The National Association of Funeral Directors estimates there could be as many as 250,000 sets of cremated remains being retained in funeral homes.
Alan Slater, Chief Executive of the NAFD, said: “Whilst there are still a large amount of unclaimed cremated remains within the UK – some dating back 50 or 60 years – following the issuing of the NAFD guidelines, our members are more aware of the issue than perhaps they were in the past.
“Those guideline were issued in 2011 following discussions with the Ministry of Justice and it is our suggestion that Funeral Directors retain cremated remains for a minimum of five years, after which they can dispose of them in an appropriate manner providing they have made every effort to trace the next of kin.
“Members are also recommended to ensure that all cremated remains they are storing are logged with the family details, contact details and instructions. Our members are required to demonstrate they have a system in place for the safe keeping of cremated remains and our compliance officers will ask for evidence of this process during their biennial inspection.”
He added: “It is perfectly normal of course for Funeral Directors to hold cremated remains with the family’s instructions; for example my own father’s remains are being retained by the Funeral Director until my mother passes, after which it is our intention to scatter them together.
“There is nothing unusual about that, as long as the Funeral Director has the proper instruction and up to date contact details. We urge all families to ensure that if they have loved ones being retained at Funeral Directors, they make sure they have provided those details.”