What happens during the cremation process? From the Funeral Home receiving the deceased for cremation, to giving the family the cremated remains

Cremation Explained

Are you thinking about cremation as a disposition option but curious about what the whole process entails? It can be difficult making a decision about something that you may not clearly understand or have questions about.  As more families consider cremation as a death-care alternative, we have put together this guide to explain everything you need to know about the cremation process.

The Funeral Home and/or crematory receiving the deceased

When the funeral home or crematory receives the deceased into their care they will require the family to complete a Personal Details Form.  This provides the funeral director with all the vital statistics he or she requires to begin the process of applying for the death certificate and enables the funeral home to provide shelter for the deceased with all the correct ID information.

How the deceased identity is verified throughout the cremation process

Cremation & ID verificationAll funeral homes and crematories adhere to strict guidelines and rules.  This especially pertains to ensuring the verification of ID throughout the process.

When a body is received into a funeral home or crematory, it is an imperative step that the body is identified by a family member and ID tag.  A form of metal tag is generated, and this remains with the body throughout the process.  After the cremation, the metal ID tag is put with the cremated remains.

Most funeral facilities use some kind of project management system to keep track of their cases and what stage in the process they are at.  In some facilities, this may be as simple as a whiteboard and a case file system.  More modern facilities may use bespoke software systems to track and coordinate cases.

Preparing the body for cremation

The funeral home will remove any items that the family does not wish to be cremated with the deceased, such as jewelry.  The deceased can be prepared in whatever clothes the family decide are befitting, similar to the preparation for a funeral.

If the family wishes to hold a viewing prior to the cremation, the deceased will be prepared for the family to visit and say their last goodbyes.  As a basic cremation container is used for the purposes of cremation, if a viewing is held, some funeral homes offer rental caskets or a viewing bed.

If the deceased had a pacemaker or other type of medical device, this would need to be removed to prevent it from exploding during the cremation process.

What is a ‘cremation container’?

A casket is not required for cremation, although some funeral homes will offer a wooden cremation casket.  More often a standard reinforced cardboard box with a plywood base is used to hold the body. This is called a ‘cremation container’ and burns easily during the cremation process.

Cremation Container

Preparation of permits, authorization, and paperwork – the legal aspects of cremation

As I mentioned, there is strict legislation that governs the operation of human cremation, and this includes the submission of legal documents for processing.  A Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by the immediate legal next-of-kin.  A cremation cannot proceed without this form.  If there is more than one next-of-kin (for example 2 or more siblings), then all siblings must sign the authorization form.

The funeral director will submit to the county office for the death certificate, using the data provided by the family from the Personal Details Form.  If required, he or she will also request the Permit to cremate the deceased.  Some counties require a permit before cremation, and charge for it, whereas in some counties this is not required.

The charge for the cremation permit varies significantly by county.  Most charge between $10.00 to $60.00 for a permit, but Wisconsin has some of the highest cremation permit fees in the country, with Milwaukee county charging $357 for the coroner’s cremation release fee.

Cremation Laws As cremation is such a final disposition, there is also a legal mandatory wait period after the death occurs before a cremation can go ahead.  This varies by state but ranges from 24-72 hours.

This means that even if the family has signed all the legal paperwork, and a permit is issued, the cremation cannot be conducted until the mandatory period has expired.  Generally, it will take 2-3 days for all the formal details to be completed anyway prior to the cremation being scheduled.  During this time, the deceased is stored in a refrigerated storage unit, similar to how morgue’s store bodies as embalming is not required for cremation.

How does the cremation chamber or cremation retort operate?

A cremation chamber is otherwise referred to as a cremation retort.  It is an industrial type furnace that can hold one body and incinerate at high temperatures.  There are many different types of retorts, and today there are modern and very efficient cremation machines that can be operated by computer and automated.  Most are fueled by gas or propane.

Cremation RetortThe chamber has a door at one end and the cremation container is loaded into the retort via the door.  This is then sealed and the cremation process begins.  This can be manually or automatically.

The chamber is constructed of fire-resistant bricks and special masonry that can withstand very high temperatures and is generally housed in a stainless-steel casing.  The temperature within the retort reaches between 1800? F – 2000? F.  The process takes around 2 hours to completely reduce the body to bones and ash.  Some older cremation machines may take up to 3-1/2 hours to cremate.  When a cremation retort has reached full heat, subsequent cremation can take less time.

Once the incineration process is complete, a tray containing the bone fragments and ashes is extracted for the next part of the process.  A cool-down period of approximately 30 – 60 minutes is required before the bones and ashes can be processed.

How are cremation ashes processedHow are the cremation ashes processed?

The bone fragments and cremation ash is first ‘filtered’ to check for any metal debris.  This is items such as surgical pins, screws, titanium joints/limbs, and metal dental fillings.  Depending on the sophistication of the crematory, this will be done by hand, with a magnet, or with an automated filtering system.  Many crematories are now recycling the metal debris they extract from cremation cases.

The remaining bone fragments are then put into a processing unit that is basically like a grinder.  This unit pulverizes the bone fragments to a fine powder, known as the cremated remains or ashes, that are placed in the cremation urn.  The ID tag will have stayed with the body throughout the cremation process, and this is then placed with the urn in readiness for returning the ashes to the family.

