Cre­ma­tion, an af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to burial

The Morning Call - - LIFE / FOOD - Send your se­nior ques­tions to: Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit SavvySe­nior.org. Jim Miller is a con­trib­u­tor to the NBC To­day show and au­thor of “The Savvy Se­nior” book.

Dear Savvy Se­nior: How much does cre­ma­tion cost and how can I find a good deal in my area? I would like to get a sim­ple, ba­sic cre­ma­tion that doesn’t cost me, or my fam­ily, a lot of money. — Fru­gal Se­nior

Dear Fru­gal: Cre­ma­tion costs can vary widely. De­pend­ing on your lo­ca­tion, the provider and the ser­vices you re­quest, cre­ma­tion can range any­where from $500 to $7,500 or more. But that’s a lot cheaper than a full-ser­vice fu­neral and ceme­tery burial that av­er­ages nearly $11,000 to­day. Here are some tips to help you get a good deal.

Shop around

Be­cause prices can vary sharply by provider, the best way to get a good price on a sim­ple “no frills” cre­ma­tion is to call sev­eral fu­neral homes in your area (most fu­neral homes pro­vide cre­ma­tion ser­vices) and compare prices. When you call, ask them specif­i­cally how much they charge for a “di­rect cre­ma­tion,” which is the ba­sic op­tion and the least ex­pen­sive. With di­rect cre­ma­tion, there’s no em­balm­ing, for­mal view­ing or fu­neral. It only in­cludes the es­sen­tials: pick­ing up the body, com­plet­ing the re­quired pa­per­work, the cre­ma­tion it­self and pro­vid­ing ashes to the fam­ily. If your fam­ily wants to have a memo­rial ser­vice, they can have it at home or your place of wor­ship af­ter the cre­ma­tion, in the pres­ence of your re­mains. If you want ad­di­tional ser­vices be­yond what a di­rect cre­ma­tion of­fers, ask the fu­neral home for an item­ized price list that cov­ers the other ser­vice costs, so you know ex­actly what you’re get­ting. All providers are re­quired by law to pro­vide this. To lo­cate nearby fu­neral homes, look in your lo­cal yel­low pages, or Google “cre­ma­tion” or “fu­neral” fol­lowed by your city and state. You can also get good in­for­ma­tion on­line at Part­ing.com, which lets you compare prices from fu­neral providers in your area based on what you want. Or, if you need more help con­tact your nearby fu­neral con­sumer al­liance pro­gram (see Fu­ner­als.org/lo­cal-fca or call 802865-8300 for con­tact in­for­ma­tion). These are vol­un­teer groups lo­cated in most re­gions around the coun­try that of­fer a wide range of in­for­ma­tion and prices on lo­cal fu­neral and cre­ma­tion providers.

Pricey urns

The urn is an item you need to be aware of that can drive up cre­ma­tion costs. Fu­neral home urns usu­ally cost around $100 to $300, but you aren’t re­quired to get one. Most fu­neral homes ini­tially place ashes in a plas­tic bag that is in­serted into a thick card­board box. The box is all you need if you in­tend to have your ashes scat­tered. But if you want some­thing to dis­play, you can prob­a­bly find a nice urn or com­pa­ra­ble con­tainer on­line. Wal­mart.com and Ama­zon.com for ex­am­ple, sells urns for un­der $50. Or, you may want to use an old cookie jar or con­tainer you have around the house in­stead of a tra­di­tional urn.

Free cre­ma­tion

An­other op­tion you may want to con­sider that pro­vides free cre­ma­tion is to do­nate your body to a univer­sity med­i­cal fa­cil­ity. Af­ter us­ing your body for re­search, they will cre­mate your re­mains for free (some pro­grams may charge a small fee to transport your body to their fa­cil­ity), and ei­ther bury or scat­ter your ashes in a lo­cal ceme­tery or re­turn them to your fam­ily, usu­ally within a year or two. To find a med­i­cal school near you that ac­cepts body do­na­tions, the Univer­sity of Florida main­tains a di­rec­tory at Anatbd.acb.med.ufl.edu/us­pro­grams.

Jim Miller

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