Cremated ashes can go unclaimed for decades

Unclaimed ashes

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — When a person is cremated, in some cases, their ashes are never claimed. They sit in a funeral home’s safe, sometimes for decades.

“It breaks my heart to know that some families have left the ashes here,” said funeral director Aaron Kucharik.

It’s a common problem nationwide, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Kucharik is holding on to a dozen sets of ashes, some of which were cremated before he was born.

“I have two sets from the 80s,” he said, “most of them in the 90s and early 2000s.”

The bags of ashes are mostly abandoned, forgotten by their families years ago.

“Things come up in their life,” explained Kucharik. “Life continues on after the funeral, and then they might have gotten sick, they might have had another death in the family, and then they forget.”

By law, Kansas funeral homes must wait 90 days before disposing of unclaimed ashes.

Kucharik says he is reaching out again to the next of kin.

Sometimes, the next of kin can be difficult to track down. While most of the ashes in Kucharik’s funeral home came with name tags, one urn from the 1980s was unidentified when he began running Price & Sons three years ago.

“Proper identification and ID tags weren’t used at that time,” Kucharik said about standard operating procedure in the 1980s.

He’s since identified the remains and is trying to lay them to rest.

“My goal as a funeral director is that every person that walks the face of the earth does deserve a proper burial.”

He is now giving all next of kin a year to claim the ashes before he buys a plot to bury them.

“It would be an expense for the funeral home and for me personally. However, it’s something I’m willing to do to give the burial that everybody deserves.”

The ashes can then be disinterred if family claims them afterwards.

Kucharik says even if a family has an outstanding bill with the funeral home, there is no financial obstacle to claiming ashes.

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