is growing in popularity as a disposition choice, we are finding that more
people are searching online to find out the laws for cremation in their
state. As a body is completely reduced to just ashes in the cremation
process, there are quite strict laws governing the cremation of a body.
There are licensing and operational requirements for crematories, and state
laws governing who can authorize a cremation and how long after a death
a cremation can be performed.
Who can authorize a cremation?
The next-of-kin is normally
considered the person responsible for authorizing a cremation. In
some states this is referred to as the “authorizing agent”. For a
cremation to go ahead an authorization form or declaration for disposition
of cremated remains must be signed by the next-of-kin. This is generally
referred to as the ‘Cremation Authorization Form’.
The legal next of kin are
the spouse, parents, adult children, siblings, adult grandchildren, nephews
or nieces, maternal grandparent, paternal grandparent, adult aunts or uncles,
first cousins or any other adult relative in descending order of blood
If there is more than one
legal next of kin, for example if a parent dies and it is left to several
children to make the funeral arrangements, all the children must agree
and sign the cremation authorization form.
What is a Permit to cremate?
Once the death certificate and
authorization form have been filed, the county in which the cremation is
to take place issues a permit allowing the crematory, or funeral home,
to go ahead and cremate the deceased. This permit is referred to
as a ‘cremation permit’ or a ‘disposition permit’.
The charge for this cremation
permit is often added to the general price for a cremation, as is the fee
for the death certificate. The cost for a cremation permit varies
depending on the issuing county, but is usually between $10-$40.
Some counties still do not charge for a cremation permit. However,
many counties are now inflating their cremation permit fees as the demand
for cremation increases.
How do state and local laws
on cremation vary?
Each state, and even each county,
has its own variations on federal regulations governing the cremation process.
There is usually at least a 24-hour waiting period after the death before
the deceased can be cremated, but in some states the law on cremation states
that 48-hours must lapse between the death and the cremation. The
coroner or public health department can override this if there is a public
health concern and the body must be immediately disposed of.
Do cremation providers need
to be licensed?
Yes, all cremation providers
are regulated and must be licensed. There are also industry regulations
and practices to ensure the ethical and safe handling of the deceased in
crematories. There are rules that stipulate about the handling of
cremated remains that ensure you can be assured that the cremated remains
you receive are exactly, and only, the remains of your loved one.
Although a crematory operative
does not necessarily need to be a licensed funeral director, most crematory
operatives complete a course and gain certification to ensure they are
correctly trained to follow the procedures and processes required.
What is the process for a cremation?
As mentioned above there is
strict code of standards for crematories to ensure that dispositions are
ethically managed. Only one body can be cremated at once, and all
cremated remains must be cleared from the cremation chamber before another
cremation can begin. These standards do mean that you may have little
input into any ‘customization’ of a cremation process.
Once your loved one is received
into the care of the crematory he/she will be ID checked and tagged to
ensure that checks can be made at all steps of the process. If the
deceased has any medical implants these are removed and the body is prepared
for cremation. The deceased is placed in a suitable rigid combustible
container, which is then placed in the cremation chamber or retort.
The cremation is the process
of adding intense heat to reduce the body to cremated remains or ashes.
The process reduces the human body to its base elements and the process
can take anything between 1 – 4 hours, depending upon the cremation machine.
The cremated remains following the cremation are actually bone fragments,
which are then mechanically ground to a powder. Usually there is
about 3 – 9 pounds of cremated remains for the average human body.
Is a casket required for a cremation?
No, you do not require a casket
or coffin for a cremation. Most state laws stipulate that an “alternative
container” is required. This can be any rigid, combustible container
and these days a rigid cardboard or plywood/laminate container is commonly
used. If you are having a service and require a casket, you can usually
use a rental casket supplied by your cremation provider or funeral home.
Eliminating the need for a casket can significantly reduce your overall
Can I view the actual cremation
Some crematories will allow
you to view the initiation of the cremation process. Some crematories
will allow you to initiate the process by pressing the button, as this
is required by some faiths. If this is important to you, you should
check this before selecting a cremation provider. Most crematories
do open their doors to the public, however, many families prefer not to
witness any aspect of the process.
What laws govern what I can
do with the cremated remains?
