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What do I do with cremated remains?

Your loved one’s Direct Cremation is now complete, and you have just received a rectangular cardboard box from us at Cremation Society of America. You notice that the cardboard box is a bit heavier than you imagined. A lifetime of emotions seems to wash over you simultaneously as you open the box to discover your loved one’s cremains are a granular texture, much like sand. So much as happened to get to this point: The phone calls to family and friends, legal and estate issues to be addressed, just to name a few. You take a deep breath to reflect for a moment. The inevitable question you ask yourself is, “OK. Now what do I do?”

cremation ashes

Figuring out what to do with a loved one’s cremated remains can be a difficult and, at times, overwhelming decision in light of the grief and chaos that follows the loss of a loved one.

We at CSA are here to provide you with several options and ideas to honor your loved one:

Scatter Cremains/Ashes

The option that likely first comes to mind also happens to be the most popular ways to handle cremains: scatter the cremains in a place that holds significance and meaning for your deceased loved one. When it comes to scattering cremains, you must be cognizant of the specific laws and regulations that each state and even each county may have in place to govern the scattering of ashes. Once you determine the location to scatter the cremains, be sure to contact the applicable governmental authority to ensure that you secure all appropriate permits and permissions.

For example, the State of Florida has no specific state laws in effect to govern the scattering of ashes, but counties and cities may have guidelines and require certain permits or licenses.

Another traditional option is Scattering at Sea, whereby your loved one’s cremains are scattered across the surface of the sea in a ceremony that can be quite peaceful and serene. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) governs the scattering of ashes at sea and does not permit:

  • Scattering of remains in ocean waters within three (3) nautical miles from shore (U.S. Territorial Waters)
  • Scattering of non-human cremated remains, such as pets

Another option that is gaining in popularity is scattering ashes in U.S. National Parks. The U.S. National Park Service allows for the scattering of cremains within its national parks but each park maintains its own policies and procedures. Here are a few examples:

  • Yellowstone National Park – Cremains must be scattered on “undeveloped” areas (far from roads, buildings, parking lots, etc.). Scattering in thermal areas is prohibited, and no monuments or markers can be placed on the scatter location
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – You must secure a permit to scatter cremains, although the permit is free of charge. Cremains must be scattered away from developed areas (parking lots, trailheads, campgrounds, etc.) and at least 200 feet from lakes and streams

Non-Scattering Options

Even though scattering is the most popular option for treating cremains, there are a nearly limitless number of other ways to treat cremains. Your loved one’s cremains can be placed in a container/vessel such as an urn, incorporated into jewelry; placed in a columbarium or transformed into something else like an ornament or even a tattoo.

Containers/Vessels

For a very long time, families have chosen to keep their loved one’s cremains present in their everyday lives within a container or vessel. Here are some examples:

  • Urn: This is a vessel designed to store cremated remains. Urns can be made in a nearly infinite number of shapes, sizes and designs. They can also be constructed from various materials including marble, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze, glass, porcelain or wood. There are also biodegradable urns which are used for burial at sea or in “green burials” where the urn is planted in soil, eventually growing into a memorial tree.
  • When selecting an urn, size matters. Make sure that the urn can accommodate an average of 4-8 pounds. Be sure to consult with the urn specialist to ensure that the urn is sized appropriately. You also want to be sure to select an urn that is “built to last.” This is a keepsake that you may wish to hand down to subsequent generations. Jewelry: Inserting your loved one’s cremains within necklaces, rings, lockets, pendants, or even bracelets can be a touching and reverent way to keep your loved one near you. Keepsake cremation jewelry is affordable and can be easily customized and shared with other loved ones as part of a memorial service.
  • Other Keepsakes: Cremains can also be stored in creative and decorative objects such as holiday ornaments, glass paperweights, hourglasses, even golf balls. These keepsakes can be placed in your office or any workspace, your den, virtually anywhere and are typically personalized to be a unique representation of your loved one.

Burial

Cremains can also be buried in a cemetery in the same way that deceased are buried in caskets. This process is called “interment.” Here are a few of the more common burial options:

  • Columbarium:  Cremains are placed in a Columbarium, which is an above-ground structure or wall with spaces (niches) to accommodate urns or similar vessels. Such niches are an option for families who want a permanent and accessible location to visit so as to commemorate their loved one.
  • Burial Plot or Mausoleum: Cemetery Plots (Graves) can accommodate multiple urns/vessels and they can share a single headstone. In the same way, a Mausoleum can also accommodate multiple urns/vessels.
  • Scatter Gardens: Scatter Gardens are an increasingly popular option provided by cemeteries to families interested in scattering ashes on cemetery grounds. Scatter gardens are beautifully landscaped and well-maintained areas that allow for cremains to be legally scattered anywhere on the grounds.

