What to consider when arranging a funeral or cremation in Colorado

Arranging a funeral is no easy task. Apart from coping with your bereavement, there is much to be done in funeral arrangements. Finding the right funeral director to assist you can be key to alleviating some of the stress. This guide gives you a brief overview and some tips that should help you plan your funeral or cremation in Colorado. If you have an immediate need for services to arrange a low-cost cremation, use the link below to call directly to a funeral director.

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Cremation Funeral

We tend to find that many people turn to the Internet as a source of information if they wish to research funerals in a ‘non-invasive’ way, and most often, this is due to the fact that people wish to find out about costs and often feel it is inappropriate to ask. Do not at any time feel it is inappropriate to ask questions of a funeral director.

What is the cost of a funeral or cremation in Colorado?

An average funeral in Colorado costs around $7,000, although cremation can make that cost significantly less. In essence, the total cost of your funeral expenses can escalate when you add together all the incremental services. For example, suppose you decide you require embalming, an elaborate casket, extensive funeral transport, and things like flowers, obituary notices, and funeral stationery. In that case, your overall funeral costs will be much higher. If you keep it simple, you will keep your funeral costs down.

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Do you require a burial or a cremation in Colorado?

Probably the first thing you need to decide is what method of disposition you require. This then determines a range of incremental funeral services and products. Colorado is one of the states where the cremation rate is much higher, and just over 60% of Coloradans are cremated.  

There are various options for cremation, from the basic ‘direct cremation’ with no services to a cremation with a full service and ashes interment.

If you are opting for a burial, you will need to consider such things as a burial plot, grave marker, embalming, and type of casket required. Some cemeteries in Colorado will also require that you have a vault liner for your cemetery plot. Just these few funeral products and services alone can add thousands of dollars to the funeral price.

Colorado is also home to the only outdoor funeral pyre in the United States. The Crestone End of Life Project is located in the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado and offers outdoor ‘natural’ cremations to Coloradans.

Arranging a low-cost cremation – direct cremation in Colorado

Due to changing attitudes and financial concerns, many more families today are seeking out economical cremation alternatives. A direct cremation is the cheapest cremation option. This is when the deceased is cremated without any services or ceremony and in the most simple ‘no fuss’ manner.

This keeps the funeral costs down. A direct cremation handles the immediate disposition of the deceased in an effective and dignified manner. Once the family has the cremated remains returned, some families choose to arrange their own memorial service as and when it is convenient for them.

If you need a simple, low-cost cremation – contact your DFS Memorials provider.  They offer complete basic cremation packages at an affordable cost.

Understanding cremation laws and how they affect arranging a cremation in Colorado

Colorado is the only state that does not require licensure for its funeral homes and crematories.  However, this still means that funeral home businesses follow careful regulations for how to dispose of human remains by cremation.

Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by the immediate next of kin before the cremation can proceed. This authorizes the final disposition of the remains. It is possible to pre-sign the Cremation Authorization Form when you make pre-arrangements if cremation is your wish. This can save heart-wrenching decisions for the surviving family.

In Colorado, there is a mandatory 24-hour waiting period after death before the cremation can be performed. However, it usually takes a couple of days anyway to finalize the paperwork and obtain a permit to cremate.

There is no legal requirement for embalming before cremation, and you do not need a casket.  A cremation container is used. This is a simple combustible cardboard box.

The cremation process takes about 3 hours, and then the retort is cleared, and the ‘ashes’ (which also contain bone fragments) are put through a filtering and grinding machine to produce the finely powdered cremation ashes that we typically see in a cremation urn.

Generally, the cremated remains can be returned to the family within a week, but this can be arranged on an expedited service if required.

To learn more about cremation services, the cremation process, secure ID tracking, cremation regulations, and laws, visit our Ultimate Guide to Cremation.

Direct cremation

Locating a funeral home in Colorado

If you need to locate a funeral home in Colorado to handle your funeral needs, you can use our funeral home directory, which lists all Funeral Homes in Colorado by city.           

