Understanding Direct Cremation: What is a direct cremation?

Direct Cremation costs Memphis TN

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. Direct cremation is becoming a popular option for more families, largely because there is a trend towards choosing “simple” and affordable service alternatives. A decade ago, few people were familiar with the term “direct cremation” and instead would ask for a simple or basic cremation.

What is a Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremation costs

A direct cremation, sometimes called 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 names such as A Simple Tribute, A Family Farewell, A Simple Goodbye, The Legacy Farewell, and 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

Saving money on cremation costs

For 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 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?

Cremation Authorizations & Requirements

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.

All states have a mandatory waiting period 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?

Sara Marsden

I have been researching and writing about the death care industry for the last fifteen years. End of life services and experiences are something most of us choose not to reflect upon until we are suddenly faced with dealing with it. I have been contributing comprehensive and independent resources for families that explain how the funeral industry operates, and the laws that govern funeral practices. Sara writes for US Funerals Online and DFS Memorials LLC, as well as contributing to other forums and publications for the death care industry. I have a BA in Cultural Studies. This helps my analysis of cultural death care rituals, alongside a career background in Business Management. The death care industry is undergoing an epoch of change and this fascinates me.

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