ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO DUST, WHAT ABOUT A DIAMOND, A TREE, OR POTTERY INSTEAD?
10 ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL BURIAL ARRANGEMENTS
By: MWB Attorney Lisa M. Rothman
As attorneys at McGuire Wood & Bissette who focus their practices on estate planning, estate administration, trust administration, elder law, and other end of life issues, my colleagues and I sometimes receive questions regarding alternatives to traditional burial and cremation. These questions are becoming more mainstream with articles that circulate on Facebook and other social media, and as evidenced by Kris Jenner who earlier this year, on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, investigated the option of having her ashes made into six diamonds, one for each of her children.
So, for those of you who may be interested in non-traditional options, or for those who are just curious about the options that exist, here are 10 alternatives to traditional burial or cremation. This list is by no means exhaustive but offered only to shed light on what is in the realm of possibilities. In the event you find an option that interests you, a simple Google search will reveal companies available to assist you. Additionally, should you choose one of these non-traditional options, I encourage you to speak with your estate planning attorney to discuss the best way to document your decisions and communicate them to your loved ones (who may or may not support your unconventional wishes).
Green Burial – In many states across the country you can now make arrangements for what is known as a green burial. Green burial avoids the use of toxic chemicals and materials and utilizes biodegradable burial containers made with materials that are renewable, sustainable, and non-toxic.
Hand Blown Glass Art – Your cremains, or those of a loved one, can be used to create a unique, colorful, and long lasting memorial in the form of hand blown glass pieces, including paperweights, jewelry, sun catchers, sculptures, or ornaments.
Coral Reef – You can transform your remains or those of a loved one into a living coral reef in places such as the west coast of Florida, Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest. It is environmentally-safe, and quickly attracts fish, coral, and other sea life in places designed for recreational fishing or diving or in need of erosion control and restoration.
Donate Body To Science – While donating your body to science is not a new idea, it has grown to encompass much more than serving as a cadaver for study and dissection by medical students. With the ongoing advancement in DNA research, crime scene investigation, and other forensic studies there are many universities and medical schools which offer new and alternative options for those willing to donate their body to science.
Fireworks – One of the more unusual finds are several companies which will take cremains and turn them into fireworks. The fireworks can be displayed in professionally administered shows or the fireworks can be designed for self-firing at the time and place of your choosing (and in accordance with local law).
Sent to Space – Memorial space flights can carry your ashes or those of your loved one into near space, Earth’s orbit, deep space, or even to the surface of the moon.
Pottery – Potters can create custom ceramic pieces that incorporate cremated ashes. The ash is apparently not visible in the final product, but melts in the kiln during the firing process to become part of the coating of the pottery. While it may be a polarizing idea, some may find comfort in integrating their loved one into a ceramic work of art.
Diamonds – There are several companies, both domestic and international, that will turn your cremains, or those of a loved one, into one or more diamonds. The diamonds are available in a range of colors, can be turned into jewelry, or displayed as a piece of art.
Scattered into the Wind – Scattering the ashes of a loved one at a favorite place (the beach, the woods, the family cabin, etc) is quite common (although not always legal). However, being scattered into the wind is now an option as ashes can be placed into a biodegradable balloon which is then inflated with helium and released at a chosen site. The balloon ascends miles above the earth where it freezes and fractures apart, literally scattering the ashes it carried into the wind.
Cryonics or Cryopreservation – For those of you who do not find a viable alternative in the list above, perhaps cryonics or cryopreservation is an option to consider. Cryonics is the process of freezing and storing the body of a recently deceased person so that at some time in the future the person might be brought back to life with the advent of new medical technologies or cures.