Who can conduct a cremation?

Most funeral homes and crematories employ crematory operatives to run their cremation machines and process their cremation cases.  Sometimes the funeral director may personally handle cases, but a trained crematory operative is versant in the specialized knowledge of safely operating a crematory and handling the deceased for cremation.

How long does it take from the funeral home receiving the deceased to the family receiving the cremated remains back?

The time-frame can vary depending on several criteria.  Firstly, the cremation cannot proceed until all the legal requirements have been met.  Secondly, depending on the crematory, there may be a schedule for cremation.  It is fair to say that it will generally take at least 7 days but quite possibly up to 10 days from the deceased being delivered into the care of the funeral home until the cremated remains are ready.

However, there are cases where an expedited cremation may be required, which can be facilitated if all the permits and authorizations are in order, but may incur an additional charge.  Likewise, I have known of cases that have taken 21-28 days (or longer) to process a cremation.  This is typically where there is some discrepancy over the issuing of a permit and family consent in the authorization of cremation.

Questions about cremation

Other Frequently Asked Questions about cremation

How long does it take for a body to be cremated?

It takes anywhere between 1-1/2 to 3/1/2 hours to cremate an adult body.  It can depend on the time of day the cremation is conducted (i.e. the retort needs to reach full heat to cremate faster) and the type of cremation machine.

Do you have clothes on when you are cremated?

Yes, the deceased is clothed when placed in the cremation container, and the clothes burn with the body.

Can other personal items be cremated with the deceased?

It is generally acceptable to place a small personal item in the cremation container with the deceased prior to cremation, so long as it is a combustible item, such as flowers or soft toys.

What happens to teeth during cremation?

Any teeth that do not burn during the process are ground down with the bone fragments during the processing of the ashes.  If the deceased had any gold teeth, the family can decide if they wish to have these removed prior to cremation.

Can an obese or overweight body be cremated?

Yes, many crematories offer barometric cremations.  Larger cremation retorts are required to hold and cremate a body over 600 pounds.  Due to the increase in obesity, some crematories have replaced their standard retort doors with wider doors to be better able to fit a larger body through.

An obese body is likely to burn faster as it contains more fat, but it can be more dangerous to manage the retort and observe the incineration process.  The handling of a body over 350 pounds requires additional equipment and a reinforced cremation container.  For these reasons, many crematories will charge a barometric cremation fee.  This will be anywhere between an additional $100 – $400.

How much do cremated remains weigh?

A standard adult cremation will produce an average of 3 to 9 pounds (1.4 to 4.1 kilograms) of cremated remains. The volume of cremation ashes usually depends on the bone structure and density of the person, and not so much their actual weight.

What happens to unclaimed cremated remains?

Not all families choose to collect cremated remains.  Some families do not know what to do with the cremated remains.  They may not want to inter the remains and do not want to keep them at home.  Some have opted for cremation as a final disposition, and just do not want the remains.

Unclaimed Cremated RemainsSo, unclaimed remains are becoming a growing concern for funeral homes, especially as the direct cremation rate grows.

Some cremation providers are offering incremental scattering services as a simple add-on to a cremation package, so that they can scatter remains in a scattering garden, with the families’ consent.  This alleviates the funeral home of the issue of storing remains indefinitely.

Some cremation providers are now adding clauses to a cremation contract that stipulates if the cremated remains are not collected within 90 days, they have the right to dispose of the remains.  Historically, with a lower cremation rate, a funeral home would store any cremation urns not collected by the family.  There was concern that a family member could turn up years down the line, wanting to retrieve the remains.  But with the rise in cremation, this now has the potential to become a storage nightmare!

Cremated remains that remain unclaimed from indigent funerals are generally held for a period and then a mass interment or scattering is conducted by the county authorities.

Cultural differences in the cremation process

Our cultural attitudes to cremation differ.  In countries across Europe and in Japan, the cremation rate is over 80%.  It is an accepted practice that cremation is a better solution for disposition.  In some countries, this has been driven by a less faith-driven approach to death-care, and by available space for a body burial.

Cremation, in some cultures and religions, has been sacred for thousands of years.  There is documented evidence of cremation practice among the early Phoenician and Persian culture.  But over time this was replaced with mummifying and burial.

In Hinduism, it is a tradition to cremate the deceased.  Their concept of death being a transition to the next existence gives them a different perspective on the notion of the body.  Other Indian religions such as Sikhism and Jainism also mandate cremation.

Some crematories that cater to faith’s, like Hinduism, who have specific cremation rituals, will facilitate the rites of cremation that are practiced.  For example, Hindus are required to begin the cremation and see the deceased enter the cremation chamber.  So, a crematory may have a special viewing area with a control button, and a family member can observe the cremation container entering and start the machine.  Where possible, they will help the family observe the rituals that are a sacred part of the funeral rites.

What does a cremation cost?

The cost of cremation varies.  This depends on the type of cremation service selected, and also the cremation service provider you use.  The most affordable cremation service is a direct cremation.  This is a cremation without any ceremony provided by the funeral service provider.  A direct cremation is growing in popularity as it is an efficient and cost-effective disposition alternative.  Families who choose direct cremation can still conduct a memorial service when they have the cremated remains returned to them.  But this does not have to be done immediately, so can allow for a family to plan their own memorial or ash-scattering service at a time that suits them.

