5 Things to Know When Cremating

15 Dec 2021

Woman and her mother enjoying beach sunset

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial in 2021 was $7,848. That’s more than the $1,000 - $5,000 most Americans have in savings according to the Federal Reserve. To make matters worse, the accrued cost of funeral services, the cemetery plot, and additional final expenses are on the rise each year (a nearly 7% increase since 2016 alone). With cremation and cremation services often costing a fraction of the price of burial arrangements, more families are leaving tradition behind in favor of an ashes to ashes journey onward.

While certainly more economical, cremation pricing varies significantly depending on the crematorium and funeral home. Average costs range from $2,000 to $7,000 depending on services involved (e.g. a viewing). Much of the cost savings with cremation come from not having to prepare the body for burial nor purchase a cemetery site. When compared to visiting a burial site, some families find more peace in either 1) scattering a loved one’s ashes in a meaningful location where lawfully allowed, 2) keeping a loved one’s urn at home, or 3) dividing a loved one’s ashes among family members for safe-keeping in jewelry or other precious momentos.

If cremation seems like the path for you or a loved one, how can you stay informed and plan well?

Here are 5 things to know when cremating:

  1. Where is your loved one being transported and held? Prior to cremation, loved ones will need to be transported to a funeral home and maintained while the cremation is being coordinated. Know that when a deceased is transported to a funeral home, families may be required to pay a release fee to change funeral homes or crematoriums.

    • Pro Tip: Understand pricing and services involved before coordinating transportation of a loved one to a funeral home or crematorium. Funeral Advantage policies provided through Heritage Associates come with a free membership to the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society (FCGS) where funeral experts are trained to help beneficiaries on the worst day with price comparison shopping and negotiation, especially before transport. In fact, our FCGS team is often the first call for families after emergency services.

  2. Are you planning a wake or viewing? If you are planning a wake or viewing prior to cremation, recognize that there will be fees associated with preservation, preparation (i.e. makeup), and the casket.

    • Pro Tip: You do not have to pay full price for a casket that will only be used once. Caskets are available for one-time use, often for significantly less, and most funeral homes keep rentable caskets in inventory.

  3. Are you planning a Church Service, Mass, or Celebration of Life? These types of remembrances are typical after the death of a loved one. They allow family and friends to congregate, share beloved memories, and process through grief together. While funeral homes don’t necessarily need to play a role in remembrances, consider that pricing for these potential services often involve facility rental fees, paying clergy, flower arrangements, compensating musicians, printing pamphlets, and a catering tab (if desired).

    • Pro Tip: Some policyholders add additional funds to their final expense policies for the purpose of covering catering and other special wishes. Some even forgo any sort of formal event in favor of a celebration of life gathering among friends and family. Guests typically bring flowers, music can be as simple as playing the departed’s favorite record, and guests find solace in being around family and friends in a comfortable, familiar environment.

  4. What do you want to do with your loved one’s ashes? Crematory containers come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and costs. You have the right and the capacity to choose whichever container is best for your loved one. Is the desire for ashes to be buried (interred) or scattered? If interred, a cemetery plot or a family plot will need to be utilized.

    • Pro Tip: Funeral homes may be tempted to convince you to purchase an expensive urn directly from them. Under the FTC Funeral Rule, funeral homes must allow you to use whatever crematory container you wish, whether it be a brass urn or a basic cardboard box.

  5. How will you pay for the cremation? Families can pay for cremation services using savings from the estate or more commonly, life insurance. Life insurance easily sidesteps the probate process, but the policy proceeds are generally not accessible until after the death certificate has been processed. To ensure the cremation bill will be covered, many funeral homes will take assignment of a life insurance policy, giving the funeral home certain ownership rights to the policy.

    • Pro Tip: Do not assign a life insurance policy prematurely or allow a funeral home to fish for policy information until the price of cremation services has been negotiated and agreed upon. Once a funeral home has access to the policy, they could be inclined to charge more than necessary given knowledge of the policy’s payout benefit. Funeral Advantage policies offered by Heritage Associates (in force for at least 2 years), can pay within 24 hours without the death certificate or needing to assign the policy to a funeral home.

Consider applying for final expense insurance coverage today.

Sources for this article include the NFDA and Federal Reserve.