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Exhumation means removing the remains or ashes of a deceased person from the ground, whether they have been buried or cremated.

Possible reasons you wish to exhume remains include:

  • to move the remains from the original grave site to a new grave
  • deepen an existing grave for a further burial
  • send them for cremation

You will need permission of the owner of the Exclusive Rights of Burial. It is possible that the owner may be deceased and in the grave, in which case you will need the authorisation from the next of kin. This may be more than one person. For example, all surviving children of the owner have the same rights to the grave, it does not automatically transfer or fall to the oldest sibling

When you have the correct permission from the owner, you will need to contact the burial authority and request their permission. You will also need to find out if the burial took place in consecrated ground. If so, you will need to contact the diocese (the church authority) with your request. There is a fee whether or not your request is granted.

You will need to complete an application for exhumation which must be signed by the burial authority. This application is submitted to the Ministry of Justice for consent. There is no charge.  But there may be a fee to pay the burial authority and you will need to check this with them.

When authorisation is granted by all relevant parties, an exhumation licence will be issued confirming that the exhumation can take place.

The exhumation will be carried out either late at night or in the early hours of the morning before the burial grounds are open to the public. You can choose to be present, but this is not always recommended.

Once the exhumation has taken place, the remains will be transferred into a new casket before being transported to their new destination.

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