Average cremation costs 2018

It is usually a good idea to compare cremation costs from several cremation service providers to determine the average cost you can expect to pay in your area.  This

How Coronavirus has affected Funerals & driven further growth in the direct cremation market

The COVID-19 pandemic has re-shaped our society and affected all of us at some level. One of the most tragic aspects of deaths occurring during our lockdown phases has been the inability of families to come together for a funeral service and to grieve together.

Funeral homes have been forced to quickly adapt to new ways of serving families. This has led to a further increase in cremation services and implementing technology to offer online funeral arranging, document submission, and live-streaming of services.

The funeral industry has previously been critiqued as being slow to adapt to change. During this pandemic, many funeral businesses had to rapidly shift their business strategy.  An industry that was slowly responding to new technology, has witnessed exponential growth in embracing technology.

How has COVID-19 impacted on funeral home services?

Social Distancing

The biggest impact has been the impact of social distancing.  In many cases, this has prevented any funeral services being held.  For other families, it meant the difficult task of choosing those selected to attend the limited attendance number allowed at funeral services.

Grieving and saying goodbye affects everyone differently.  Not being able to physically see a loved one to say goodbye, or attend a funeral service, has left many bereaved family members struggling even more to come to terms with a death.

Social distancing is something that has changed how we all go about our daily lives.  I have found it strange to have to stop hugging family and friends. And, a funeral is a time when we most embrace our social selves and aim to impart compassion by touch.

Delaying services

In some areas, funeral homes and crematories have been so overwhelmed with death cases, that services have not been able to go ahead in a timely fashion. Instead of being able to arrange services in the days following the death, families have had to wait weeks before their loved one could be laid to rest or cremated.

This has put a strain on funeral homes to cope with the storage of remains, be it embalmed remains or refrigerated remains.  Normally, the majority of funeral locations deal with dispositions as they occur and only have a limited capacity to store bodies.  Some funeral homes had to bring in mobile refrigeration units to help them cope with the additional storage needs.  This obviously increased overhead costs for a funeral business without the opportunity for planned provision of additional storage expansion.

Virtual FuneralTechnology

Technology has been slowly adopted by the funeral industry.  For many funeral businesses, it was the era of setting up a website, offering online obituaries, offering online e-commerce for flowers and other funeral products.  Those a little more savvy had added options such as web-casting funeral services or offering an online funeral arranging portals.

With the impact of COVID, technology became a vital tool to connect with families and maintain services.  Web-casting and online arrangement portals became valuable tools to assist funeral directors and families alike.  One of the biggest adaptations funeral businesses are making is to add facilities for families to remotely sign and authenticate permissions and authorizations.  Docusign suddenly became the ‘go-to’ document processing facilitator.

Direct Cremation as the funeral alternative

Cremation services were already on the increase. Nationwide the cremation rate was approaching 55%.  But the rate at which direct cremation has grown over the last five months will most surely have a significant impact on the final cremation rate for 2020 and may impact on cremation prices in the future.

Many families had no option but to opt for a direct cremation in the height of the pandemic.  It was their only solution to arranging a dignified disposition for their loved one.  Then, we have the economic impact of the lockdown, and those families struggling financially who had little option but to opt for a low-cost direct cremation service.

The COVID pandemic has brought death as a threat and reality into all our lives.  As a consequence, it has become a little more acceptable to discuss death and funeral options. As a result, we are observing an increase in interest in cremation planning.  Especially, in the age range of ‘senior’ individuals, who want to remove the cost and stress from their children.

As with any crisis, it will leave a legacy, and there will be those businesses that adapt, adopt, and become adept. I think it will be some time yet before we can evaluate the full impact on the “last responder” industry.

Low-cost simple cremation service $895 – Jonesboro, AR

We aim to help families that want “just a simple cremation” in the Northeast Arkansas area.

We understand that today many families just want a simple and affordable funeral alternative.

A simple cremation, otherwise known as a direct cremation, can be conducted for as little as $895.

What is a direct cremation?

A direct cremation is when the deceased is cremated with no ceremony or services performed by the funeral home.  The cremation is conducted and then the cremated remains returned to the family.  This can enable a family to arrange a memorial service at a more convenient time and place. (And also save on the cost of a service).

How much is a direct cremation service in Jonesboro?

A direct cremation service costs $895. Additional fees may apply for a residential collection, removing a pacemaker or an oversize cremation.  County fees are third-party fees and include the cost of death certificates and charges for cremation permits where applicable.

What laws do you need to consider when arranging a cremation service?

As cremation is a very final disposition, there are strict rules that funeral providers adhere to.  The legal next of kin must all sign the Cremation Authorization Form to permit a cremation to be conducted. There is generally a mandatory wait period after the death of 24-48 hours before a cremation can be conducted.  Although, it generally takes a few days anyway to file for the death certificate and obtain a cremation permit.

Is there any assistance with funeral expenses?

Unfortunately, there is very limited financial assistance for families to help with funeral expenses.  The county is responsible for indigent funerals.  But not many counties provide funds to help low-income families and those struggling as there was no life insurance or provision.