Something Different

There are also many unconventional and innovative options for treating cremains – and more options are being created every day. Here are just a few of the more creative ways to honor your loved one:

  • Diamonds: Incorporating your loved one’s cremains into a diamond or similar gem can be a unique and timeless way to memorialize your loved one by creating a beautiful keepsake and heirloom
  • Tattoos: Believe it or not, you can mix a small amount of your loved one’s cremains with ink and have it tattooed your skin
  • Coral Reef: Mix your loved one’s cremains with concrete to help form a marine reef that can be a memorial that can also support marine life
  • Fireworks: “Go Out with a Bang” Cremains can be incorporated into fireworks and set off in a customized display or packaged into self-firing rockets

Traveling With Cremated Remains

Once you decide how best to honor your loved one, you may need to travel to another part of the country to meet with family and friends. Many airlines allow cremains to be brought on board as carry-on or checked baggage, but the urn/container holding the remains must pass through the x-ray machine or it will not be allowed through security. In order to transport cremains on a flight, you must present a death or cremation certificate in order to carry them on board.

Cremains can also be air-shipped as cargo but only by known shippers (a “known shipper” is designated as such after passing inspection and qualification rules set by the US Transport Security Agency [TSA]).

Contact us at Cremation Society of America to order a Direct Cremation and speak to us regarding the options available to you once your receive your loved one’s cremains.

Scatter Your Loved One’s Ashes at Sea

Direct Cremation continues to be the preferred choice of families in the United States in lieu of more traditional funeral services. Direct Cremation is far more affordable and offers families the flexibility to arrange for services at time and place more convenient for the family. One example of such flexibility is the Scattering of Ashes at Sea.

Scattering Ashes at Sea has become more and more popular among families of the deceased.  This type of ceremony is considered by many to be much more natural and soothing for your loved ones versus traditional, terrestrial burials.

Shortly following the cremation and receipt of the ashes, you are ready to provide your loved one with the ceremony and serenity that he or she deserves – and most likely requested with his or her final wishes.

U.S. federal law allows for the scattering of ashes at sea but certain conditions must be met, including: the use of decomposable flowers and wreaths; certain notification requirements; ensuring that ashes are scattered at least three (3) nautical miles from shore; and others.

To scatter your loved one’s cremated remains (“cremains”) by boat, family and friends board the vessel and travel to the desired location on the ocean. This typically involves chartering a boat with a licensed captain and the trip may last for several hours.

Upon arrival at the desired location, the captain will position the vessel boat into the wind and with enough forward speed to prevent the cremains from being blown back into the vessel. The ceremony and tribute can begin. The ceremony can range from clergy reciting prayers to Family members reciting poetry to a few poignant comments and everything in between.

Family members have the option to scatter the cremains if they so choose. The cremains are placed in the water and allowed to descend into the ocean. Cremation Society of America can help you to choose a reputable charter service to ensure that the cremains make it into the ocean properly.

Shortly thereafter, the Family and friends are usually handed flowers or even a bouquet that they can toss in along with the cremains to create an area of the ceremony on the water. The captain can then circle the area while the Family and friends take photos and say their final goodbyes.

With the Cremation Society of America Package One, our advisors can help you arrange to scatter your loved one’s ashes at sea. CSA has relationships with reputable charter services that have vast experience to provide a dignified and touching at-sea tribute to your loved one. Contact us NOW to order a Direct Cremation and to explore our Scattering of Ashes at Sea services.

Don’t Fall Victim to Cremation Scams

As an increasing number of Americans choose Cremation over traditional burials, Cremation Scams and Fraudulent Practices are also on the rise. As with IRS scams and Banking scams, Cremation Scams are aimed at people 65 and older.  Fraudsters and scammers attempt to take advantage of the sadness, grief and confusion many feel in the aftermath of the loss of a loved one. This is a time of great vulnerability for families, especially those who did not take advantage of Pre-Planning Services.

The best way to combat Cremation Scams and Fraud is education. Here are some examples of Cremation Scams:

  • Concealing or misrepresenting prices. Dishonest providers may deliberately avoid providing prices to you in writing or they even increase prices/fees once the cremains are delivered.
  • Selling extra or unnecessary services or items. Service providers may try to sell unnecessary additional services, such as embalming or a burial casket, as part of a cremation package. These items can be quite expensive and are considered “pure profit” by unscrupulous funeral providers. Oftentimes, providers will use “high-pressure” sales tactics to coerce elderly customers into buying unnecessary products and services.
  • Forcing consumers to buy proprietary goods. Sometimes called “cramming,” a family member who wants to use a family heirloom for the cremains may be coerced into buying an “approved” urn or casket that is only sold by the provider, at a premium of course.
  • Misrepresenting legal requirements for funeral or cremation services. Unscrupulous providers may insist that embalming is required by law, even in a direct cremation with no viewing or funeral service, despite the fact that embalming is not a statutory requirement in most states.

