Burying an urn away from a cemetery or urn grove – for example in a garden or in a body of water – is generally not prohibited, but possible if the respective circumstances give reason to expect “that the urn will be treated with respect and dignity”, as in two current decisions of the state administrative court.
The first case concerned a woman in Schwanenstadt, whose last wish was that her urn be buried in her own garden. The widower made an application to the municipality, which was rejected by the mayor.
A dedication as a residential area is fundamentally opposed to a burial place, there is “no appropriate distance” to the neighbors in the densely built-up area, the municipality argued. And what is more: as in a cemetery, everything that does not correspond to the dignity and consecration of the place should be avoided at a private resting place – “but this cannot be guaranteed in a garden”. The cemetery administration and the city priest were also against the urn burial on private property.
The second case concerned a man from Linz whose ashes were to be buried in the Danube. The daughter-in-law requested this from the magistrate. According to a media information from the state administrative court, the Linz city administration rejected the application without an investigation and referred to an alleged decree of the Upper Austrian state government.
According to the court, however, this legal view is incorrect: when enforcing the burial law, municipalities act “in their own sphere of influence”, any decree of the state would be inapplicable, these are all “supporting and general legal principles”, according to the LVwG. Whether urn burials are permissible in a private setting must always be checked on a case-by-case basis.
In the specific case, the burial in the Danube in a biodegradable urn had been requested. “An urn that slowly dissolves in the water in a deliberate ceremony after sinking to the bottom of the river does not fundamentally contradict the legal requirements,” the court stated.