Purchasing a casket in Colorado

Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Funeral Law’ applies in Colorado, and this means that apart from a funeral home has to provide you with a General Price List (GPL) that clearly itemizes each charge, you also have the right to purchase a casket from a third party supplier, and you do NOT have to purchase it directly from the funeral home.

Purchasing a casket from a third party can significantly reduce the cost of the casket. Typically, funeral homes mark up the caskets that they retail by around 500%. In contrast, with the likes of Walmart and Costco entering the casket sales market, it is possible to purchase a casket online for as little as $995. Your funeral home has to accept your casket, and in most cases, caskets can be ordered online and delivered directly to your funeral home the next day.

Purchasing burial insurance in Colorado, pre-planning a funeral, and pre-need policies

It can save a lot of worry and stress if funeral plans are already in place for the family. These days, it is not just the burden of having to make decisions about what kind of funeral arrangements to make, causing family disagreements. Still, the financial burden of the responsibility for paying for a funeral can be crippling.

Making arrangements ahead of time can make it easier all around. This can be done by researching locally what funeral services are available, deciding what kind of service you wish to opt for, making your wishes known to your family, and putting aside the monies.

Cremation Plan

Or you can take it a step further and purchase a pre-need funeral plan or burial insurance. Insurance companies nationwide can provide burial Insurance, and many funeral homes in Colorado are also licensed to sell pre-need plans, which are held in trust.

This basically means you are paying for your funeral on “layaway.” It does ensure your wishes are taken care of and alleviates the family of the decision-making and the financial responsibility.

Another option is to define your wishes, make out a simple funeral or cremation plan, complete the necessary authorization forms ahead of time, and put aside the appropriate funds to cover your funeral wishes in a Payable on Death (P.O.D.) bank account. Your named beneficiaries can access the funds immediately upon death without probate to carry out your funeral wishes.

To learn more, visit our article on Making a Funeral Plan with a Totten Trust Bank Account to Keep Your Funds Secure.

Where can you get help with funeral expenses in Colorado?

As we have already mentioned, the burden of having to pay for a funeral for those families already struggling financially can be crippling. Death is not something you can defer until your finances can cope with it! Opting for a direct cremation can be just about the cheapest method of arranging a disposition, but even that costs.

There is a one-time Social Security death benefit of $255 payable to the family of the deceased to help with funeral expenses. You have to apply via the Social Security Administration, and the benefit is assessed on social security taxes paid.

If the deceased was a veteran or spouse of a veteran, there may be some assistance from the Veterans Administration. All honorably discharged veterans are entitled to interment in a national or state veteran’s cemetery, which can be a distinct saving on funeral costs.

The National Veteran’s Cemetery in Colorado is at Fort Logan in Denver, and the state cemetery Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado is in Grand Junction. There are Veterans Service Offices in each county in Colorado to assist with claims for veterans’ benefits.

There is some assistance available from Medicaid in certain circumstances, namely that the person claiming (family of the deceased) must be on Medicaid or another social welfare program. There is a cap on the total amount a funeral can cost and the amount that Medicaid will pay for. In many of these cases, the funeral home will discount its charges so the family can conduct a funeral.

Most funeral homes offer a professional and caring service and will work with you to assist you in arranging a funeral within your budget requirements.

Do bear in mind that many hospices and nursing homes will now require a patient to have burial insurance or a pre-need plan before admittance. In these cases, a nursing home or hospice may recommend a funeral home. Still, you would be well-advised to shop around, as often this is not necessarily the most affordable provider.

How do I get a death certificate in Colorado?

The funeral director generally prepares and files for the death certificate. He will ask you for the personal information of the deceased in order that he has all the required information. The death must be registered with the vital records office within 5 days of the death and before the body can be cremated or buried.

You may wish to have more than 1 copy of the death certificate (multiple copies can be useful for notifying different institutions and settling the deceased’s estate).

