Should You Cremate or Bury Your Loved One?


Posted on September 20, 2018 by

When an unexpected death occurs, family members might have no idea what a decedent’s wishes are regarding a funeral and other related arrangements. One of the primary considerations a family must make in these situations is choosing between a cremation and burial.  Here’s an overview of some of the most important factors to help you make an informed decision.

What’s More Popular, and Why?

Of course, you wouldn’t make a decision based solely on popularity, but knowing the trends and the forces behind them could help.  When you look at the numbers, there’s no doubt that cremation is becoming increasingly common. According to the Cremation Association of North America, cremation rates were 51.6% in 2017, surpassing burial for the first time in history. By 2022, the US cremation rate is projected to reach 57.8%.

In other words, while burial and cremation are about equally popular, the trend seems to be moving more and more towards cremation. Many people report that cost (and simplicity) is a relevant factor driving this change because they perceive cremation to be more cost-effective than a burial. While this may be true, many different factors influence the final cost of cremation – which can, in some cases, cost as much as a burial.

Cost of a Burial

The cost of a burial can vary widely because there are so many variables. For example, if a family chooses the basics, an immediate burial, a burial itself can be as low as $2,000. But this doesn’t include the additional costs of a casket (which could range from $1,000-$15,000), a burial plot, or a headstone, all of which could combine for several thousand dollars more.

Cost of Cremation

The cost of cremation is typically between $700 and $2,000, depending on the type of facility used and the laws that govern your state. A family may incur additional costs, however, from choosing an upgraded urn to store the ashes (cremation providers are required to provide a minimum container to return the ashes in, however, you can always bring or buy something different from them or anywhere else), and the cost of transporting the remains (if there is travel involved), or any ceremonies or funeral-related services.  Despite these additional costs, you can generally expect a cremation to be a less expensive option overall.

End of Life Services

A viewing or visitation and funeral service are often associated with traditional burials, at least in many people’s minds.  However, cremation still allows for a ceremony, especially if that’s what your loved one would have wanted. Some families who choose cremation as the final disposition opt to still have a viewing/visitation and/or funeral service with the body present before the final cremation takes place.

Alternatively, after a direct cremation takes place, a family can have a memorial service inside or outside the funeral home. It can be at someone’s house, a church or religious establishment, a community center, a park, or anywhere meaningful for the family. Cremation offers a greater degree of flexibility for an end-of-life celebration.  

While the costs associated with end-of-life services could be similar in both cases, cremation offers possibilities for cost savings in this area because of the wider range of options.

Religious Considerations

Finally, some religious considerations exist that might necessitate a formal burial. In some cases, cremation goes against a loved one’s beliefs. In these instances, a burial would be required. Families should, therefore, consider these aspects before making any decisions regarding a cremation or burial.

Making decisions regarding your loved one’s final arrangements is never easy. However, with the right information, you can make appropriate decisions based on cost and what you think your loved one would have wanted.

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