Preparing for one’s final resting place is a difficult decision, whether it’s choosing a traditional burial or cremation. Until the mid-1980’s, only 15% of Americans opted for cremation, while the vast majority preferred a traditional burial. In recent years, however, rising funeral costs and a long-running economic downturn has caused the trend to shift dramatically, such that in 2011 approximately 41% of Americans chose cremation. It is expected that by 2017 over half of all Americans will opt for cremation. The information below explains the cremation process and outlines the cost of cremation versus traditional burial, so that you can make an informed decision about whether cremation is appropriate for yourself or your loved one. Regardless whether you choose Cremation or Burial, a Funeral Insurance policy is a good thing to have to protect you from the cost.
Understanding the Cremation Process
In addition to filing the necessary legal paperwork including the request for a cremation permit, the only preparation required for cremation is to remove metal items and medical devices from the body before the cremation process begins. Though some metal items such as surgically implanted pins or screws cannot be removed, some items such as pacemakers and radioactive medical devices must be removed as they may combust or emit hazardous rays during the cremation process.
Once the body is properly prepared, it is placed in a casket or container (usually crafted from wood or cardboard), which is then placed into a cremation chamber that is heated to a temperature between 1600 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The container is labeled properly to ensure that there is no confusion of the identity of the body or any of its remains.
The body is heated for approximately 2.5 hours, during which time the body’s organic matter evaporates or is consumed by the heat. After the heating process is complete, the remaining bone fragments are removed from the cremation chamber, and any metal that was on the body, such as dental fillings, is removed with a magnet. These metal parts are typically disposed of at a cemetery. The bone fragments which do not evaporate are processed into a fine powder-like substance, and are placed into a container which is typically chosen by the family.
The family is then permitted to dispose of the remains as they see fit. In cases where the family does not claim the remains of their loved one from the crematory, most states allow the crematory to dispose of the remains after a certain period of time. In New York State, for example, this period is 120 days; other states impose similar waiting periods.
It is important to know that while the entire cremation process only takes about 3 hours, most state laws stipulate that there must be a waiting period of several days after the death occurs before the cremation can take place. The goal of this waiting period is to make sure that all paperwork pertaining to the death is properly filed, and that there will be no further need for autopsy or inquiry into the cause of death, because no information can be gathered once the cremation takes place.
The waiting period may be as short as 24 hours or as long as 48 hours. In some exceptional cases, such as the case when the body poses a health hazard, a request for an expedited cremation may be granted. During the time between death and the cremation, the body is stored in a refrigerator to slow decomposition and protect others from the health hazards posed by a decomposing body.
How Much Does Cremation Cost?
Cremation costs an average of $1500-$4000, as compared with a traditional burial, which averaged $7,323 in 2012, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Cremation services can be provided either by a funeral home or directly through a crematory, which is usually the less expensive option. In addition to the cost of the actual cremation, there are some compulsory costs associated with the cremation process. These include payment for removing a pacemaker (when necessary), transporting the body from the place of death to the crematory, storing the body until the time of the cremation, the cost of a casket or container, and the fee for processing all of the necessary paperwork. In most cases, the paperwork fee includes a brief memorial service for the deceased.
There are also a range of supplemental cremation services that a family may or may not choose to pay for when it comes to cremating their loved one. For example, some people prefer to scatter their loved one’s remains; others prefer to keep the ashes in a cemetery or mausoleum, a choice which costs anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $5000, depending on the final resting place. Some families wish to hold an extended memorial for their loved one which can cost anywhere from $1000 to $4000, depending on where the service is held and whether there is a viewing of the body, while others choose to forego a public farewell in favor of a private ceremony (or no ceremony at all), an option which can save the family a bit of money.
Even with these optional costs, cremation services are markedly cheaper than a traditional burial because it does not require a fancy casket, a large tombstone, embalming, or clothing for the deceased, which are costs that are usually required during a traditional burial. Likewise, memorial services for people who are cremated don’t usually require a hearse or limousine, items that are favored by families planning a traditional burial.
Similar to traditional funeral options, cremation services can be paid for with a burial insurance policy. If you prefer to be cremated, you should seek out a funeral home that offers this service to determine the exact cost of cremation so that you can buy a burial insurance policy for the appropriate amount. If you would like more information about burial insurance, fill out the contact form on this page or call (888) 953-9816 to speak with a licensed professional who can help you find a policy that fits your needs.
Respecting the Dead
One of the most common misconceptions regarding cremation is that this treatment of a body is not respectful. In reality, however, many people view cremation as the ultimate way to respect your loved one, as all bodies eventually return to the ground from which they came. Moreover, few people are aware that there are laws which prevent mixing the ashes of different people. These laws prevent any part of one’s remains from getting mixed with another person’s remains. They also ensure that each cremation is treated with a modicum of respect and reverence.
Cremation affords families the opportunity to dispose of their loved one’s ashes in a place that he or she would appreciate, rather than forcing them to be buried in a cemetery. Many people prefer cremation for just this reason, as they enjoy the idea of having their ashes scattered in a place that they love. But no matter what the reason for cremation is, it’s important to realize that cremations are done by professionals who adhere to strict professional and ethical guidelines, and that the cremation process is done in an extremely appropriate manor.
Whether you’re choosing cremation for financial motives, emotional reasons or a mixture of both, it’s important to feel comfortable and confident in this decision. Don’t hesitate to speak to your family about your wishes before you die, so that they feel just as comfortable as you do with your final decision.