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Should you consider an online cremation company?
The pros and cons of going online for this end-of-life service
So much of life is online these days, but what about death?
If you can deal with everything from medical needs to life insurance and estate planning online, should you also deal with the physical reality of death that way, too? Should you go online in order to have a loved one’s body collected, legally processed and, ultimately, cremated?
Various new cremation start-ups are saying an effusive “yes,” because more than 50% of dead people in the US are cremated, with that percentage expected to rise to 64% in the next four years, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
Cremation is a business that has changed little, if at all, in decades, and some people find the traditional model to be clunky and opaque. (Surveys have found that the vast majority of traditional cremation companies don’t list their full prices online.)
New online cremation companies promise greater transparency, lower costs and less hassle, which is a meaningful concern when you’re already dealing with grief. To find out more about the benefits and limitations of cremation start-ups we spoke to Keith Crawford, co-founder and CEO of cremation company Solace.
In this article:
Simplicity and transparency
“The traditional model generally involves a visit, or two, in person to a funeral home, a lengthy ‘arrangement’ meeting with a funeral director and analog paperwork,” says Crawford. “In some cases, these meetings are designed to ‘upsell’ the family on additional services or products.”
While some of these products might be of use (nicer urn, perhaps), many people aren’t in the best state of mind to make decisions about them, and the feeling that you shouldn’t be scrimping when your loved one just died can lead to financial decisions you might not usually make.
Solace, like other cremation start-ups, “will take someone into our care from essentially anywhere: residence, facility, coroner,” says Crawford. They will then pass you the cremated remains by mail or via a driver, along with the paperwork.
Online cremation services “are very easy to schedule, either online or over the phone,” says Crawford. “All paperwork is digitized, there is generally one flat price and no upsell. There is one fee that covers everything.”
If the family has made the decision to go with direct cremation (no viewing, no service), then they really don’t need the old model,” he says. “One of the best comments we hear from families after they use our service is that we made it very easy for them and gave them time back to be with their grief.”
Making cremations arrangements is something you can do with a traditional cremation company or funeral home, but it is easier with an online company, because it’s all online. “The model is built around simplicity,” says Crawford. “We do advance planning for families, which involves completing the digital paperwork and collecting e-signatures, but do not take payment until services are needed. It’s a very simple process to help people plan ahead of time.”
Arrangements from a distance
If your loved one passes away in a different state to the one where you reside, you may well find it easier to make arrangements online with a digital company that does business in that state (and others), instead of having to find a bricks-and-mortar cremation service in a state you don’t know well. It’s also useful not to have to do a physical visit if you live thousands of miles from where your loved one died.
For now, cremation start-ups only operate in certain areas — Solace, for example, is currently only available in Portland, Oregon, Southern California, and the Jacksonville, Florida metro area. (There are plans to expand to other parts of the country.) So if it’s a service you might be interested in, be sure to check if it’s available in the area where you’ll need it.
One reason that cremation start ups are relatively inexpensive is that their offering does not include any kind of memorial service, and you cannot be present when the cremation takes place. (This means they do not offer a “watched placement” or “witness cremation.” What they offer is “direct cremation.”)
Many people who use cremation start-ups hold an informal memorial service or celebration of life after they have received their loved one’s remains, but you should think carefully about whether that arrangement suits you.
For some family members, being present when their loved one is either buried or cremated is an important part of saying goodbye, and that feeling is not easily replicated by receiving ashes in the mail. Ask yourself honestly how you feel about that.
If being present during cremation doesn’t seem important, then there are many real benefits of going with a cremation start-up. If, on the other hand, you do think you’ll want to be present, start looking at brick-and-mortar places in the relevant area now: It’s not something you want to do last-minute.
About Michael DavisRead more by Michael Davis
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
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