12 frequently asked questions about cremation

All your questions about cremated remains and more answered

Cremation accounts for more than half of all final disposition methods. However, many people still wonder how the cremation process works and what their options are for cremated remains. Unanswered questions about this increasingly popular choice can deter people from being cremated.

To gain a better understanding of cremation and help decide if this disposition method is right for you, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

1. Can I preplan a funeral with a cremation?

Yes, you can preplan a cremation funeral service. Preplanning funeral services with your cremation can offer many emotional and financial benefits for you and your family. Preplanning gives you the opportunity to choose how you want to be remembered and can help alleviate the financial burden of funeral costs for your loved ones.

Two options can help you preplan funeral costs:

Preneed Funeral insurance

Preneed Funeral insurance funds an agreement between you and a funeral home. You choose the elements you want included in your funeral service, and the funeral director totals the cost. This is the basis for your Preneed Funeral insurance plan.

Final Expense insurance

Final Expense insurance can help cover the costs of your funeral service, but it is also designed to help cover other final expenses, such as unpaid medical bills, that remain after your death.

2. Is it legal to scatter ashes anywhere?

Each state has different laws and guidelines for where you can and can’t scatter cremated remains. Scattering cremated remains is legal in most locations, such as on private property and in some bodies of water, but researching local burial and cremation laws beforehand will help you determine if scattering ashes in a particular location is illegal.

3. Is cremation eco-friendly?

Although cremation is a popular alternative to burial, it does impact the environment. Most crematoriums burn natural gas during the cremation process, which can release greenhouse gasses, along with other chemicals, into the environment.

The good news is cremated ashes are not toxic. In fact, cremated remains are considered a natural, sanitary substance. So, if you do release them, they are not harmful to the environment.

4. What is the cheapest cremation?

Direct cremation is the most affordable option for this type of disposition method. Direct cremation is different than a traditional cremation because the body is cremated immediately following the death, without a service beforehand. After cremation, the cremated remains are released to the family.

Direct cremation costs can range from $700 to $3,500, depending on your location and provider. Purchasing an advanced funeral plan may help protect you and your loved ones against the rising costs of funeral arrangements and save money in the long run.

5. When a body is cremated, what happens to the coffin?

The coffin is cremated with the body, but no wooden material from the coffin is included in the cremated remains that are released to you. Intense heat used in the cremation process causes the coffin to combust, leaving behind no trace material.

Only noncombustible material, such as bone fragments, remain after the cremation is complete. The bone fragments are then sorted and grinded to resemble ashes.

6. Can you be cremated without a coffin?

No laws require a coffin for cremation, but many funeral homes require the body be placed in a rigid container that is combustible. While this container has traditionally been a coffin, alternative container options, such as rental caskets are available.

When rental caskets are used for a visitation and funeral, the body is later moved into a rigid container for cremation.

7. How much ash is created when a person is cremated?

Many people are surprised by the amount of ashes that are released to them. Cremated remains generally weigh about three to seven pounds.

Factors that can impact the amount of ashes include:

  • Gender: Adult males produce more ashes than women because their bones are denser.
  • Age: Younger people typically have denser bones than older people due to age-related bone loss.
  • Height: People who are very tall or petite may have more or less cremated remains because of the length of their bones.

8. Do you get all the ashes after cremation?

Following cremation, the cremated remains are removed from the chamber, then sorted and grinded to resemble ashes.

After that, the cremated remains are placed into an urn or container and released to the family. You will get back all your loved one’s cremated remains.

9. Can you be cremated and have a gravestone?

Cremated remains can be buried in a cemetery plot alongside buried caskets. Many cemeteries have specific spots for cremated remains that can be marked with a gravestone.

Several options are available to those who preplan a cremation burial, such as the following:

  • Columbarium and mausoleum niches
  • Cremation benches
  • Cremation graves
  • Urn gardens

10. How long after a funeral is the body cremated?

Cremation typically takes place the same day as the funeral. The body can be cremated directly after the service or within the next day or two. Depending on your location, you can expect your loved one’s cremated remains to be released to you within 4 to 15 business days.

11. Do you have clothes on when you are cremated?

Bodies of the deceased are clothed when cremated. Just like burial, you can choose the outfit you are cremated in. You may want to remove any jewelry before cremation, as it will likely be destroyed and unrecognizable after cremation.

12. When a person is cremated, what happens to the bones?

Cremated remains are essentially broken-down bone fragments. During the cremation process, extreme heat breaks down parts of the body, leaving behind bone. The bone is then grinded and sorted through a machine to create what is commonly referred to as ashes, although they are actually cremated remains.

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Photo credit: iStock

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