Frequenty Asked Questions about Posthumous Matters
Must I embalm my loved-one?
No. No state laws in the United States require embalming. Some states require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a reasonable period of time. Some require embalming if the body is to be on public display. Immediate burial with no such treatment is always an option.
Is there such a thing as “Bring Your Own” coffin?
Yes. Under rules established by the Federal Trade Commission, you are allowed to buy or even make a coffin, casket, shroud or urn. They are available on the Internet from many sources. You can have the container shipped straight to the funeral home. You don’t have to be there when it arrives, although the funeral home may ask you to inspect the casket. You will not have to pay anything to the funeral home for using a unit bought elsewhere.
What’s the difference between a casket and a coffin?
A casket is essentially a rectangular box, though some are oval. The traditional coffin has sloped shoulders.
What is a green casket?
A green casket or coffin is made entirely of biodegradable materials, with no nails, synthetic glues, paint, varnish, or synthetic cloth. Common materials include bamboo, hemp, wool, cotton, cork, teak, willow, rattan, seagrass, banana leaves, and organic cardboard.
Is a coffin necessary for cremation?
No, though many states require a rigid container for cremation.
Are the remains of cremation good for the environment?
No. The "ashes" remaining from cremation have had all organic nutrients burned away. Ashes are actually very alkaline and by themselves are caustic to the soil. They need to be offset with additives to not cause harm—not significant harm, but it is a far stretch from green burial which is omits the harmful act of cremation and actually improves the soil. There are no organic compounds remaining in ashes to be taken up by a tree, for example. Burying a body and planting a tree over it, on the other hand, guarantees that the tree and other life forms will incorporate the elemental remains.
Do I need to buy a cemetery plot before I die?
No, but if you have a preferred place, you’d best buy it beforehand. You can contact a cemetery directly, or you can ask a funeral home to help. In some cases the cemetery is operated by a church or cemetery association (such as Connecticut Green Burial Grounds), in some cases a municipality. You can contact CGBG through this site.
Is there such a thing as a used/rental casket?
Yes. A funeral home can rent you a nice but previously occupied casket from which the interior has been removed and replaced for each previous occupant,. These caskets are usually used for viewing or a funeral service. Afterward the deceased can be removed to a more affordable or appropriate unit.
Can I get a casket emblazoned with the icons and trademarks of the band known as Kiss?
Yes. See . Click on “Unique Caskets.” Other options are the names and logos of sports teams, even the ones that suck. Your funeral home of choice can help you with your unique wishes.
How much does a coffin cost?
The sky’s the limit! And so is the ground. A tricked out upper-end casket of mahogany with all the bells and whistles can cost $20,000 or more. An average range of funeral home offerings start around $700 and goes up from there. A cardboard casket made of 25-35% recycled material produced in a bleach-free process and held together by a starch-based glue can be had for $300. Caskets of organic woven fibers such as banana leaf, willow, seagrass, or rattan, cost between $1,500 and $3,000. A simple pine box can be had for around $1,000. Plus, of course, if there’s anything as inevitable as death and taxes, it’s shipping and handling, but that’s between the buyer and seller, not the funeral home. And yes: you can build your own.
What’s cool about a cardboard casket?
People can write messages on it. Children can draw pictures on it. It blots up tears and it cycles into the ecosystem more quickly than other materials.
Can I be buried in my back yard?
Maybe, but it’s extremely complicated. The rules vary from state to state. Generally, if a Zoning and Health Department approves, you can do it. But wherever you are, you’re going to need a very large yard, a very good lawyer, and a very cooperative Zoning Department and Health Department.
Is burial at sea an option?
Sure! Anchors aweigh! But you have to be at least 3.5 miles from shore and the water has to be at least 600 feet deep. The body and any container must be prepared to sink directly. A funeral director will know the rules, which are determined by whichever state has jurisdiction. Of course if you’re in international waters, you can do whatever you want. U.S. Navy veterans and their dependent families are entitled to burial at sea at no cost.