What to Know About Cremation


I’m a student taking a personal finance course, and as part of our curriculum we have discussed estate planning. I know that part of that involves planning your will and funeral, but I honestly haven’t ever considered what I’d like to have done with my body once I die.  Some of my classmates have talked about getting their bodies cremated, but I don’t know much about that process. What do I need to know about cremation?

In the United States, cremation services have quickly outpaced traditional burials. Some funeral homes have reported that more than 50 percent of their services are now cremations as opposed to traditional casket-based funerals. Even as cremation has gained in popularity, however, there still seems to be some misinformation surrounding how crematoriums operate. When you work on planning your estate and will, part of the process involves determining what to do with your remains after you die. If you’re totally new to the idea of cremation, here are some answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about how the process works.

How does cremation work?

Cremation involves using a specialized chamber that gets very hot. According to the experts at Legacy Cremation Services, while different manufacturers build cremators to operate at different temperatures, the average temperature a cremator heats up to is somewhere between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The body is put into a casket or other container before being placed in the cremator. Every cremation is performed individually in accordance with the law to ensure that the remains stay separate.

What happens to the body during cremation?

After the pronouncement of death and before cremation, the body of the deceased will be refrigerated to preserve the body’s tissues. This is similar to the embalming process; however, embalming is not necessary in cremations because of what happens to the remains. When the body is in a crematory, it’s heated up and exposed to flames. The high temperatures and flames in a crematory turn much of the soft tissues in the deceased’s remains to ash. After the body has been heated for several hours, the second step in a cremation involves breaking down the remaining bone fragments and ash in a specialized processor. This results in a fine, even texture for the ash.

What are the remains received in?

The remains of your loved one are generally received in an ornamental urn. You can provide a container yourself, but the crematorium will also have options available for you to look at. The size of the urn you use will depend on how much of the remains you want to receive, because the full body requires a much larger urn. Make sure that you speak with the crematorium to see what sizes they recommend. While some people choose to scatter the ashes of their loved one, others will store cremated remains in a columbarium, which is similar to an above-ground mausoleum. This structure houses multiple urns with remains, offering family members and friends the chance to visit the remains in a cemetery similar to traditional burials. 

How much does cremation cost?

Cremation is a much more affordable way to handle the remains of your loved one than a traditional burial using a coffin. Still, a few factors may affect the overall cost of your cremation, including if you are seeking memorialization in a columbarium and which type of urn you choose. Cremation services generally start at around $600 or $700 and many crematoriums offer veteran and Social Security benefits, too.

No matter what sort of funeral service you’re planning, you will need to choose a way to prepare the remains of your loved one. While many people embalm bodies and bury them, there is a growing movement to cremate the remains of family members. Cremation does not preclude whatever ceremony you choose to honor your loved one, so it’s a great option for many. Consider speaking to your funeral home about different options for accommodating cremation and you’ll be able to make a dignified choice for your loved one or yourself.

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