Frequently Asked Questions



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Questions about Cremation

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If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?

Depending on the cemetery’s policies, you may be able to have your cremated remains put into an urn and buried in the same grave space on top of your spouse’s casket. As an alternative, if there is space next to your spouse, you may be able to bury the urn in the available space.

Why do states have laws regarding a waiting period before a body can be cremated?

Because the cremation process is irreversible, many states require a waiting period of up to 48 hours after death before a body is released to cremation.

What religions accept or condone cremation?

Protestants have no restrictions against cremation. Just as many Protestants choose cremation as traditional burial. In 1963, the Vatican, lifted the prohibition against cremation for Catholics, but did not condone the practice. In 1983, Canon law was revised to allow both cremation and burial as a means of final disposition for Catholics. Although the Church still prefers traditional burial over cremation, a rising number of Catholics are choosing to be cremated.

Are there any religions that do not approve of cremation?

Muslims, or those of Islamic faiths, and Orthodox Jews forbid cremation.

Can you ship cremated remains?

Yes. However, currently the only way you can legally ship cremated remains is through the United States Postal Service via Priority Mail Express. There are specific requirements for preparing, packaging, and shipping human or animal cremated remains. USPS has provided guidelines in their document “How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains.”

Learn more about shipping requirements from the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Can you transport cremated remains by air within the United States?

Most airlines will allow you to transport cremated remains, either as air cargo, or as carry-on or checked luggage (traveling with you). You should check with the airline to determine their exact policies on either shipping or handling as luggage, and make sure the contents are identified as cremated remains. You will also need to review the Transportation Security Administration requirements.

You should consult a licensed funeral director at both the point of departure and the destination to find out if there are any local laws that need to be observed as well. Arrive early in order to pass through security clearance, and carry the death certificate, certificate of cremation, and any other relevant documents with you.

Read more about transporting cremated remains by air.

Can you transport cremated remains internationally by air?

Yes. But because each country has its own rules and regulations, transporting cremated remains can be complicated both from a logistical and a legal standpoint. Contact the embassy for each country you will be transporting the cremated remains to or from. Their embassy is your best source to find out what specific rules, legal requirements, and any other authorizations may be required. When shipping cremated remains internationally, it is advisable that you work with a funeral home, cremation provider, or a company that specializes in the shipment of human remains.

Read more about transporting cremated remains by air.

Why would someone want to ship cremated remains?

  • More families are choosing direct cremation, where there is no funeral service involved. In some situations, the crematory ships the ashes straight back to the family unless arrangements are made to pick them up.
  • In case of a death away from home, the next of kin might decide to have their loved one’s body cremated and the ashes shipped, due to the higher expense of having to embalm and transport a body back home.
  • A family may elect to distribute the cremated remains of a loved one between other family members at other locations in the United States or another country.
  • A person may want to send the cremated remains of a pet or a loved one to an artisan or craftsperson who will incorporate the ashes into jewelry or other works of art.

How can I be sure I’ve received the correct cremated remains?

Any reputable and responsible cremation facility will have a set of operating procedures and policies in place (also known as “chain of custody”). These processes are designed to reduce or eliminate human error while providing the client with the highest level of service. If you have any concerns or questions about this issue, ask your funeral home or cremation provider to explain their chain of custody process to you.

Is cremation the preferred option if someone dies of an infectious or communicable disease?

According to the World Health Organization, there are no health advantages to cremation over burial, although in some areas of the world cremation may be preferred due to religious or cultural reasons. In the case of a medical epidemic, it is better for the community to leave handling of the bodies to trained medical staff who understand infection control and can make sure that proper practices are in place during transport and disposition of the body.

Are cremated ashes sterile?

Yes. The cremation process destroys any bacteria or microscopic organisms that were present in the body.

What happens when a funeral home cremates a body, but the ashes go unclaimed?

The problem of unclaimed cremated remains continues to increase along with the rise in U.S. cremation rates. When cremated remains are not picked up by the family, the funeral home usually keeps them in storage, sometimes indefinitely. At least one state, Massachusetts, has passed laws that allow the funeral home to scatter or bury cremated remains that go unclaimed for more than a year.

Do cremated ashes pose any kind of health hazard?

No. Cremated remains are essentially sterile, having been purified during the cremation process.

Can you bury the body of a pet and its owner together?

Some pet cemeteries will accept human remains, but in most states it is illegal to bury pets in human cemeteries. Florida is an exception to this law in that it allows human and non-humans to be buried together. Notwithstanding, it is a fairly common practice for the pet owner to ask the funeral director to secretly place the urn of a deceased pet into the casket prior to its being sealed and placed in the burial vault.

Can the crematory use the same vessel for cremating pets and human remains?

No. It is against the guidelines of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association for a crematory to use the same chamber for cremating human and animal remains. If the crematory offers both pet and human cremation services, there must be a separate retort for cremating animals.

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