.50.120, every person who arrests, attaches, detains, or claims to detain any human remains for any debt or demand, or upon any pretended lien or charge, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

You can read more about the law here.

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