Arranging a funeral or cremation in Illinois

This guide aims to answer some key questions you may be faced with when arranging a funeral or cremation in Illinois. Learn more about average costs, service options, legal aspects, and other FAQs from funeral consumers. Read on to find out how a simple direct cremation and save $$$ on funeral costs.

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Cremation cost in Illinois

How do you choose which funeral home or cremation provider in Illinois suits 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.

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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 provide a general price list before starting any discussions about a funeral service. At the conclusion of the discussions, a funeral director must provide an itemized statement reflecting the goods and services you have selected.

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

There are several national and local directories 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?

Funeral burial 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. 

What is the cost of a funeral in Illinois?

This question is at the forefront of most people’s 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) put the average funeral cost today at $7,848, which does not include any cemetery fees. When cemetery costs are added, the average funeral cost is likely to be nearer $10,000.

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?

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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 and $5,000. There is no need for expensive cemetery plots, a burial liner, or even a casket, which 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 $1,300. 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 about the process of arranging a cremation

Cremation laws Illinois

Certain requirements must be met before a Cremation can proceed. The legal next of kin must sign a Cremation Authorization Form. Once the cremation is correctly authorized, the funeral director can obtain the 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 called the “cremation container” and is a reinforced cardboard box.

Is embalming required in Illinois?

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. Still, he must first obtain permission before embalming. 

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

Discount casket Illinois

According to Illinois state law, a casket is not required for a cremation. 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 can buy a casket online or from a local casket seller and deliver it 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?

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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 have rules about what kind of grave marker can be erected and what period you must wait after 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 it is 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. These can range from seeking out a greener burial option to full conservation burial, water cremation, or human composting.

Illinois has at least 5 green burial cemeteries, 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 know at least one service provider offering a water cremation service package. AquaGreen Dispositions of Chicago offers a water cremation for $1,795.

Click on the link for a detailed Guide to Aquamation and Water Cremation.

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?

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Yes, you can pre-plan your funeral in Illinois. We recommend this in many ways, 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?

What to do with cremated remains. Illinois laws

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 choose to scatter your loved one’s ashes.  

Illinois 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 landowner’s permission. 

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 used petals, flowers, or wreaths 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?

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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.

Are whole-body donations permitted in Illinois?

Free cremation in Illinois with a whole body donation

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.

Funeral transportation cover

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. In Illinois, 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 is an affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.


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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.