Burial & Cremation

Cremation vs. Burial: An Overview

Deciding whether to choose cremation vs. burial is an important task when outlining your end-of-life wishes. How your remains are laid to rest is often referred to as “final disposition” or “body disposition.”

My Life & Wishes - Burial vs. Cremation

There are a number of factors that may contribute to your decision:

  • Your spouse, partner or close loved ones’ wishes if you want to ensure you’re laid to rest together.
  • Your religious or spiritual beliefs. Some faiths prohibit cremation, for example.
  • How much you’d like to spend on burial or cremation.
  • The funeral, memorial service or end-of-life celebration you envision.
  • The timeframe your family has to carry out your wishes.
  • Your thoughts on the potential environmental impact of your death.

Regardless of your choice, the decision is a highly personal one. Having conversations with your loved ones will help reduce the chance that your wishes will not be honored or that your family will have to make tough decisions on your behalf.

Burial and Cremation Options at a Glance

Burial

Location Options:

  • Cemeteries or memorial parks in an in-ground burial plot.
  • Entombment above ground in a public mausoleum, private mausoleum or lawn crypt.

Requirements:

  • Caskets are required in many cemetery plots and in mausoleums
  • Embalming is often legally mandated for burial and entombment unless you opt for a green burial at a designated natural burial site.

Cost:

  • The average cost of an in-ground burial at a cemetery that includes casket, embalming, grave site fees, burial vault, headstone or gravemarker is $7,000.
  • There are additional costs for the funeral services.

Additional reasons people choose burial:

  • Burial ensures that loved ones have a place to visit and pay their respects.
  • Entombment in mausoleums give family a place to visit in any weather.
  • Burial is the most traditional option.

Cremation

Location Options:

  • Ashes can be stored in an urn privately, scattered at a meaningful location or entombed in a columbarium, where vessels are encapsulated in private spaces.

Requirements:

  • Some states require embalming within a certain timeframe after death, which impacts your plans if cremation cannot be completed within that time.

Cost:

  • The average cost of cremation that includes a cremation casket is $2,500.
  • There are additional costs for memorial services held at a funeral home or crematory.

Additional reasons people choose cremation:

  • Overall costs (e.g. no plot is required)
  • Memorial services can be held at any time

The number of cremations is expected to surpass the number of burials in the United States for the first time in 2015, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

The choice between a burial versus cremation is part of the end-of-life planning process. Preparing and communicating your end-of-life wishes in advance takes the burden off your loved ones to decide for you upon your death. It’s an important part of death etiquette and a gift you can leave your family.    

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