Cremation vs. Burial: Which is Right for You?

Consider more than funeral costs when choosing between cremation vs. burial

If you’re considering preplanning your end-of-life wishes, you’ll first need to choose a form of disposition — cremation vs. burial. That first selection will direct you down one of two very distinct planning paths.
 
You probably know the basic differences between traditional burials and cremations, but knowing more details about each may sway your decision one way or another. To help you determine which is right for you, you’ll need to learn current trends, funeral service options, estimated costs, and payment opportunities for both paths.

Cremation vs. burial: Changing trends

While burials were once the most common choice, they have decreased in popularity due to rising costs and environmental concerns around shrinking amounts of land space. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, more than half of Americans chose cremation over burial in 2016. NFDA predicts that nearly 80 percent of funerals will center around cremation by 2035.
 
Cremation has grown in popularity due to a number of factors: It costs less; it’s easier on the environment; it’s seen as the less traditional, more creative option; and it’s more convenient, especially when families are increasingly living farther apart.
 
“It’s a matter of personal preference whether someone chooses cremation or a funeral where their loved one is buried,” said Christopher Robinson, NFDA at-large representative. “I recommend that individuals and family members investigate ahead of time the many options for funeral services. Every person is different, so each service should be tailored and customized for that person’s desires and wishes.”

How to Plan a Funeral Step-by-Step

Cremation vs. burial: Funeral service options

It’s a common misconception that if you choose cremation, you can’t have a funeral service, but the truth is, you have a variety of service options that can be preplanned for cremation and burial.

Traditional funeral service

Whether a cremation or a burial ultimately occurs, the deceased is placed in a casket and is present at the visitation for public viewing and traditional funeral service. This allows family and friends to view the body and say final goodbyes. Following the service, the cremation occurs and loved ones are given the ashes or the casket is taken to the burial location.

Memorial service

Unlike a traditional service, a memorial service is held without the body present. This is because memorial services typically take place after the burial or cremation has occurred. If you choose cremation, you can elect to have your ashes present in an urn or other receptacle at the memorial service.

Celebration of life

A celebration of life is a less-structured version of a traditional funeral service and focuses on honoring the person’s life vs. mourning his or her death. It can occur before or after the cremation or burial. If it occurs beforehand, it follows the same process as a traditional funeral service, and if it occurs afterward, it follows a similar process as a memorial service.

How to Start Planning a Celebration of Life

Cremation vs. burial: Funeral expenses

Funeral expenses for cremation vs. burial differ greatly. While both methods can range widely in price, cremations are generally less expensive than traditional burials. A direct cremation is the least expensive choice because it skips a funeral service or viewing, so casket costs and embalming fees aren’t included. According to the Cremation Research Council, the average cost of a direct cremation is $1,100.
 
Traditional cremations typically start around $600, but factors like the method of disposing the ashes and type of funeral service increase expenses. The average cost of a standard burial is between $7,000 and $9,000, which includes a casket, preparing and transporting the body, and funeral service costs.

Calculate Your Funeral Expenses

Cremation vs. burial: Payment options

If you’ve decided between cremation vs. burial, the best way to guarantee your wishes will be followed is to prearrange your end-of-life plans. You can outline every detail in advance so your loved ones won’t need to wonder what kind of service you want or whether you desire a burial or cremation. You can also alleviate the financial burden on your family by setting up a Preneed Funeral insurance or Final Expense Whole Life plan.

Preneed Funeral insurance

Preneed insurance is used to fund a funeral service agreement between you and a funeral home. You decide every element you want included in your funeral service, which includes everything from the casket or urn to transportation for the family. The funeral home partner totals the costs, and that amount is the basis for your Preneed insurance plan. You can either pay the amount in one installment or through monthly premiums. Upon your death, the funds are used to pay the funeral home for your funeral.

Find a preneed funeral home partner in your state

Final Expense insurance

Final Expense insurance not only covers the costs of your cremation or burial and funeral service, but it also covers any expenses your loved ones may face following your passing. These can include outstanding medical or credit card bills, estate taxes, legal fees, and living expenses. However, it doesn’t retain preplanned funeral costs at present-day amounts, and you’ll need to thoroughly list your wishes.

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Photo credit: iStock

Our Funeral Expenses Calculator can help estimate your burial and end-of-life expenses and show how those costs could be affected by inflation over time. The data can help you determine whether Final Expense or Preneed Funeral insurance will meet your needs.


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