Cremation: Seven Steps You Need to Know

Many of us have attended a funeral service for a family member, friend or co-worker, however, odds are most of us have not had to make funeral arrangements. Today with people living longer, the average age of a person making funeral arrangements is over 50.

One would think that the person making funeral decisions is the surviving spouse, but it’s becoming more the norm for the adult children to make the arrangements. Why? Because the widow or widower’s decision-making ability has become compromised due to their own declining health. The spouse may have full comprehension of their partner’s death and even be able to articulate the type of funeral service desired, however, the lack of clarity revolves around financial decisions.

Understanding the financial obligations, along with any insurance claims is where the major confusion occurs, therefore it’s always best to have another family member or advocate present.

In this conversation, you will learn what takes place at a cremation service arrangement conference. The next article will discuss the traditional burial conference; they are two very different discussions.

If you haven’t downloaded my free e-book “5 Legal Requirements Before Cremation,” now is the time. All too often, people think that the cremation itself takes place once a body is brought into a funeral home’s care. Let’s debunk this myth immediately! To be clear, a body can NOT be cremated until numerous checks and balances take place and it all begins at the arrangement consultation.

Below are the seven items that must be addressed in a cremation arrangement conference.

1. Address questions and concerns.

2. Share service options.

3. Adhere to the Federal Trade Commission requirements.

4. Gather the required information and signatures for permits and certificates.

5. Explain the cremation process.

6. Set the expectation when the cremated remains will be returned.

7. Discuss payment options.

When families try to by-pass this process by doing on-line arrangements and not talking to their end of life provider is where errors happen and consumer satisfaction levels decline. While the process may seem straightforward, it’s not. To quote an age-adage “Things are not always as simple as they appear!”

1. Address questions and concerns. Shortly after death, your funeral home will contact you to schedule a time to meet. During this conversation, you may be asked to bring in insurance documents, possibly clothing or even photographs. This is the time for you to begin asking questions or start gathering a list of questions so you can have them answered when you meet.

It should go without saying that there is no question that is out of bounds. While this may be a first for you, it’s not for your cremation provider. They will be able to answer most everything, if not, they will know what direction to point you in.

2. Share service options. There is no such thing as a “simple cremation.” The definition of a cremation service has a very broad range. Don’t be offended when you are asked, “and what does a cremation service mean to you?” or “what does that look like to you?” Why? In the funeral service profession, a cremation service or simple cremation has many different meanings depending on your talk with.

To give you an example, listed below are the many types of cremation service offerings that most placed provide.

A no-cost cremation option. Many cremation providers work with a company called “Medcure.” This is a third-party organ harvesting company who will pay the funeral home for their services and sell the harvested organs for profit. If a family agrees to this type of end disposition, the remains that are left after harvesting, are then cremated and returned to the family. The advantage to this type of option is that is no cost incurred to the family related to transportation, arrangements and the cremation itself. Medcure does have the right to reject an individual based on the cause of death or condition of the body.

Body-Donation. A body donation to a teaching university is often confused as a cremation option. When a body is donated to science, after a period of time, the unused body parts are cremated and returned to next of kin. It’s important to understand two things about this type of cremation option.

1. There are costs involved – this typically is not a “free” service.

2. A body can be rejected; therefore, the family must have a backup option.

3. Cremation with the body present for viewing. (Commonly referred to as a Rental Package)

Many families who prefer the aspect of a “traditional service,” meaning viewing of the body, a visitation, and a service often select this. The only thing that is different about this type of option is that instead of the deceased being buried in a casket at a cemetery, they are cremated after the service.

The advantage to this is cost. It’s referred to as a “Rental Package” because the casket itself is can be reused multiple times. There is a container inside the casket, that contained the body. It’s removed and cremated with the deceased.

When choosing this option, the next of kin must give permission to embalm. Why? When there is a public viewing it becomes a health and safety issue.

Memorial Service / Gathering. This is when there is a service and or gathering for the deceased without the body present. This provides a time for sharing and celebrating a life lived.

Immediate or Direct Cremation. This is exactly what it says. There is no service provided and the body is cremated after meeting with the family.

3. Adhere to the Federal Trade Commission requirements. In the arrangement conference, before any discussion of price can be addressed by the funeral home, it is required by the FTC that the director/arranger present what is referred to as a general price list. This usually will come in two forms.

1. A menu looking version that itemizes each service and product

2. A packaged price version that already is bundled.

4. Gather the required information and signatures for permits and certificates. This is the most critical portion of the arrangement conference. All information is gathered now becomes a legal document. This information must be accurate the first time, to generate a death certificate and cremation permit in a timely fashion. These documents literally drive everything!

5. Explain the cremation process. Cremation doesn’t just happen. There are numerous checks and balances that must take place before the cremation can occur. If any of the processes are not completed, the cremation can be delayed.