Social Security does offer a $255 lump-sum death benefit payment (if the deceased qualifies) and the funeral home will usually help you claim this.

What can we do with the cremated remains?

You have several options.  You can arrange to inter the cremated remains in a niche, or inter them into an existing gravesite.  However, both of these options will cost upwards of $500 in cemetery charges.  You can opt to keep the ashes at home in a cremation urn or have the ashes made into a memorial keepsake.  Scattering ashes is also becoming a popular choice.  Although you must bear in mind this is a very final dispersing of your loved ones’ remains and consider it carefully.

Call us today on (870) 619-4828 if you need immediate assistance with cremation arrangements. Or feel free to call if you have further questions about cremation services.  We are here to help in these difficult times.

The Funeral Industry, death-care practices, and cremation in the face of Corona Virus.

As we all face extended periods of ‘Shelter in Place’, the impact is rippling through our communities, social culture, and rituals.  We have already heard the reports from Italy of hospitals, morgues and funeral homes struggling to cope with the deceased in the wake of their epidemic.  Here in the US, where the pandemic is now spiraling fast, we hear reports from the funeral industry of the rapid response to change that they are now coping with.

The Funeral Industry

On average there are 7,800 deaths a day in the US.  This number is likely to rise with the increase in deaths from COVID-19.  The estimate ranges from tens of thousands to 2 million in a ‘worst-case’ scenario.  55% of families opt for a cremation service and 40% choose burial.  Whether burial or cremation, many funeral services involve a gathering of people.  Now that the gathering of people is being restricted (in some states mandated), funeral homes are contending with informing families that holding a funeral service is not possible, or very restricted.

How are Death-care Practices changing in response?

Virtual FuneralThe shift to Virtual Funerals & Live-streaming of funeral services.

The immediate, and most significant, response is that funeral homes are ramping up the availability of offering a ‘Virtual Funeral’.  A virtual funeral can involve only the funeral service professionals delivering services and streaming those to the family. Or, allowing just the immediate family to attend and live-stream a service to extended family and friends. Those funeral homes that may not have already subscribed to professional live-streaming funeral technology, are simply putting an iPhone on a tripod and broadcasting on Facebook Live.

Restrictions on Funeral Homes as open Community Spaces.

A number of funeral homes are changing the daily operations of how they function.  Additional precautions are being taken in the collection of bodies.  And stringent sanitizing processes have been put in place each time a member of the public enters a funeral establishment.  Many funeral homes have closed their doors to the community as ‘walk-in’ locations.  Families are still welcome to visit to make arrangements, but by-appointment-only, so that better sanitizing can be implemented between visitations.

Guidelines are being issued and reviewed daily on improving services for collecting bodies and offering funeral services.  A face-mask has to be put on a body at the collection, and additional sanitizing processes accompany funeral personnel working on continuing to offer this vital service to our communities.

How cremation may be the preferred viable disposition option

We are likely to witness an increase in cremation services & online arrangement processes.  Cremation was already a growing disposition trend in the U.S., but in some metro areas, cremation may become the only viable option in the coming weeks.  More importantly, direct cremation services are likely to provide the best alternative for many families.  A direct cremation is conducted without any services from the funeral home and can be arranged without the need for the family to visit the funeral home.  Families can gather together to hold a memorial service at a later date when social distancing restrictions are reduced.

An important consideration of the significance of direct cremation is that not only does it limit social contact at this point, but it also offers families an affordable alternative.  Many families have already been laid-off work and are worried about their finances.  A direct cremation can be conducted in most cities for between $700 to $1,000.  The DFS Memorials network of direct cremation providers can help you manage an affordable direct cremation service.

Funeral Homes may have to adapt their storage facilities to hold cremated remains.

The U.K. has already instructed its municipal crematories to hold cremated remains for families until this COVID-19 crisis has passed.   I anticipate that many funeral homes in the U.S. will need to be prepared to hold more remains and offer the storage of remains for families.  This may be more challenging for funeral locations in highly-populated cities experiencing an increased rate of death calls.

In Italy and Spain, the military has stepped up to assist the funeral industry as morgues become overcrowded.  Support has been required with transportation to crematories and additional morgue facilities.

Arrange a cremation onlineCounty, State & Federal responses and adaptations – law changes & emergency measures

It is likely that some existing funeral legislation may have to be adapted in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.  The funeral industry has strict licensing laws that can vary by state.  For example, in New York, only a licensed funeral director can collect the deceased from the place of death.  This may become unrealistic in the coming weeks, and this law may need to be revised, even if only as a temporary emergency measure.

Funeral shipping and repatriation under travel restrictions

As a nation with a strong immigrant heritage, repatriating citizens back to a country of origin has been a staple part of the funeral industry.  However, recent travel restrictions have put limitations on funeral shipping at present.  Families are now faced with two options – arrange for storage of the deceased until such time as travel restrictions are lifted, or to arrange a cremation in the US and ship the cremated remains at a later date.

If you have any questions or concerns about arranging a funeral, reach out to your nearest DFS Memorials provider, or contact us at care@dfsmemorials.com for help.

