Burial Rights: Know the Facts about Cremation. (Consumer Life)

Article excerpt

The family members of roughly 300 dead loved ones who were thought to have been cremated at the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia, were recently mourning not only their loss but also cruel deception. Local investigators discovered that many of the urns that were supposed to be holding the ashes of the dearly departed, had actually contained wood ashes or potting soil. Arrested was Bay Brent Marsh, the caretaker of the family-run business, whose company was paid between $200 and $1,500 for each cremation. Could this have happened to your family?

According to a recent survey by The Cremation Association of North America (CANA), a trade association for the funeral industry based in Chicago, 46% of Americans plan to choose cremation rather than traditional burial for themselves or their loved ones. Furthermore, the association predicts that by 2010 cremations in the U.S. will represent 46% up from 26.6% in 2000, with urban areas having higher cremation rates than rural areas. Specialists attribute the trend to issues ranging from less expensive (24%) to land preservation (17%). CANA found other reasons as well. Cremation tends to be simpler and more convenient.

"A basic cremation costs between $1,200 and $1,400, which is about 75% cheaper than a casket funeral, and is easier to arrange," explains Eric White, a spokesman for the Internet Cremation Society (ICS; www.cremation.org).

But, despite economics and even convenience, consumers need to know exactly what this growing trend encompasses to avoid becoming a victim.

The actual cremation process normally takes two to three hours. It should not take place in groups or pairs. "The cremation vessel named a `retort' can only handle one body at a time, therefore, the body is tagged so there are not any mix-ups," assures White. After each cremation, the retort is swept and cleaned, nonetheless, it is possible for minute amounts of remains to commingle, admit industry experts.

After the cremation, the family receives all of the ashes. The package usually weighs several pounds and takes up about 200 cubic inches. The ashes are offered in a temporary container unless you've already chosen a permanent one, such as an urn. …