Everything You Need to Know about Direct Cremation


Posted on July 05, 2016 by

Whether you are tight on funds, like the simplicity of cremation, or are environmentally conscious, you may choose a direct cremation. By law, every funeral home and cremation provider must offer a Direct Cremation package as a "minimal service."

What is Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremation is the cremation of a body in the days immediately following a death. Direct Cremation, sometimes called "simple cremation", does not include the use of a funeral home or its staff to facilitate any viewing, visitation, funeral or memorial service at the funeral home or graveside.

Why Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremation is Affordable

Direct cremation does not include a funeral or memorial service at the funeral home, therefore, the use of the funeral home's staff and facilities can be skipped avoiding many of the costs that come with a "traditional" or full service funeral. In some states, in addition to full service funeral homes there are direct cremation providers who exclusively offer direct cremation, further reducing costs.

Direct Cremation Is [Slightly More] Environmentally Conscious

Since direct cremation takes place in the days following death, it eliminates the need to preserve the body. By foregoing embalming you decrease the amount of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde and methanol, that are put back into the environment. You also don't need to take up land resources via a cemetery plot or purchase a casket, vault or grave liner, saving additional resources. However, cremation requires intense energy, giving off high quantities of CO2, making it less environmentally-friendly than some expect. Alkaline hydrolysis, or water-cremation, is a greener option for cremation but is not yet widely available in the USA.

Cremation Saves Space

After the body is cremated, the ashes can be placed in a vessel of your choice or scattered, providing many options for long term storage of ashes or other creative ways to spread remains. By eliminating the use of a burial plot, you can reserve more land for later use.

What is Included in Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation includes:

  • the use of the funeral home or cremation provider to pick up the deceased from the place of death
  • transportation of the deceased to the funeral home and/or crematory
  • filing of the necessary paperwork for death certificates, cremation disposition permits, and Social Security

Depending on the state, the cost of the cremation (a crematory fee) may or may not be included. You should read the General Price List description carefully to see if the cost of cremation is included in the direct cremation price. If it is not stated, you should inquire with the funeral director and expect to pay the crematory fee in addition to the Direct Cremation. Crematory fees typically range from $200-$400.

What is Excluded in the Cost of Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation is the least expensive disposition option as it eliminates some of the most costly expenses involving death - embalming, use of the facilities and staff of a funeral home, a casket, cemetery, and burial vault or grave liner. When selected as the means of final disposition, the body is taken to a crematory from their place of death, and cremated in a simple container, often called an "alternative container" or "cremation container" which is typically made from cardboard or other lightweight fiberboard. You may provide your own container or the funeral home can provide you with a "minimal container" of their choice. These often cost from $25-$200. There is no viewing, wake, or funeral service (body is present), memorial service (ashes may or may not be present), or graveside service (for interment of the urn) of any kind and no need to purchase a casket or cemetery plot. If you elect to bury the cremated remains, there will be additional fees in order to purchase an urn and/or urn vault, tombstones or grave markers and to purchase and open and close a cemetery plot or niche.

Cost of a Direct Cremation

Prices for direct cremation vary widely between providers. In states where direct cremation or direct disposal establishments are allowed, you can find direct cremations as low as $700. Direct cremations offered by full-service funeral homes are generally more expensive (you still pay for their overhead) and can range from $750 to $3,000+. As there is no actual service included in direct cremation, you don't need to choose the closest one. Many funeral home and cremation providers will travel 25 miles without additional charge.

Arranging a Direct Cremation

A funeral home or cremation provider will be able to handle all aspects of a cremation. Many crematories operate on a "wholesale" basis meaning they do not work with the general public and will require you to obtain the assistance of a licensed funeral director. The funeral director can assist you with completing the death certificate, obtaining necessary permits and authorization and transporting the body to the crematory.

Service Options with a Direct Cremation

If you are interested in a direct cremation but want to have a service as well, a memorial service or celebration of life can be held at a later date in your home, place of worship, park, or anywhere else of your choosing. If you chose to purchase a cemetery plot or niche at a columbarium, you may inquire about the cost of having a graveside service or small ceremony at the location you selected.

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