Comparing cremation prices: How to find an affordable direct cremation

We are price-conscious, price-comparison consumers today.  In a short era, technology has changed many of our consumer habits.  These days we use a number of websites and mobile apps to compare prices for major purchases. And this trend has now impacted on the funeral industry.  An industry that has price-gouged consumers due to the mystery and misery that surrounds the purchase of funeral services. So, how can you compare cremation prices?

What options are available to compare cremation prices?

There are several options you can use to compare cremation costs.

#1 You can phone around a few local funeral homes and ask for prices.

All funeral homes are required by federal law to provide you with funeral prices when you make an inquiry.  They should be able to provide you with a copy of their General Price List. This can be time-consuming and a tad frustrating, as not all funeral homes will give you a simple price over the phone.

#2 You can use a funeral comparison concierge service

Everest’s Funeral Planning & Concierge Service will provide a price-comparison report for you, from up to 8 funeral homes with your specified zip code or mileage radius.  However, they charge a $29 fee for this service.

#3 Use an online funeral price-comparison website

There are an array of funeral price comparison websites today.  These provide a platform for consumers to find and check prices from funeral homes in a given area.  However, there are a few issues with these websites to consider.  Firstly, not all websites inclusively include ALL funeral homes in an area.  So, you may not see a true reflection of all local cremation prices.

Secondly, some of these websites monetize their platform by offering promoted listing for funeral homes that will pay.  This means you again may not see a true ‘un-biased’ representation of local cremation providers and prices.

If you are looking to compare cremation costs, the likelihood is that you want to ensure you do not overpay for a service.  Often, we no prior knowledge of arranging a funeral, we enter the process seeking guidance.

#4 Connect with the DFS Memorials network of low-cost cremation providers

DFS Memorials vetted and recruited local independent cremation service providers that met the criteria of offering their local community a ‘best price’ direct cremation.  So, the DFS Memorials website has conducted the price-comparison (to make it easier for you) and can connect you directly with a local, affordable cremation provider.

All local providers and their direct cremation prices are disclosed online.

How do you find the ‘best value’ cremation service?

Best value cremationCheap is sometimes cheap.  Corners are cut to offer budget services or products. “You get what you pay for” as we will often quip.  However, overpaying for a service can be annoying.

As mentioned above, funeral costs have long been shrouded in some mystery, allowing the industry to confuse families overpricing.

Why pay $2,700 for a simple direct cremation, when the exact same service can be conducted for $795?  So this is where the term “best value” or “best price” comes into play.  It is about comparing the exact same service package.  Cremation service costs can range significantly, and you can save money just by ensuring you have compared what prices are on offer locally.

Why choose direct cremation?

A direct cremation is the industry term for a simple cremation without any ceremony. It is the least expensive funeral option and the most simple, no-fuss option.  As the cremation rate continues to grow, it is largely direct cremation that families are choosing.  Why?  Namely cost, but also just out of the notion of simplicity.

A direct cremation can be arranged in most cities for between $500 – $1,000.  To find out your local direct cremation price, visit your state and city on DFS Memorials.

3 Tips for Choosing a Cremation Service Provider

Choosing a cremation service provider can seem overwhelming if you have not had any prior experience handling cremation arrangements.  Trying to get pricing is not always simple.  Many funeral homes will not even provide their cremation pricing online, and it can even be difficult to extract a clear price when you phone them.

We have put together these 3 tips to help you best choose a cremation service provider to serve you.

#1  Price & value for money

Saving on cremation costsAlthough many funeral homes do not like the fact, most families today shop for cremation with cost as an important factor.  We are so used to price comparison as a means to shop today.  And why should that not apply to procure a service such as a cremation?  Cheapest is not always best, but value for money or ‘best value’ is a way to ensure we get good value for our money.

A direct cremation service package is a fixed package.  It should be pretty much the same from every funeral provider, but many will add additional items that are included in the ‘small print’.

So tip 1 is to ensure you are comparing like-for-like cremation services when choosing a cremation service provider.  You should ask what the price quoted includes, and what it does not include.  What can appear at a cheaper price online, can often be a ‘bait and switch’ tactic.  So ensure you clarify exactly what is included in the price before you contract any services.  A licensed funeral home must have a set General Price List (GPL) and according to funeral legislation MUST disclose prices to you when you make an inquiry.  Every GPL has a direct cremation service listed on it.

#2  Location & availability

Arrange a cremation onlineIf you require a meeting to make arrangements or wish to have a ceremony, then the location of your cremation service provider can be very important.

This will determine your selection process.  However, if you are out of the area where the death occurred and are making arrangements, or wish to conduct a direct cremation service, then location is not as relevant.  You may wish to select a provider who has a service area that covers the location of the deceased without additional transport fees.  But pretty much a direct cremation can all be handled with online or phone arrangements.

Although I personally like the idea of the functionality to make arrangements online through a web portal, this is not for everyone.  And, I think it is vitally important that you have already established the availability and responsiveness of the cremation company.  Leading on to tip #3.

#3  Trust

You must establish that you are working with a trustworthy cremation company.  How they deal with your inquiry can go a long way to reassuring you what type of company they are, and what their customer service is like.  Especially if you are using a funeral home that you have no experience with. If the person answering your call is not clear about answering your questions or providing a cremation price, this should probably ring an alarm bell!

