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Cremation reduces a body to bone fragments using high heat and flames.

A casket is not required. All that is usually required by most states is that the body be incinerated in some kind of container which is burned with the body.  The container can be made of wood or even cardboard. In some states, no container is required. Many funeral homes rent caskets for viewing and then transfer the body to an inexpensive container for cremation.

Cremation providers generally allow the family to be present when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. Cremation generally takes two to three hours.

Of the various types of funerals, cremation is the least expensive. 

When calling around for prices, ask for the funeral home's cost (which includes the cost of picking up and transporting the body) plus the "cash advance items" such as the cost of the crematory, permits and death certificates. The basic service is known as "Direct Cremation".

According to the Cremation Association of North America, the percentage of families choosing cremation over burial is expected to approach 60% by 2025.

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Funerals 101

What Happens To The Remains (Cremains)?

The cremated remains (called ashes or cremains) are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved. A memorial service may be held, with or without the cremated remains present.

The remains can be:

  • Kept at home.
  • Buried.
  • Placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery.
  • Buried or scattered in a favorite spot or spots.
    • There are companies which help people scatter ashes legally on land and sea and by getting permissions and permits. For example, International Scattering Society which will even take ashes to a distant location such as a mountain-top or a foreign country.
    • Many families choose what the industry refers to as "wildcat scatterings" - scattering the ashes without consent. 
    • Scientists agree that there is no health or environmental hazard from the spread of human ashes. With wind and rain, cremains typically melt into the soil within days. 

If ashes will be transported on a commercial airplane, the container must pass through an scanning machine so screeners can see what is inside. Urns should be made of plastic or wood for this purpose. Scanners are not allowed to open crematory containers.

In case it's of interest, cremains can now be pressed into a man-made diamond. For more information, offsite link.

How Much Does Cremation Cost?

Cremation usually costs less than the "traditional," full service funeral or direct burial.

Prices for cremation vary across the country.  At latest count, costs run from $500 to several thousand dollars.. 

Costs generally include:

  • The funeral home's basic services fee for administrative and staff services 
  • Removal of the deceased from the place of death
  • Care of the body
  • The cremation container 
  •  A crematory fee
  • An urn or other container
  • Local delivery of cremated remains
  • Costs for completing and filling necessary paperwork

Note: funeral providers who offer direct cremations also must offer to provide an alternative container that can be used in place of a casket.

How To Minimize The Cost Of Cremation

To minimize the cost of cremation, call around to a variety of funeral homes and inquire about their prices. 

You can learn the names of funeral homes in your area by searching the internet with words such as "name of your city, town, village" plus "cremation" or "funeral homes", or look in your local yellow pages. If there are other towns nearby, check there as well. In large cities, check outlying areas. 

When you speak with a funeral home, consider the following::

  • Describe the services you desire
  • Ask for the funeral home's price and what that price includes. 
    • The basic service is known as a "Direct Cremation." Direct cremation involves picking up the body ("recovery"), transferring it to the crematorium,  and securing the necessary paperwork.
    • "Cash advance items" (additional items you pay for) include:
      • The crematory costs
      • Local permits, if any
      • Cost of acquring death certificates (price is usually per certificate)
      • Creating and submitting obituaries (Something you can do on  your own. For information, click here.)
  • If you want to be present when the incineration starts, or elsewhere in the building, there is often an additional charge. 
  • Keep in mind that all prices are negotiable

NOTE: Before deciding on a particular funeral home, especially if the decision is based primarily on price, itis advisable to check with your state Department of Health to find out if the company's license is current and there are no complaints against it. To locate your state Department of health, click here. offsite link