Now that you know what a Cremation Scam looks like, here are some steps you can take to avoid falling victim to such scams:

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Cremation providers should be willing to answer any questions that you or your family may have. If a provider fails to answer questions, is evasive or tries to hurry your family into a decision that does not feel right, you could be at risk for a scam. Be sure to meet with family members and even a family attorney to organize your questions in advance. Such questions can include:

  • How can I be sure that my loved one’s cremains are actually his or hers?
  • How will the cremains be presented to the family?
  • How long will the Cremation process take and how long will cremains be held prior to pick-up?
  • Do you offer support services for bereaved families, especially young children?

Research the Cremation Provider

As more and more families opt for Cremation in lieu of burial, “fly by night” cremation-only providers have begun to appear. In the same way that you would investigate a general contractor before building a house or hiring an attorney to draft a will for your family, you should investigate the credentials and performance of your Cremation provider. Here are some ways to conduct your investigation:

  • Visit the provider’s website and locate the provider’s physical address
  • Most provider websites include an “About Us” section. In many cases, you can double-check that information with public resources, including the Better Business Bureau and certain state-specific licensing agencies
  • Be wary of offers that may be too good to be true. Contact at least two providers so that you can compare products and services. The more offers you compare, the better
  • Read online reviews on social media and other online resources such as Yelp and Google
  • Where possible, follow-up with references

Arrange for a Witness be present at the Cremation

Request that a family member or representative (such as an attorney) witness the Cremation to ensure that no mishandling or mistakes in identification happen at any point during the Cremation process. The family representative must be able to visually identify the individual being cremated as a safeguard to ensure to that your loved one’s cremains are being returned to the family. Keep in mind that some states do not allow witnesses and some crematories have specific rules and regulations concerning witnesses, including additional fees to allow for a witness.

Get Everything in Writing 

Do not commit to any Cremation services until you have received all documentation in writing and have had a chance to review, including having legal counsel review the documents.

Know Your Rights 

As a consumer, your rights are clear under the FTC’s Funeral Rule, which describes in detail how providers of funeral services should provide burial and cremation services. Knowing your rights can help you to avoid the cremation and funeral scams listed above.

The FTC’s Funeral Rule applies to all types of funeral and cremation service providers except third-party sellers like casket and urn dealers or cemeteries without an on-site funeral home. Your rights when purchasing or contracting services for burial or cremation include:

  • The right to buy only the services and products you want.
  • The right to refuse embalming. Many state laws do not require embalming as the only preservation process. In some cases, refrigeration may suffice. Check with your specific state laws before being forced to pay for embalming.
  • The right to get price information by phone without agreeing to buy.Funeral service providers are required by law to give you the prices you request by phone without requiring you to provide your name or other information. You also have the right to compare prices without being obligated to purchase a provider’s services.
  • The right to a written, itemized price list and written statement that lists your products and services.
  • The right to use a container other than a casket for cremation.A provider might try to coerce you into purchasing a casket for cremation even though no laws require it. The provider must offer alternatives such as wooden boxes or cardboard.
  • Know your rights and Cremation requirements in your state.

Pre-Planning 

Not only can Pre-Planning save your family money, it is always better to make such important decisions ahead of time so that all aspects can be researched and evaluated. Rarely are proper decisions made under duress or during a time of grief and confusion.

Veterans Benefits for Cremation 

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides certain burial benefits for veterans of U.S. military service that covers free interment in a National Cemetery and associated military honors, and those benefits can also be used for cremation services. Ask your cremation provider how they are equipped to accommodate veterans and their families.

What Can You Do if You Fall Victim to a Scam?

What actions can you take if you experience cremation fraud or fall victim to a cremation scam? Your rights under the FTC’s Funeral Rule are protected by several agencies and organizations, and you can report any experiences of fraud or scams to these entities for further investigation. You can report a funeral or cremation scam to the FTC here. State Attorneys General also investigate consumer complaints pertaining to funeral services. You can contact the Attorney General’s Office in your state by searching online.

Business organizations also track complaints about the funeral and cremation industry. The Better Business Bureau and Consumer Protection Agency pursues reports of scams/fraud, and so does the Consumer Protection Agency.

As you can see above, education is the best way to avoid falling victim to any cremation or funeral scams. At Cremation Society of America, we are committed to providing you and your family with the most competitive and dignified Cremation services available. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.