what happens to unclaimed cremated remains

There are no provisions in the Business and Professions Code, the Health and Safety Code (HSC)
or the California Code of Regulations governing funeral practices that specify how long a funeral
establishment can retain cremated remains.
How long a funeral establishment “holds” cremated remains prior to disposition varies depending
upon the final disposition (interment, scattering, etc.), the specific services the funeral
establishment agreed to provide in the contract, and a reasonable amount of time in which to
complete the service

A funeral establishment cannot hold cremated remains for any specified period of time, nor can it
refuse to release the cremated remains when the disposition is to return them to the person with
the right to control disposition under HSC Section 7100.
HSC Section 7104(a) states, in part, that when no provision is made by the decedent and the duty
of interment does not devolve upon any other person residing in the state, or if such person cannot
after reasonable diligence be found within the state, the person who has custody of the remains
may require the coroner of the county where the decedent resided at the time of death to take
possession of the remains and the coroner shall inter the remains in a specified manner.
Section 7104(a) applies to cremated remains as well as uncremated remains that have been
abandoned and remain in the possession of the funeral establishment, cemetery or crematory.
The Bureau recommends that funeral establishments contact the coroner in the applicable county
when necessary as each coroner may have specific provisions and/or guidelines to receive
abandoned cremated remains.
With reference to crematories, BPC Section 9764© requires that crematory licensees have a
contractual relationship with a licensed cemetery for final disposition of cremated remains which
are not lawfully disposed of or which are not accepted by the person with the right to custody and
control of the disposition within 90 days of the date of death. Accordingly, crematories may not
maintain cremated remains for more than 90 days from the date of death.