Thursday, November 3, 2011


An elderly gentleman came in today to inquire about direct cremation. His Mother had tasked him with the job of searching the local funeral homes for an affordable cremation service.

Mr. X as we will call him sat with us and inquired about the charges for a direct cremation, after we shared it with him and told him what was involved and included in the service, he responded with, AND?

I kind of sat there and looked at him and responded with "and what?" He looked back at me and said, the other charges, what about the other charges? I told him, sir, there are no other charges. He seemed a little frustrated like I was trying to get one over on him. He said, "look, I've been all over the west valley today getting prices on direct cremations and everyone has other charges if I push them hard enough. Now I know the day I need your services that those "other charges" will appear, just tell me what they are and we will move on."

I understood the mans frustration, I knew exactly what he was talking about. But again I told him, "There are no other charges Sir".

An all inclusive Direct Cremation consists of many things, but you would be surprised the things that funeral homes will leave out to quote you a lower price. I will explain what they are and why they do it. Well, they do it to get you in the door with a low price.

Direct Cremation consists of:

  • Proportional share of the overhead cost
  • Transport to the Mortuary
  • Administrative fee's
  • Refrigeration
  • Filing of the death certificate
  • County fee's and permits
  • Cremation container
  • Transport to the crematory
  • Cremation Process
  • Container for the Cremains
NOTE - A good funeral home should be able to turn around a cremation in 48 to 96 business hours under good circumstances. Be caucious if a facility tells you it is "standard procedure" for it to take longer. Sometimes it may, but those are things that can be expected at times.

Now, lets break all this down one thing at a time:

Proportional share of the overhead cost - This is a charge that is attached to all services that are provided by the mortuary. It is also referred to as "Basic Service of the Funeral Director and Staff".  This charge or "Service charge" is included and is all overhead that the funeral home acquires on a daily basis, Electricity, water, chemicals, insurance. It can be as high or as low as the funeral home chooses to make it but no higher that the price of the "Basic Service of the Funeral Director and Staff" charge on the General Price List.

Transport to the Mortuary -  Now we start to get tricky and find "Fudge" room in the pricing of a direct cremation. This charge includes the "removal" of the deceased from place of death, a hospital, a hospice care facility, the Medical Examiners office or another funeral home.  It is the same charge or lower of that on the General Price List. NOW! This is were the Funeral home can tell you, "Well Mr. X, we had to do a 2 man removal because it is our policy to send 2 men to a home removal or hospice removal or whatever. That charge alone can run up to $150 more at some locations and if you pay for it, call the hospice facility to ensure that 2 people did show up. Also remember, at a hospice facility the staff is always ready to assist and usually do. Also you may find a charge for a "Human remains pouch" or "body bag". Traditionally, if the deceased is picked up at the hospital, they will provide, if the deceased is picked up at the Medical examiners, you will pay for a pouch. through the funeral home because they "swap" one out. Hospice facilities don't use body bags and if they do, they don't charge. Also, a funeral home will pick up a body up to a certain distance one way, usually 25 miles, after that they charge per mile.

Administrative Fees - Another slippery area, Administrative fees is a very broad charge, it covers just about whatever the funeral home wants it to, or as little as it wants it to. Typically it is covering communications between 3rd parties and the funeral home or anything that goes into the handling of documents or paperwork, this may or may not include obituaries or cemetery in-urnment scheduling. This could cost more. How much more? this is again up to the funeral home. Ask questions.

Refrigeration - WOW! this is a real go getter. It is usually the one cost that can increase your cremation cost up by 1/3. Most funeral homes say refrigeration is included, read the small print, because it is probably provided for up to the first 24 hours. The secret is that the process may "magically" take four to five days thus incurring more charges for "extended" refrigeration, around $95+ a day more. If the doctor fails to provide signature in the allotted time (72 hours max is the law in AZ), you will be expected to pay for his failed responsibilities. This is not uncommon, thus many funeral home administrators have no problem with not using much enthusiasm to pursue a doctor for causes and signature. It's guaranteed cash.

Filing of the death certificate -  This is a VERY SIMPLE PROCESS! it takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes (ON THE INTERNET) at the most, a bit of faxing and a phone call or two to the Doctors office. The Funeral home is responsible for the statistical information that goes on the Death Certificate and the medical information comes from the Doctors office, they are responsible for that. FAXing is a requirement but those charges should be included under the "Proportional Share of the Overhead Costs". Some locations will charge you up to $20 per FAX. Again, a hidden cost. Oh, a funeral home no longer need a vehicle to file, they do not have to drive anywhere, so if you are being charged for the use of a "Service Vehicle" for the filing of the death certificate, you are paying for a service that you do not need nor did they use. Beware of those "extra trips" to the doctors office that are non-existent. Oh, you get a free death certificate for social security, it is the law. SOOOOOOOOO, when the funeral home tells you they will give you a free death certificate! it is yours anyways, they are giving you nothing. The same also goes for the Veterans Administration if the deceased was a veteran. Across the front of the document it says "FOR GOVERNMENT USE ONLY".  It takes a week to 10 days to get a death certificate from the county, please be patient. ($20 each)

County fee's and permits - Very  Simple, not complicated, the counties has a fee for cremation, in Arizona anyways, it's $15. Disposition permit fee is $4. You can't ask or charge anymore for these cash advance items.

