More Americans are now being cremated rather than buried. This is a major shift in how we treat the deceased. As recently as the mid 1990’s, about 20% of all bodies were cremated. The newest figures are closer to 55%. The National Funeral Directors Association has predicted that by 2035, nearly 80% of Americans will opt for cremation.
One reason being offered is the reduced cost of cremating a body vs the traditional cost for a casket and burial. Basic cremation expenses typically run between $700 and $1200 vs the $7000 average that is common for a traditional full-service funeral and burial. Cremations can be arranged through a funeral home or through a cremation only business. After the cremation, the family is given the ashes of the deceased in a thick plastic bag, inside of a plastic or thick cardboard box. These ashes are sterile and safe as they consist largely of calcium from bones.
There are very few legal restrictions regarding what you can do with your deceased’s ashes. You can keep them in your home, divide them among several areas or bury them on your own property. You can also scatter them on your or someone else’s property if you have their permission. You can have them buried in a cemetery or placed into a columbarium typically located in mausoleums on cemetery grounds. Individuals may choose to scatter the loved one’s ashes at sea. Public lands and seashores do occasionally have rules prohibiting the scattering of ashes, but in practice, as long as such scattering is done discretely, it is extremely unlikely that an individual will encounter legal issues. That said, if you intend to personally transport ashes on an airline, make sure to keep them in the plastic or cardboard provided by the crematorium for the trip rather than a metal container which will trigger x-ray machines in the airport.
One thing to keep in mind however, is for most individuals, who have lost a loved one, allowing them to view the deceased before cremation takes place can be an extremely important event to help an individual to have closure regarding the loved one’s death. Accordingly, you have several days to allow this viewing to occur to accommodate, a viewing by family members or a loved one before an individual rushes to have a cremation.