Photo: Funeral.com

I came across an article recently about the weird things people have had done with their ashes after their cremation. How weird you ask?

Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can (although, did he? It seems to me he just figured out to put chips in a tennis ball can. But I digress). His family, following his wishes, put his ashes in a Pringles can. Original flavor, in case you were wondering.

Ed Headrick, who created the World Frisbee Championship, instructed his kids to mix his ashes with plastic which was then molded into several Frisbees, which they distributed to friends and family. Must have been a lively funeral.

Hunter S. Thompson’s buddy Johnny Depp shot Hunter’s remains from a cannon mounted atop a 50 foot tower, along with fireworks and a soundtrack that included “Spirit in the Sky.” This is still not as high as Hunter Thompson had been at any given point in his life.

James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek was indeed “beamed up.” His family placed some of his ashes on the Falcon 9 rocket in 2012. And Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had some of his ashes placed on board the space Shuttle Columbia in 1992.

As a lawyer, however, I can’t help but read this article and wonder if all of this is legal. Or precisely, are there any limitations? Well, yes there are.

Federal law technically may prohibit scattering ashes in the air – aviation laws prohibit dropping objects that might cause harm to people or property. But cremation renders the ashes harmless – so there’s no real risk. 

If you’re a sailor and want to scatter your ashes at sea, be advised that a federal law requires that you be at least three miles off the coast and report the details to the local EPA office. But if you want to use fresh water, at least in Ohio, you don’t need any special permit. Ohio’s littering law, as applied to “waters of the state” applies only to “garbage . . . ashes . . . of an unsightly or unsanitary nature.” But again, since the ashes are harmless after the cremation process, they aren’t “unsanitary.” Lake Erie may be worth considering.

If you’re on land, there are a few things to keep in mind. Many cemeteries provide gardens especially for scattering ashes.  You can also scatter the ashes on private property, so long as the owner consents. So, if you want your childhood home to be your final resting place, better check with the current owner. If you don’t get permission, you are probably guilty of trespassing – a fourth degree misdemeanor. It probably also constitutes littering, a separate offense in Ohio. 

If you want to use a public park (and for me, this would be the Cheviot Fieldhouse – many great memories there) you probably ought to ask the local authorities about zoning or other ordinances. Or wait for dark. Let’s be honest, chances are good you’ll get away with it. But for the record, I am not encouraging anyone to break the law.

And if you really are serious about where you want your ashes to spend eternity, you may want to write your instructions down.  Maybe even call a lawyer!