Cremation container - In a simple term? A large cardboard Box. Funeral home price? about $10 to $15 dollars. Your charges? up to $130. Allot of funeral home tend to leave this charge off of the "Direct Cremation" price until you fill out all the paperwork. The excuse is then given, "Well we did not include merchandise on this because that's like assuming you wanted to buy an urn also, and we don't want to appear pushy OR now it is time to select the cremation casket".  YOU DO NOT NEED TO PURCHASE A WOOD CREMATION CASKET OR ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE EMBALMING DONE FOR A DIRECT CREMATION! The corporate funeral institution will tell you that embalming is required if the body is present EVEN if the casket is closed. That is fine, ensure the deceased has been dressed and embalmed and that they are placed in the casket AND VIEWABLE! (you paid for it). If embalming is somthing the funeral home insists on, ask for the casket to be displayed empty yet closed if you feel comfortable with that (you will save on all the preperation and the casket insert), this will help you save up to $600 in embalming charges. If the charges and situation surrounding those charges sound ridiculous, they are. Use your best intuition. The funeral industry counts on your lack of knowledge and discomfort in the industry to overcharge you, don not become another victim.

Transport to the crematory - OK, some funeral homes have their own cremation facility on site, most do not. If they have it on site, why are they charging you for transport? If they use another facility, the cremationist usually comes and picks up the deceased. So why would the funeral home be charging you for transportation if it is already included in the cremation facilities charges? Double dipping?

Cremation Process - This fee should be on the "Cash Advance" section of your contract, that is the amount the crematory is paid or charges. If it is not on that section, that is because the funeral home is stacking that charge to make more money and telling you the cost is high because the creationist charges so much. Allot of funeral home tend to leave this charge off of the "Direct Cremation" price until you fill out all the paperwork. The excuse is then given, "Well the price given is my charges, not the crematories. Those are different." or "I can't tell the crematory what to charge".

Container for the Cremains - Now to me, this is a very dirty, dirty little trick that some funeral homes practice. The cremation facility I use gives you the option of having the cremains returned in a black plastic container or a cardboard box. Both cost the same. I prefer the black plastic container, it is more dignified and durable. There are funeral homes that insist on the cardboard box to humiliate and shame a family into purchasing an urn. When they see the urn sale slipping away they may actually come right out and tell you, "you don't want to take your loved one home in just a cardboard box, DO YOU?" That is a very deplorable practice. Ask your facility what the cremains will be returned in, if it is a cardboard box that is taped shut, insist on plastic if you truly cant afford an urn at the time, even better, move on. Oh, if you are being charged to transfer cremains from the "Box" to an urn you might select, that's a hidden fee.

Now, what CAN you expect to pay that would not be included in a "Direct Cremation?

Insurance - If the service is paid with insurance expect to pay an insurance assignment fee, you will pay a certain percentage for the processing and maybe mailing fees. usually no more than 10% of the contract charges. If you are being charged more, re-consider that location.

Weight and size of the deceased - If the deceased weighs over a specific weight, you will be asked to pay more for the cremation process, depending on the weight of the deceased. This is not a ploy to insult but it is the reality of the industry. It takes more fuel and time in the retort (Cremation Oven) to cremate an obese person, thus less cremations in one day by that facility. Usually it is $1 = 1lb. over 250lbs. This should reflect once again on the cash advance section under "Crematory Fee's" if it does not. You are being marked up by the funeral home for their profit.

Taxes - Taxes are paid on merchandise only, this will be the cremation container. Look at the "merchandise" section of your contract, it will tell you exactly what you will be paying taxes on.

It wasn't meant to be this way...

Remember, cremation was meant to be the most affordable way to assist a family in providing closure while providing a disposition for the deceased. It originally started out to be affordable, economical and allowing the family the option of doing something privately with the cremains. Since its full scale introduction into the funeral industry it has become the most abused and manipulated form of disposition. Corporate funeral and some independent funeral institutions are literally profiting thousands of dollars on a procedure that at most costs between $100 and $300.  Please shop around for an affordable solution. You do not have to pay those high prices, the solution could be no more than a mile away down the street and around the corner at the next location.

Miguel Legaspi


  1. This is very comprehensive and all encompassing post. Keep it up!

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