Again, laws governing what you
can, and cannot, do with cremated remains can vary state-by-state. Although
you should check specific state laws, the general guidelines are:
• You cannot commingle cremated
remains, unless with the specific request of the deceased.
• You can keep cremated
remains at home
• You can have them buried
or stored in a niche or columbarium
• You can have them added
to an existing grave i.e. spouse or family already buried
• You can scatter cremated
remains in a designated place i.e. a memorial garden
• You can scatter remains
on private or public lands with the appropriate permission.
Visit our Funeral Guides
by State in the Library Section to
check specific ash scattering laws for your state.
Why should I choose cremation?
It is a personal choice whether
cremation is the right disposition option. Many consider it more
environmentally and eco-friendly than traditional burial. It eliminates
the need for embalming chemicals, and the need for steel caskets and concrete
burial vaults to be buried in the ground.
Cremation has been around
for many, many centuries and in some religions is considered the only,
and most spiritual, way to dispose of the dead. The Catholic Church
also now accepts cremation. Many modernists prefer the idea that
their DNA is, in effect, eliminated. One significant reason why more
Americans are choosing cremation is that it is much cheaper than a traditional
burial. The cremation rate in the U.S. is now at around 51% and is
forecast to reach as high as 60% by 2025.
How much does a cremation cost?
A cremation can cost anything
from $450 through to $4,000, this all depends on exactly how extravagant
the funeral service is and whereabouts you are located. In
many of the states where the cremation rate is higher, prices are more
competitively-priced and a basic cremation can be purchased for around
$700 - $900. In Florida and Nevada, the prices for a direct cremation
can be as low as $450.
What is a direct cremation?
A direct cremation is where
the deceased is collected, transferred directly to the crematory (or funeral
home) and an immediate cremation is conducted. This requires the
minimal services of a funeral director, so the professional fees are lower.
Be sure to check exactly what is included in a direct cremation package.
Some firms quote a price but do not include the actual crematory fee or
the fee for the cremation container. Most reputable funeral homes
and cremation providers that offer a direct cremation package will include:
• The basic services of a
funeral director to collect the deceased and file any necessary paperwork
i.e. authorization form, death certificate & cremation permit
• Temporary storage if required
• An alternative cremation
• The crematory fee
• A temporary receptacle
for the return of the cremated remains
• Most funeral homes will
offer you incremental services & products, such as choosing a more
elaborate cremation urn.
What is the difference between
a cremation with service and a direct cremation?
A cremation with service is
just like an ordinary funeral service. The deceased can be present
in repose during the service, and then a cremation is performed afterwards
instead of a burial, and the ashes are later returned to the family. Whereas
a direct cremation is conducted without any service.
Can a body be transported over
state lines to be cremated?
Yes, the deceased can be transported
across state lines for a cremation. If the deceased is to be transported
over any distance, and a period of over 24-hours may elapse, embalming
may be required. Airline funeral shipping companies have specific
regulations to meet, and this can involve the use of a designated air-freight
mortuary shipping container. Visit our section on Funeral Shipping
for further information.
What alternative options do
I have to memorialize cremated remains?
There are so many options today
for what you can do once you have your loved ones cremated remains.
There is a whole array of cremation urns, keepsake urns, and all sorts
of weird and wonderful cremation receptacles. You have the option
to scatter the ashes, all of the ashes, or scatter some and retain some.
You can have a diamond made from cremated remains, or other unique glass-blown
jewelry. In fact, there are so many options and we have tried to
comprehensively list the categories on our Ash Scattering page.
Can an obese or overweight person
Yes, an obese person can be
cremated. However, this can prove a little more difficult and costly.
First, a crematory with a wider retort chamber door will be required to
fit a larger cremation container through. Secondly, a stronger cremation
container and extra lifting equipment may be required. This generally
means that many crematories charge an additional fee to cremate a bariatric
weight person. An additional fee may be incurred for a person weighing
above 300 pounds.
Where can I find more information
If you want to read further
about cremation, you will find that US Funerals Online has a Library Section
on Cremation with numerous articles related to the topic.
You can also visit the Cremation
Association of North America (CANA), 499 Northgate Parkway, Wheeling, IL
You can also read more in
detail about the history, culture, religious variations & memorialization
aspect of cremation at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cremation
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Memorials – Network of low cost cremation providers
Guides – state specific regulations on cremation
Last Revised: 06/07/2018