Cremated remains held until funeral costs paid in full

The funeral industry is experiencing significant change at present as the shift towards cremation destabilizes a business that has been ‘traditional’ for some decades.  Families are leading this change as they demand lower cost funeral services.  Price and cost are now driving purchasing decisions, largely because families are struggling financially, and paying out thousands of dollars for a funeral is just NOT an option anymore!

unclaimed-cremated-remainsIn September 2012 we published a post about how local county social security departments had a rising issue with families failing to collect cremated remains.  The financial hardship that many families are suffering has resulted in an increase in state, or public, funerals.  County Social Services are dealing with more unclaimed bodies of indigents or low income families.

This story from Illinois highlights how the issue of paying for cremation services continues to plague funeral directors.  In this case the funeral director decided to withhold returning the cremated remains to the family until all payments were made in full.  He is effectively ‘ransoming’ the ashes!  Was he wrong to do this?  If you purchase any other consumer item and fail to make the required payments, the item would be re-possessed.  Today if you purchase funeral products you must pay in full when you purchase these items.  Walmart will not dispatch your $995 casket unless you have paid in full.

As we turn to cremation as a nation, the issue of what to do with cremated remains will continue to present challenges.  I often hear individuals claim that they just wish for family to scatter their mortal remains.   But often families either end up with remains sat in the back of a closet undecided about what to do with their loved ones ashes.

Funeral homes are also reporting a growing issue with unclaimed cremated remains, and the problem this presents for them in storing a growing number of cremation urns.  Some funeral homes have combated this by adding a clause to their cremation contract to allow for them to dispose of the cremated remains if they are not claimed within 60 days.

Low cost cremation services adds to this dilemma.  When a family has managed to arrange an inexpensive disposition for just a few hundred dollars, they are less likely to want to incur further funeral costs on elaborate cremation urns.

Inexpensive cremation options generally need to be paid for IN FULL before the direct cremation is conducted.  A budget direct cremation will usually include a temporary cremation urn/container.  This can be a small plastic urn or a cardboard container.

If you are concerned about funeral costs, then a simple direct cremation is the most affordable option.  A direct cremation can be performed in most areas of the United States for between $495 and $1,395 (depending on where you live).

 

What to do with the cremation ashes after your cremation service?

TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice.  What do you do with the ashes?

The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated.  A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative.  A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*.  For those Americans choosing a cremation service  instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.

There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
  • Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
  • Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
  • Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean

cremation-urnCremation may be cheaper – but interring cremated remains is not cheap

Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option.  It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial.  A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral.  By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone.   The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service  that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!

The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.

Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!

There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains.  Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.

I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations.  Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.

It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.

 Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police

The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter.  Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent.  Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.

I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.

Personalized cremation artifacts

Memory-GlassIf money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains.   With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond.  If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo!   This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.

There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation.  In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.

* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.

What you need to know to transport cremated remains

shipping-cremated-remainsAs cremation becomes more popular, there is a rising need for people to consider transporting cremated remains.  This can be the case either when someone has died in a different state or country, a cremation has been performed at the place of death, but the ashes need to be returned to the family.  Or in some cases people are opting to distribute the cremated remains between surviving family who may be located across the U.S.

Whatever the circumstances, when a family wish to transport cremated remains,  the questions can often arise as to how best and inexpensively can this be done.  We have outlined below the key information you need to know if you wish to ship cremated remains.

If you are shipping cremated remains through a service you will need to ensure that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.  A copy of the death certificate and cremation certificate will be required, along with other authorization forms.

Shipping Cremated Remains by U.S. Postal Service

You can send cremated remains by the U.S. Postal service.  You should use register mail with a return receipt, ship by express mail, and ensure you mark the outside of the package as containing ‘cremated remains’.

The extract from the USPS Bulletin 52, governing shipment of cremated remains, states:

“452.2 Cremated Remains

Human ashes are permitted to be mailed provided they are packaged as required in 463b. The identity of the contents should be marked on the address side. Mailpieces must be sent registered mail with return receipt service.

453 Packaging and Marking

The following conditions apply:

….b. Powders. Dry materials that could cause damage, discomfort, destruction, or soiling upon escape (i.e., leakage) must be packed in siftproof containers or other containers that are sealed in durable siftproof outer containers.”

Shipping Cremated Remains with a Courier Service.

Unfortunately, DHL, FedEx and UPS do NOT transport cremated remains at all, so you cannot courier cremated remains to another destination in the U.S. or overseas.

international-shipping-cremated-remainsTransporting Cremated Remains by Air

You also have the option to transport ashes by an airline carrier.  Most airlines offer a freight or cargo service, so this is one option to consider.  You do need to check with the specific airline as regulations that govern the shipping of human remains differs between airlines.  Some airlines require 7 days notice, and of course, you will require certain documentation.  The shipment will need to be marked as “cremated remains”.

Many airlines do allow you to take cremated remains as carry-on luggage.  Again you need to carefully check the guidance with the airline you are traveling with.  The TSA guidelines specify that “passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent ‘security friendly’ containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers can also offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.”  If a cremated remains container cannot pass through an x-ray machine with the contents visible, it will not pass the TSA security check.  The official TSA statement is:

“To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of this year, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.”

Shipping Cremated Remains Internationally

If you need to ship cremated remains internationally, you do just need to check with the embassy in the destination country.  Some countries have specific guidelines about receiving cremated remains and additional import documentation may need to be completed.  Also, some countries have different rules about receiving cremated remains, and a funeral director may be required to take receipt of the ashes before handing them over to a family member.

You should ensure that sufficient time is allowed for legal processes and documentation.  You probably need 2 weeks notice to arrange an international transportation of cremated remains.  A list of U.S. embassies around the world is available here.

Hopefully, this information has answered any questions you had about how to transport your loved ones ashes.  If you have any further questions, feel free to ask us the question.

Ship cremated remains from the United States to anywhere in: the UK, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

[Sara Marsden] Google+

 

 

 

Cremation Terms: What is an Ossuary?

During my time working within the death care industry, I have come across many new words and terminology, and I would have to concur that there is a particular discourse to the industry.

Ossuary derives from the Latin ‘ossua’ meaning bone and therefore can be referred to as a ‘depository for the bones of the dead.

An ossuary is an ancient term that describes a ‘space’, be it a tomb, building, well or chest, which holds numerous skeletal remains communally.  It was typically used where space was very limited, and the deceased would first be buried in a temporary gravesite and then after some years the skeletal remains exhumed and placed in the ossuary.

In modern terms, an ossuary often describes a type of mausoleum or columbarium that holds many cremated remains together, and can provide a receptacle for the dispersement of cremains, whilst still providing a ‘common’ area.