Apart from speaking with a funeral director or funeral arranger, you can check out other sources to establish trust.  Reviews are the main source we use today to establish trust, but online reviews today can be very subjective.  Especially if there is not a substantial amount of reviews to qualify the level of service.  Also, reviewing something like a funeral service can be a difficult (and not popular) option for reviewing.

Cremation Memorial ServiceSpeaking on the phone, and having some specific questions to ask, can help you decide if the company appears professional and reassure you.

Checking how up-to-date the company’s website is, and what information is disclosed online, can also be another way to validate their reputation.

There are more funeral homes now operating a separate direct cremation brand online.  If you want a best-value direct cremation service, then you may need to be prepared to make arrangements online.  This is how some funeral homes are able to offer a value direct cremation package but keeping their overhead costs down for this service.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about choosing a cremation provider.  DFS Memorials has selected a network of funeral and cremation companies to work with that all offer a ‘best value’ cremation service to their communities.

How much does a direct cremation cost?

Cremation Memorial ServiceThe price for a direct cremation ranges between $399 and $3,000.  Yes, I know that seems a staggering disparity of price for the same service, but a direct cremation can significantly range in price depending upon whom you employ to deliver a direct cremation.  Where the cremation rate is higher (certainly on the West Coast and Pacific), the competition for the cremation market has driven down the price for direct cremation, and some companies can even operate as Direct Disposers, reducing their overhead to such a minimum that they can reduce their price offering to their customers.  With no expensive funeral home, staff, vehicles and embalming equipment to maintain – operational costs are much lower.

In parts of Nevada, you can purchase a direct cremation for as little as $399 complete.  In most states and metro areas of the U.S. a direct cremation will cost between $700 and $1,000, so still, a very reasonable cost to arrange a complete disposition.  In some areas such as the Southeast and New England, a direct cremation tends to be nearer to the $1,500 price mark.

Visit this article on Cremation Costs in 2019 that has a direct cremation price comparison of a direct cremation in the top 20 U.S. cities.

Are there any hidden extras for a direct cremation package?

If you are purchasing a “complete direct cremation package” then there should generally only be cash disbursements that may be an extra cost.  Cash disbursements that the funeral home will ask you to pay separately for will include such things as the death certificate and cremation permits.  These vary in price by state and county.  A death certificate can be anything between $6 and $30, and a cremation permit can be charged at anything from $10 to $300, so it is important to establish this when you speak to the funeral home about direct cremation.

Average cremation costs 2018Disclosure of direct cremation prices

The funeral industry has long resisted openly disclosing prices.  Some claim it is because “no two funerals are the same”, but it is also generally accepted that this is because the funeral business can be BIG business with large profits. It has been reported by the industry that they can up-sell to 60% of families that request a ‘simple cremation’.  This means that when you approach a funeral home and say that you desire a ‘simple cremation’ they will often aim to encourage you to select incremental products or services to maximize their revenue.

Direct cremation should be listed on the General Price List (GPL)

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule means that a funeral home MUST disclose prices.  They must have a GPL and provide this to you on request.  A direct cremation is usually listed towards the end of the GPL, almost as the ‘poor cousin’ of funeral services.

Some progressive funeral homes and cremation providers are recognizing the demand, if need, to deliver to customers what they want.  They will openly display cremation prices and offer a simple and transparent direct cremation package.

If you come across a funeral home that is openly disclosing their prices, this will generally mean they understand the demand for affordability and transparency.  If a funeral home does not disclose prices on their website or advertising, and may not openly share a cremation price over the phone, this should probably ring alarm bells and signify that they have to justify their service charges.

Comparing like-for-like in direct cremation servicesArrange a cremation online

It is important to stipulate that what is considered a ‘complete’ direct cremation charge can vary.

You MUST ensure that you compare like-for-like direct cremation packages and prices.    As I mentioned above the price for a direct cremation can vary significantly, so you must check EXACTLY what is included in any direct cremation price.

Some funeral homes quote a direct cremation price which seems fair but they have excluded the crematory fee, especially if they do not have their own crematory and consider the crematory fee as a separate cash disbursement.  It has also been known for funeral homes to exclude the fee for the ‘alternative container’ required for the cremation, and this can be added as an extra for between $50 and $300.  It is quite typical for death certificates and cremation permits to be an additional cash disbursement cost, although funeral homes sometimes include one death certificate in a direct cremation package cost.

Do be aware that economies of scale do not seem to work the same in the funeral industry as they do with most corporate models.  The corporate-owned funeral establishments generally offer the more expensive direct cremations.  Therefore, it is very wise to compare prices for a direct cremation between several cremation service providers before signing a contract.

Understanding Direct Cremation – Part 3 : Comparing direct cremation costs and reviewing cremation providers

Understanding Direct Cremation: What is a direct cremation?

We are all becoming more familiar with cremation these days as the cremation rate increases in the U.S. and more people opt for cremation as a disposition alternative to a burial.  But people are not yet familiar with the term ‘direct cremation’.

What is a Direct Cremation?

A direct cremation sometimes referred to as an immediate cremation, is when a cremation is performed with minimal services from a funeral home and no service is conducted.  It is what is known in the funeral trade as a very basic cremation disposition.

