Arranging a funeral or cremation in Illinois

Illinois residents spend millions of dollars on funeral services in Illinois each year, as the death care business is a huge industry. However, despite this massive spending, the average consumer knows very little about the goods and services offered in the funeral trade or the laws regulating their sale. A funeral is often referred to as a “distressed purchase” as it is often made when you are feeling most vulnerable, but it is always good practice to shop around for funeral services just like any other consumer purchase. This guide aims to answer some of the key questions you may be faced with when arranging a funeral or cremation in Illinois. Read on to find out more and how to arrange a direct cremation for just $1,165.

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How do you choose which funeral home or cremation provider in Illinois is right for your needs?

Choosing a funeral provider that best suits your needs is probably the most important decision you need to make as soon as you start thinking about arranging a funeral. Unfortunately, this too often occurs when a death is imminent or has already occurred, making the decision time-critical. This means that many families in Illinois choose a funeral establishment without having had much time to consult or research.          

If you know of a funeral home or have a recommendation, that is a good place to start. However, whether a particular funeral provider is right for your needs may depend more on your location and your specific funeral requirements. Before contacting a funeral provider, it is essential to define your needs clearly. That way, you can remain in control and ensure you get the services YOU want, not what you may be led into in your distressed state. It can help to have a friend with you whilst you make inquiries, or even to make the calls, and a written list of what services you require.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Funeral Practices Trade Regulation Rule and a number of Illinois state regulations regulate the funeral profession in Illinois. These laws are designed to prevent fraud by making members of the general public better-informed consumers of funeral goods and services. The federal rule is complicated, but there are some important points to know. Funeral directors in Illinois must make their prices available over the phone and a general price list available as they start any discussions about a funeral service. At the conclusion of discussions, a funeral director must provide an itemized statement reflecting the goods and services you have selected.

Direct Cremation Service $1,165 Call (773) 901-1564

How do I find a funeral home or cremation provider in Illinois?

There are several directories, national and local, that can help you locate funeral homes and cremation providers in Illinois. We have a directory of funeral homes here. Use the links to locate a list of funeral homes near you.

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Do you want a burial or cremation in Illinois?

This is one of the first things you need to decide. Burial is still more popular than cremation in Illinois, with about 70% choosing a burial. However, the cremation rate is increasing fast, especially as the cost of a burial in Illinois can be so expensive these days.

A burial requires an expenditure on such things as a casket, burial liner, grave vault, burial plot, and grave marker. And these items alone can add up to thousands of dollars.

Illinois state law allows you to bury your loved ones on a family estate if you own the land. 

Cremation Funeral

What is the cost of a funeral in Illinois?

This is the question that is at the forefront of most peoples’ minds today. How much does a funeral cost? The answer is that it can vary considerably, depending on the type of services you select and where you live. The National Association of Funeral Directors (NFDA 2022) put the average cost of a funeral today at $7,848, and this does not include any cemetery fees. This makes the average cost of a funeral likely to be nearer to $10,000 when cemetery costs are added.

If you opt for simplicity and reduce the incremental services, you can conduct a funeral for much less. If you opt for a traditional full-service funeral, it can cost you much more than this. 

How much does a cremation cost in Illinois?

Cremation is becoming much more popular for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that it is far less expensive. A typical cremation funeral (where the deceased is cremated after a traditional service) costs between $3,000 – $5,000. There is no need for expensive cemetery plots, a burial liner, or even a casket. This can significantly reduce funeral expenses.

However, there are much less expensive cremation options, and it is possible to arrange a cremation in Chicago for less than $1,200. A direct cremation is by far the cheapest funeral option. This is a minimal type of disposition service, where the deceased is collected, transferred to the crematory, and cremated in a basic alternative container.

The cremated remains are returned to the family in a temporary plastic urn. Additional services can be added to the basic package for an extra charge, such as a ‘goodbye’ viewing, a casket, and an upgraded urn. Illinois’s DFS Memorials providers offer low-cost cremation and affordable burial services. All DFS Memorials providers guarantee to offer a ‘best value’ direct cremation package.

Understanding cremation laws in Illinois – What you need to know to arrange a cremation

Before a cremation can go ahead, certain requirements must be met. A Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by the legal next of kin. Once the cremation has been correctly authorized, the funeral director can obtain the cremation permit. Illinois has a mandatory legal waiting period of 24 hours before the actual cremation can occur. No casket is legally required for cremation, but a rigid combustible container must be used. This is generally referred to as the “cremation container” and is a reinforced cardboard box.

Is embalming required in Illinois?

No, Illinois state law does not require embalming, and a funeral home should never tell you it is. A funeral director may recommend embalming if a funeral is not to be conducted immediately or a viewing or open-casket service is requested, but he must first obtain permission before embalming. 

Cemetery Plot

What are my options for purchasing a casket or alternative container?

According to Illinois state law, a casket is not required when a cremation is performed. A suitable combustible container is all that is required. You have the right by law to purchase a casket from elsewhere than the funeral home, in other words, a third-party casket retailer.

Traditionally funeral homes made a huge markup on casket sales, sometimes marking them up as much as 500%. The ‘funeral rule’ specifically prevents funeral homes from cornering this market. You have the right to buy a casket online or from a local casket seller and have it delivered to the funeral home.            

This can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Do just ensure you are dealing with a reputable casket seller.

What are burial and cemetery plot requirements in Illinois?

