Answers to your most commonly asked questions, along with planning resources for you and your family.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cremation Services
WHAT IS CREMATION?
Cremation is the process of reducing the body to ashes and bone fragments through the use of intense heat. The process usually takes from two to four hours. The cremated remains are then pulverized to break up larger bone fragments to a granular texture.
HOW POPULAR IS CREMATION?
The number of cremations in the United States has steadily risen from about 15% of deaths in the mid-90s to almost 50 percent in 2014. Cremation is often chosen because it’s more simple and economical, allows more flexibility in funeral and memorial services, or uses less of our land resources than traditional earth burial.
WHICH RELIGIONS PERMIT CREMATION?
Most religions do. Canon Law now permits cremation for Roman Catholics, but the remains must be buried or entombed, not scattered or kept. Muslim, Greek and Jewish Orthodox faiths forbid cremation, as do some fundamentalist Protestant groups.
IS A CASKET REQUIRED?
No, a casket is never required for cremation. However, most crematories do require that the body is enclosed in a rigid, combustible container. Under federal regulations, all Cremation providers must make available an inexpensive cremation container, often referred to as an “alternative container.” Or you can make or furnish your own suitable container instead.
MUST I BUY AN URN?
No. Some funeral homes will urge you to purchase a decorative urn, but you may simply use the plain container in which the ashes are returned from the crematory. The cardboard or plastic container is perfectly adequate for burial, shipping, storing, or placing in a columbarium.
WHAT IS “DIRECT CREMATION”?
With this affordable option, the body is cremated shortly after death, without embalming, viewing or visitation. The charges will include the transfer of the body to the crematory, refrigeration, obtaining a signature from the doctor, filing of permits to the county, basic services fee, a container (alternative container) for cremation, and the crematory fee.
HOW DO I “SHOP AROUND”?
All funeral homes and cremation businesses must give prices over the telephone or give you a copy of their General Price List if you come to the door. Likewise, before choosing a cemetery, you should call several and ask their prices for a gravesite or columbarium, and their charges for interring the remains or placing them in a niche.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH THE REMAINS?
You have a wide range of choices. They can be put in a niche in a columbarium, buried, scattered, or kept by the family. Cremated remains might be divided among family members to be kept, sprinkled or buried in several different places (i.e. with a first and second spouse). The ashes are sterile and pose no health hazard. Their disposition is generally not regulated by law.
Place in a columbarium Cremated remains can be placed in a columbarium niche, often located in a mausoleum within a cemetery. As an alternative, you’ll find that some churches provide niches in a dedicated area inside the church or in a garden wall.
Bury in a cemetery You could choose earth burial in either a regular grave or in a special urn section in a cemetery. Some cemeteries will permit two or three containers in an adult-size grave; others allow only one container per grave. Some (unnecessarily) require that you purchase an urn vault.
Bury on private property You may bury the cremated remains on your own land, or on another’s property with the owner’s permission. If the remains are to be buried other than in a cemetery, they should be removed from the container when interred. Keep in mind that unless you have established a family cemetery on your property, the land may be sold for other purposes, and the remains disturbed or rendered inaccessible.
Scatter on land Some cemeteries offer sites for scattering, but you may disperse the remains almost anywhere as long as you are discreet. Scattering of cremated remains over an area with special significance for the deceased appeals to many families and is legal in most jurisdictions. Although there are commercial firms who will scatter the cremated remains for a fee, most families want to do it themselves. Remains that are to be scattered should be processed by the crematory to reduce all fragments to fine particles.
Scatter at sea Military personnel and retirees, veterans and dependents may have their remains scattered at sea free of charge by the Navy or Coast Guard. Since the ceremony will be performed while the ship is deployed, the family cannot be present. Also, many coastal regions have businesses that will scatter the remains at sea for you, or will rent their boat for a scattering ceremony. While federal regulations technically require cremated remains to be scattered at least three miles out from shore, the Environmental Protection Agency does not enforce this regulation with private individuals.
Keep at home You might prefer to place the remains in a container special to the deceased, such as a hand-carved box or favorite vase, and display it on a bookshelf or mantelpiece. Or you could buy a decorative urn from a funeral home or cemetery; prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Other choices Every year brings new ways of memorializing a loved one’s remains. Incorporating the ashes in jewelry, bullets, space rockets, coral reefs, or fireworks are among the possibilities. Check the internet for more details about these and other options.
HOW CAN I TRANSPORT THE REMAINS?
Cremated remains may be mailed or carried by hand to another destination. For mailing, they must be placed in an inner container within a padded outer container. If you are taking them on a plane you should leave them in the box just as it came from the crematory, with the official documents attached. Security requires that they are x-rayed, so they must be in a non-metal container.
Social Security Administration
When a loved one passes, we will contact SSA on your behalf and take the necessary steps to finalize any paperwork.