The deceased is collected directly from the place of death and transported to the funeral home and/or crematory, the necessary documentation is completed, the mandatory waiting period passes and the deceased is cremated.  The cremated remains are returned to the family within 3-7 days.

Many funeral homes package a direct cremation offering and glamorize it with such names as A Simple Tribute, A Family Farewell, A Simple Goodbye, The Legacy Farewell, & Simply Farewell.  These names all symbolize a minimal service, minimal fuss disposition package – something many of us are opting for today!

Saving money on the cost of a casket

direct-cremation-costFor the purposes of the cremation, a basic cremation container is used to house the deceased’s body.  This is all that is legally required and a suitable “rigid, combustible” container is most often a sturdy cardboard container.  This means that no casket is required and eliminates the expense of purchasing a casket.  This alone saves around $1,000 – $4,000 in basic costs for the disposition.

If you did wish to have a brief family viewing before the cremation process, a funeral home can usually facilitate this using a rental casket or even a bed laid out in a viewing room.

The most affordable funeral option

A direct cremation can be considered one of the most inexpensive and affordable cremation options.  As only the minimal services of a funeral director are required and substitute funeral merchandise can be used, costs can be kept lower.  The cremated remains are generally returned to the family in a temporary cremation container, which can be a cardboard or plastic urn.  Of course, the family can opt to upgrade and select a wooden or ceramic urn if desired for an additional cost.   Some funeral homes serving families with direct cremations even offer to carry out an ash scattering or sea scattering these days for a small nominal fee.

What documentation must be completed legally before a cremation can be performed?

In order for any cremation to be performed a ‘Cremation Authorization Form‘ must be completed and signed by the legal next of kin.  A cremation permit must be obtained from the local county, and in some states, the coroner must sign the cremation permit.  This is largely to ensure there is no suspect reason why a body should not be cremated destroying all physical evidence.

There is a mandatory waiting period in all states before a cremation can be performed.  In most states this is 24-hours, but there are a number of states where a 48-hour mandatory waiting period must be observed.

Part 2 : How much does a direct cremation cost?

State Assistance for Funerals: What help is available from state budgets for funeral costs for those who cannot afford a funeral?

The reality for many families in the United States today is that a funeral can mean a financial crisis.  With 76% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, 25% living below the poverty line, and 35% in debt recovery, these really are hard times for many average hard-working Americans!  The story is a familiar one, working two jobs, juggling mortgage, utility and car payments, seeking out deals wherever money can be saved and hoping that nothing comes along unexpectedly to disrupt this fine balance!

cremation-costsWho is responsible for paying the funeral bill?

If the deceased died without a funeral plan, money in his/her estate, or a life insurance policy, then the immediate next of kin (and generally the person making the funeral arrangements) becomes responsible for paying the funeral home bill.  In many cases, several family members may agree to share the costs.

If the funeral home has collected the deceased and arranged a funeral planning conference with the family, a ‘funeral contract’ will be drafted that outlines exactly what the costs are.  Once signed this is a legally binding contract for services, and if you fail to honor this contract and pay for services as agreed, the funeral home can take you to court.

What responsibility does the state have to help families with funeral costs?

The state has responsibility for conducting the dispositions of those individuals who die within the care of the state.  Primarily this means those who have been residents in state-owned institutions, such as those individuals who have been incarcerated in prisons, sectioned into mental institutions, in care in residential nursing homes, homeless individuals, and sometimes those who are a victim of a crime.  These are referred to as “indigents”.  The state only has a responsibility to perform the most basic of disposition service.  Traditionally this was a very basic burial in a ‘pauper’ section of a local municipal cemetery.  What could also be referred to as a “pauper burial”.   Today, more counties are opting to use direct cremation as a cheaper and simpler alternative to burial.  A direct cremation can be performed in most states (at a cost to the county) for around $300 – $500.

Unfortunately, more counties are finding their own budgets stretched as more families struggle financially.  Where a county would maybe have to deal with 10 – 20 cases a year, numbers in 2018 began to inflate significantly.  Several local news outlets have reported indigent cases rising by as much as 50%, as this recent story from Salt Lake County in Utah exposes.

indigent-burialWhat is an indigent burial?

Where a state has an ‘indigent burial assistance’ program, there may be some ascribed funding to support those on welfare with a basic disposition.  The level of support varies tremendously by state and county, and in many areas has been axed as municipal budgets have been tightened.  25% of Americans may be below the poverty line, but in most cases, only 50% of those under the poverty line are considered indigent.1

What financial help is there for low-income families with the cost of a funeral?

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is used to assess how an individual/family may qualify for many low-income assistance programs, and the same applies to fund funeral costs.  Many families often misinterpret the phrase ‘indigent death’, believing it to mean an entitlement for low-income stipend and assuming that the city will automatically take over the costs.   If you are a low-income family or individual and wish to find out IF there is any financial support available to you to assist with funeral costs, you should consult your local county Human Services Department to ascertain what (if any) assistance there may be.  Check out these state funeral planning guides for state relevant information (if available).

indigent-cemeteryYou must be prepared for the fact that you WILL have to conform to rigid assessments for qualification, and if the state provides funding they will only offer basic services over which you will have very little control!  The state is likely to offer a direct cremation or a basic funeral.  Do bear in mind that in many areas now you can arrange a simple, basic and dignified cremation for between $500 – $995.  This enables you to remain in control of the disposition process and provides the opportunity to conduct a family-led funeral by having the deceased immediately cremated and then conducting your own memorial or ash scattering services.  The DFS Memorials network of low-cost cremation providers can help you find your nearest and most affordable cremation provider.