Additional copies of a death certificate can be obtained from Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). You can apply by phone, mail, Internet, or in person, and you will be required to provide an ID to prove your relationship to the deceased.

The first death certificate costs $20, and each additional copy costs $13.

Whole-body donation in Colorado

Something now gaining popularity, especially when funeral expenses are a concern, is a “no-cost cremation”.  All this means is that the family donates the body to an anatomical gift program and, in return, gets a ‘free’ cremation once the body donation has been completed. Donating your body to science and medical research can be an ideal and alternative way to do something of value for society and eliminate funeral expenses.

What state laws govern scattering ashes in Colorado?

As the cremation rate is so high in Colorado, there is a greater demand for scattering ashes, especially as there are such natural, beautiful areas to perform this ‘last rite’. The question often asked is, “What state laws apply to scattering ashes?”

It is legal to scatter ashes anywhere on public land, even private land (with the owner’s consent), although you may need a permit for certain controlled public land such as a state park.

Read through our section on ‘Ash Scattering’ to better understand things you need to consider if you choose to perform your own ash scattering.  

There are also a number of organizations that offer ash scattering services in Colorado. You can scatter ashes in the Rocky Mountain National Park for free. However, you do need to obtain a permit, which can be downloaded here:

A popular spot for scattering the remains of your loved one in Colorado is Pike’s Peak.

If you wish to scatter the remains of your loved one in one of the lakes or rivers in Colorado and conduct an inland water burial, this is regulated by the Clean Water Act, and you will need a permit from the relevant state agency.

Scattering by air is also popular in Colorado. This can be performed by an aerial scattering company by filling a balloon with cremated remains or, as in Hunter S. Thompson’s case, by firing a cannon into the sky.

What happens if your loved one dies away from Colorado?

Unfortunately, this is happening more and more as Coloradans choose to ‘snow-bird’ and winter away and as people need to move for employment. Coping with a death is very distressing, but if it has occurred whilst your loved one was away from home, it can be even more difficult.

Shipping a body either domestically or internationally can be inordinately expensive. The typical professional fee for a funeral director to coordinate the collection of the body at the place of death, prepare the body for shipping, and handle all the relevant documentation can cost as much as $3,000, and this does not include the freight charge. For this reason, many chose to cremate at the place of death and have the cremated remains shipped back.

To learn more, visit our section on ‘Funeral Shipping’.

If you do travel regularly for work, pleasure, sport, visiting family, or snow-birding, you may wish to consider our great value Travel Protection Plan. This plan costs just $450 for an individual for lifetime protection against the costly expense of returning a body home if a death occurs 75 miles (or further) from your residence in Colorado. It also provides global coverage. Domestic funeral shipping can cost from $3,000, and International repatriation can start at around $6,900.

Visit our article on Travel Protection: Your Guide to Affordable Funeral Shipping, or click on the link below to enroll today.

What should you do if you have a complaint about a funeral home in Colorado?

Funeral homes ordinarily do their utmost to provide a professional, caring, dignified service to bereaved families. However, should you have a grievance with the service provided by a funeral home, you should resolve this with them directly in the first instance. If you fail to do this, you can contact the Colorado Funeral Directors Association (CFDA), which is a voluntary trade organization.

Alternatively, you can contact the Funeral Consumer Society of Colorado (FCSC) at 4101 East Hampden Avenue, Denver, 80222. Phone: (303) 759-2800. They are a local not-for-profit organization affiliated with the National Funeral Consumers Alliance. Basically, they support consumer rights with regard to purchasing funeral services and products in Colorado.

If you have any further questions about arranging a funeral in Colorado, please feel free to contact us.


Guide to Cremation Costs in Colorado

Funeral Homes in Denver

Funeral Homes in Colorado

DFS Memorials – Network of independent Simple Cremation Service Providers

Funeral & Cremation Planning Guide – Denver

Written by

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 15 years.