Burial vs. Cremation: Things to Consider

As the US shifts towards cremation as the preferred death care choice, more families are asking questions about cremation to determine if choosing cremation is the right choice for them.

Deciding about the final disposition of a loved one can be one of the biggest decisions you make if you are charged with arranging a funeral.  If your family member did not have a funeral plan in place, or had not expressed their wishes before passing, it can be even harder to make decisions.

Cremation is the ‘buzz’ word in the funeral industry now, as we have witnessed the US shift from largely traditional burials to embracing cremation and a simpler and ‘no fuss’ death care alternative.

Cremation rates in the US

Credit: NFDA

How the cremation rate is changing

Since 2012 we have witnessed a shift towards cremation.  In 2014, the National Funeral Directors Association forecast that the cremation rate nationally would hit 77.8% by 2035.  This year they have reviewed that figure to 85%.  Many funeral homes in the DFS Memorials network report that 80% of their funerals are now cremation.

Even states that remained traditional in their death care and burial attitudes are beginning to shift to cremation options.

Why are families choosing cremation?

Although there are several reasons why families are choosing cremation, the biggest determining factor is cost.  A cremation is significantly cheaper than a traditional burial.  No casket is required, embalming is not required, and cemetery plots, vaults and fees can be eliminated.

With many Americans struggling financially, a cremation can prove a much more affordable means of conducting a disposition.

Aside from this, there is a growing trend towards simpler funeral choices.  Many Baby Boomers are just opting for a simple ‘no-fuss’ cremation.

We are now a more transient and transplant nation than ever before, with families spread across states, and even the nation.  This means that the notion of a traditional burial place no longer has quite the same meaning, and families are not able to memorialize in the same way. Many feel that cremation allows them to memorialize in a different way.

Our attitudes towards religion and the environment are also shifting, and this has impacted on death care choices.

How do burial and cremation prices compare?

An average traditional funeral costs in the region of $10,000.  A cremation can cost between $1,000 to $3,500.  Direct cremation, the least expensive cremation option, can cost between $500 – $1,000.  So, there is a significant saving if you opt for cremation.  DFS Memorials providers all offer a low-cost direct cremation to their communities.

In many cities, burial space has become limited, and therefore burial plot prices have increased.  In New York, for example, a cemetery plot alone can cost $18,000.

There are funeral providers offering very simple burial services, and even natural burial, and these can prove an inexpensive alternative to a traditional burial.

Choosing cremation

Families conducting their own memorial services

Cremation changes how we can memorialize a loved one.  There does not have to be a rush to conduct funeral services in a timely fashion before burial.  A cremation can be conducted and a memorial service held later.  This enables the family to have more control and flexibility over making funeral arrangements.

Some families still choose to inter the cremation urn, but some are beginning to seek alternative memorial options, such as ash-scattering in a memorial garden or special place; having some cremated remains made into a keepsake; or simply keeping the urn close by at home.

What should you really know if you are considering a cremation?

There are a few important considerations to make, and these are generally governed by state funeral legislation as well.

  1. Cremation is a very final disposition of remains. It eliminates all traces of DNA and any future examination of remains.  For this reason, there is certain protocol about authorizing a cremation.
  2. A cremation can only proceed when the Medical Examiner or Coroner has approved the cremation and issued a cremation permit. This is also to ensure there is no cause or concern that a cremation should not proceed.
  3. A Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by all immediate legal next of kin for a cremation to be legally conducted. If there is a dispute between siblings, a funeral provider will not proceed with cremation.
  4. In some states, there is a mandatory wait period after death before a cremation can be conducted, even if all permits and paperwork is in order. This ranges from 24-48 hours.
  5. Generally, it can take several days for a cremation to go ahead and the cremated remains available for the family. This is the time-frame for completing all necessary legal documentation, and scheduling the cremation.
  6. There are very strict protocols for crematory operators to ensure that cremation is handled in a respectful, dignified and safe manner. Rigorous ID checks are maintained throughout the process.  Only one body can be cremated in a retort, and the retort must be completely cleared before the next cremation.  Reputable funeral homes and crematories follow these protocols to the letter.  However, as cremation and a decline in profits, has hit the funeral industry there have been funeral homes cutting corners to meet their loss of income/profit.  It is always wise to select a trusted provider.  Although there are ‘budget’ cremation providers out there….cheapest is not always best!

If you still have questions about whether cremation is for you or your family, talk to your local funeral home or DFS Memorials cremation provider.  They will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Trends in cremation service

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