If the deceased qualified – you may also be able to claim the $255 lump-sum death benefit payment that Social Security pays out. (The funeral director will assist you with submitting this claim)  Another possibility that has more recently become available as an alternative for those families who cannot afford a funeral is whole body donation.  This is where is the deceased’s body is donated to an institution for research, and the costs of cremation are covered by the institution or body donation organization.  In some areas, funeral homes have affiliated with body donation organizations and can directly offer this to families. Some funeral homes refuse to on the grounds that it is not part of the level of funeral ‘service’ they wish to offer.  You can, however, deal directly with a body donation organization to make a donation.  You can read more about ‘Body Donation’ on US Funerals Online.

unclaimed-deadHow does a family claim financial assistance from the county for a funeral?

Budgets are generally managed at a county or city level, and the Human Services (or sometimes Social Services) department handles these budgets and claims for assistance.   The application process can be onerous and stringent and any assets, life insurance, and savings will be taken into account.  In some areas, a county judge has the ultimate authority to decide whether to accept or decline applications for a burial assistance program.  If funding is awarded for a low-income case, this will usually seal the cost that can be spent on a funeral.  For example in Massachusetts a program offers burial support of costs up to $1,100 for a funeral that cannot exceed a total cost of $1,500, and in New York a low-income family (if qualifying) can claim up to $900 towards the cost of a funeral, but it must not exceed a total cost of $1,700.

If you want to find out if funding is available in your county, check with your Human Services or Social Services department.

What if I don’t qualify for financial support and I still cannot afford a funeral?

Your best option is to arrange the least expensive disposition available to you.  This is a direct cremation.  You can generally arrange this for between $500 and $1,000 in most metro areas, and for under $1,500 in most other areas.  This can still be a simple and yet dignified send-off.  Once the direct cremation is conducted and you have the cremation ashes back, you can arrange a family gathering and private memorial ceremony.   Contact your nearest DFS Memorials provider to find a low-cost cremation.

There are some other options you can consider to help you raise funds for a funeral.  Reading  ‘What are your options on how to pay for a funeral or cremation?’ and ‘Crowdfunding a Funeral’ may give you some further ideas.

Sources:

1 Abandoned Bodies on the Rise in Tom Green County

6 Things You Should Know About Direct Cremation

Cremation now accounts for over 54 percent of all funerals in the United States, yet there are still many misconceptions about cremation services. Several years ago when DFS Memorials started working with local cremation service providers, the term ‘direct cremation’ was not even a common term.  More often people asked for a ‘simple cremation’ or a ‘basic cremation’.

Now the term direct cremation is more commonly used by funeral homes and families searching for simple and affordable cremation.  But, there are still questions that families ask, that demonstrate some common misunderstandings about direct cremation.

So, let’s look at some of these common myths.

Cremation Memorial Service#1  You can still have a funeral service or memorial after a direct cremation

Many people think that if a cremation is chosen, then you cannot have a funeral service.  This is not true.  In fact, choosing to have a direct cremation just offers more flexibility in when and how to conduct a memorial or funeral service.

#2  Every cremation is conducted individually

This is one of the most FAQs and most common misconceptions about cremation.  Each body has to be cremated individually.  There are very strict rules about the cremation of human remains.  One of the key laws being that a body must be individually cremated, and the cremation chamber fully cleared before the next cremation.

#3  It is possible to witness, or even start, the cremation process

Yes.  Many crematories are arranged so that it is possible for family to witness the start of the cremation process.  Some faiths require that a member of the family can commence the cremation process.  So, this can be arranged, although you may need to make an advance request to ensure the crematory can facilitate this.

#4  In many states you can arrange a direct cremation without visiting a funeral home

You can arrange a direct cremation without the need to attend a funeral home.  All arrangements can be made by phone or online, or an arranger can often come to your home to complete arrangements.  In some states you can make arrangements directly with a crematory, without the need to employ a funeral director.

#5  Embalming is NOT required for a direct cremation

There is no legal requirement for embalming.  Unless there is a public health directive.  It is a common myth that all bodies are embalmed for a funeral or cremation.  But this is not the case.  And avoiding embalming can save you between $600 – $800.

#6  There are many personalization options available with cremation

cremation laws.  You can choose the traditional options of burying a cremation urn, placing the urn in a columbarium niche, or keeping the urn at home.  But you can choose from a range of personalized options that include using some of the ashes to make cremation jewelry, fireworks, tattoos and a whole plethora of other creative memorials.

According to some surveys and industry statistics, of the 54% of cremations conducted, around 80% are now direct cremations.  Direct cremation is inexpensive and offers more flexibility in making funeral arrangements.  A low-cost direct cremation can be arranged in most cities for around $800, although many full-service funeral homes will still charge in the region of $2,700 for a direct cremation service.

It is important to shop around and compare prices when considering cremation services.  Visit this article for tips on saving on cremation costs.