No law states that a grave liner is required in Illinois to house a casket within a cemetery plot. Individual cemeteries have their own regulations that stipulate what is required, and many will insist on a grave liner to protect the plot (and surrounding plots) from subsidence. You should check carefully on the cemetery regulations. You may also find that cemeteries will have rules about what kind of grave marker can be erected and what period you must wait for following the burial. More importantly, carefully check the clauses for the maintenance of the plot and grave marker. It is important to make sure you are covered for any maintenance to your headstone once erected.

What Options for a Green Funeral, Natural Burial, or other Eco-Funeral alternatives are available in Illinois?

According to recent funeral consumer surveys, 60% of Americans are now interested in greener funeral alternatives. This can range from just seeking out a greener burial option to full conservation burial, water cremation, or human composting.

There are at least 5 green burial cemeteries in Illinois, and you can use our Green Burial Site Directory to locate a green cemetery near you.

Water Cremation, Aquamation, aka Alkaline Hydrolysis, is legal in Illinois, and we are aware of at least one service provider offering a water cremation service package. AquaGreen Dispositions of Chicago offer a water cremation for $1,795.

Click on the link to read a detailed Guide to Aquamation and resomation.

Natural Organic Reduction (NOR), otherwise referred to as Human Composting, is not yet legal in Illinois. Only 6 states in the U.S. have so far adopted this new terramation death care alternative.

Can I pre-plan a funeral or cremation in Illinois, and how does state law govern pre-need plans?

Yes, you can pre-plan your funeral in Illinois. In many ways, we recommend this as it helps minimize the difficult decision-making for the family when a death occurs. In Illinois, funerals can be pre-arranged by either a preneed contract through a trust fund, a funeral insurance plan with an insurance policy, or an annuity. All agents selling a preneed contract must be licensed. Different regulations apply depending on which funding option is selected as to what refund on cancellation is payable.

These days one benefit of preplanning a funeral through an agent is that the funds are not taken into account if a person requires assistance from public funds if they become ill, and their life savings are spent on healthcare. The funds invested in a funeral plan are safe, and at least funeral care is taken care of.

It is also simple to consult with a funeral home, establish your service requirements and costs, document your wishes, and deposit the amount required into a payable-on-death (POD) account at the bank. This is also known as a Totten trust account. You nominate a beneficiary who can draw out the funds immediately upon your death, and the funds do not have to go into probate. 

What are the laws for scattering ashes in Illinois?

Put simply; there is no federal, state, or municipal law that prevents the scattering of cremated remains. However, due diligence must be observed if you chose to scatter your loved one’s ashes.  State law refers to ashes being interred in a niche, grave, or columbarium, being kept in a container (cremation urn), which you can keep at home.

You can scatter on public land, but it is wise to check if a permit is required if you choose state park lands. You can scatter ashes on private land as long as you have the permission of the landowner. 

Many residents of Illinois, especially from Chicago, choose to scatter ashes over Lake Michigan in an inland water burial dispersal ceremony. There seem to be no specific laws preventing this, and the only reference is the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency.

As cremated remains are not considered a pollutant, there seems to be no specific legislation against them being dispersed in the lake, so long as the ashes are dispersed into the water or a biodegradable urn/scattering tube is used. Make sure any petals or flowers, or wreaths that are used are also fully degradable with no plastic or metal ties. 

Illinois is within Region 5 of the EPA, and their main contact number is (312) 353-2000.

What help is available with funeral expenses in Illinois?

The recent economic downturn has left many in hardship, which can be crippling if families are then faced with death and funeral expenses. The social security payment of $255 is payable to individuals if they qualify. Other than that, each county usually has some budget to help with funeral expenses for the neediest, and you would need to contact your nearest Human Services.

In these cases, a small allowance may be paid directly to the funeral home to cover a basic funeral. DFS Memorials works with local, family-owned funeral homes in Illinois that guarantee to offer the best-priced cremation locally. Contact them to find out who your nearest provider is.

Cremation Plan

Are whole-body donations permitted in Illinois?

Yes, you can donate your body to science in Illinois if that is your choice. There is an organization named The Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois. It represents all of Illinois’s major universities and medical institutions and is a not-for-profit corporation. You can contact them at: 

1540 South Ashland Avenue 
Suite 104 
Chicago, Illinois 60608

What do you do if your loved one dies away from Illinois?

Sadly, this happens more and more often these days as we become more of a transient population.  If your loved one has died overseas or even in another state, and you wish to have them transported home for a burial, you will need a mortuary shipping professional.

You can contact our funeral shipping expert at (877) 347-8086 or fill in the form on our Funeral Shipping page.

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 Illinois. 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.

Where do I get a copy of a death certificate from in Illinois?

Copies of a death certificate can be obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health Vital Records. A certified copy of a death certificate costs $19.00, with each additional copy charged at $4.00.  You can order copies online, by mail, by fax, or in person. You can find out more here:

What should you do if you have a complaint about funeral services or products you have purchased?

If you have a complaint about the services or products you have purchased from a funeral home or cremation provider, you should try and resolve this with them in the first instance. If you fail to do this, contact:

Controller’s Office, State of Illinois  
Director of Cemetery Care and Trust  
State of Illinois Center  
100 Randolph Street West  
Chicago, IL 60601

Or the Illinois Funeral Directors Association at P.O. Box 7127, Springfield, IL 62791.

You can also contact the Chicago Memorial Association at P.O. Box 2923, Chicago, IL 60690. Phone: (773) 327-4604. They are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assisting Illinoisans with funeral arrangements and are an affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.


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