Know that you have the right to physically be present to witness the cremation process. If you aren’t offered this opportunity – just ask. Transparency is everything!

At minimum, ask the following question, “Who will be conducting the cremation?” Why? Many funeral homes outsource the cremation to a third party provider. This is not a bad thing, but you should know who will be conducting the cremation and where they are located. If you want to be present or want to tour the crematory this should be arranged. If there is any hesitation, you have the right to select another cremation provider.

6. Set the expectation when the cremated remains will be returned and to who. As discussed above, there are standards and protocols that must take place before a body can be cremated. Once the cremation is completed, not just anyone can stop in and pick up the cremated remains. In today’s world with blended families, it’s imperative that the funeral home know who they can release the cremated remains too. Just because you are a son, sister, mother or father does not give you the legal authority to have an individual released onto your care.

If the remains are not to be returned to the immediate next of kin/informant – you will be asked who the funeral home can release the remains too. The same goes for the separation of ashes and distributing them to friends or family members. The funeral provider must have the names and the written consent to separate the cremated remains.

7. Discuss payment options. Once all the above steps have completed, now is where you are asked how you intend to pay. Most places expect payment in full upfront unless the service was pre-paid, or the family produces an enforce life insurance contract and assigns it to the funeral home for them to receive payment first with the balance remaining sent to the policy beneficiary.

If you are unable to handle this – now is the time to speak up! Do not leave without talking this through. A good funeral home will work with you, however, there are some fees that must be paid up front. Many times, the funeral home must pay out of their pocket and front costs for the permits and even the crematory.

In closing, the average cremation arrangement conference at minimum is an hour if you are sitting face to face, sometimes longer. If you complete the biographical information online, it will save some time, but remember everything becomes a legal document and if your intent is to save a few nickels, we want to get the information right the first time.

Please follow my blog “Ask Jodi” at Here you will find trusted answers that revolve around tough topics for end-of-life issues for people and pets.

If you found this helpful, please download the “The 5 Legal Requirements Before Cremation ” here.

10 Responses to Cremation: Seven Steps You Need to Know

  1. Daphne Gilpin says:

    I like your suggestion to gather the necessary permits and certifications, since that is usually the most critical part of the arrangement. My husband and I are trying to help with the funeral arrangements for his aunt. I know she wanted to be cremated, so the info you shared will be helpful as we start planning.

  2. Ashley Johnson says:

    I thought that it was interesting that you mentioned that it is important to specify to the cremation company who will be picking up the remains to ensure that they are promptly returned to the family. I would imagine that this would be a stressful process, but that clarifying the specifics of the cremation process will create simplicity within this situation. That way, there is no confusion and the family can give their respects to their loved one in a proper ceremony.

  3. Thomas Peterson says:

    I liked that you mentioned that most funeral homes outsource the cremations to a third party provider. I’ve been thinking a lot about funeral arrangements after my father passed away and the family had to take the arrangement planning into our own hands. Maybe I should reach out to a crematory and learn a little more about the cremation process.

  4. Daphne Gilpin says:

    Thanks for the tip to discuss payment options. I need to help choose funeral and cremation services for my aunt. Your advice should help as I talk to different services.

  5. Angela Waterford says:

    I’m thinking of making funeral decisions for me and my husband’s death. Since there are financial obligations to this, it’s better if I contact a memorial service to preplan our cremation when we pass. Thanks for adding that our questions and concerns should be addressed by the one who will cater to our service so that things will be clear for our children when that time comes.

  6. Daphne Gilpin says:

    Thanks for explaining that a cremation arrangement conference includes gathering information for permits and certificates. I’ll be helping to plan the funeral and cremation services for my aunt. Your article helped me know what to expect from meeting with a cremation service.

  7. Eli Richardson says:

    We didn’t know that a third party conducted the cremation in some occasions. One of my dad’0s friends passed away, and his family is considering cremation service. We will pass them the details so they can be prepared and ensure someone is present in the cremation prosses.

  8. rachel frampton says:

    My dad died last week due to a heart attack, and his last request was for him to be cremated. That’s why we’re currently looking for a service that offers cremation. I’m glad you shared these important insights; such as adhering to the Federal Trade Commission requirements before the cremation begins

  9. Alice Carroll says:

    Thanks for pointing out that trade commission guidelines should be taken note off when planning a cremation. One of the the things I’d like to be done to me when I die is for my ashes to be scattered at a lake. Perhaps after I finalize writing my will, I will start looking for crematorium funeral directors to know how I could pre-plan my own cremation.

  10. Afton Jackson says:

    It really helped when you mentioned that asking to be present during the cremation is an important part of the process. While we’ve been looking for an easier alternative to a funeral service, we still want to be involved in the process since we have missed out on a lot of memorial services as of late. Once I find a funeral home in my area that provides cremation services, I’ll make sure I inquire about this so that my relatives can make time for the next occasion we’ll schedule should a loved one pass away.

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