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What to Know When Choosing Cremation

Here are some questions and answers about cremation:

What does the price of a cremation include?

A basic cremation — called “direct” cremation by funeral homes — generally includes pickup and transportation of the body, filing necessary paperwork, the actual cremation and the return of the ashes to the family, said Joshua Slocum, executive director with the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Some funeral homes have their own cremation equipment, but others use outside contractors. If an outside provider is used, Mr. Slocum said, consumers should be careful to review the fees to be sure they are not charged twice for similar services.

Rates vary by location, he said, but a reasonable rate for a direct cremation is $800 to $1,200.

Don’t be pressured to buy a coffin. There’s no need for one if someone is being cremated, AARP advises.

The Federal Trade Commission says that no state or local law requires the use of a coffin for cremation and that the funeral home must inform you that alternative containers — such as those made of unfinished wood or even cardboard — are available.

Must I hold a memorial service before or after a cremation?

No. Add-ons like visiting hours or a memorial service are entirely up to you. “You can do everything, or nothing, before the cremation,” Mr. Slocum said. Families sometimes organize their own informal memorial gatherings after the cremation without involving a funeral home.

Are cremation prices available online?

The federal Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide prices for all services, including cremation, upon request by telephone or in person. But the rule, which took effect in 1984, doesn’t address online pricing. Consumer advocates are pushing for the rule to be updated to require funeral homes to post their price lists online.

The F.T.C., which enforces the rule, was scheduled to review it this year, but whether that will happen is unclear. Earlier this year, the commission said that the 10-year review period it uses was not mandatory, and the commission could change timelines if it chooses.

A commission spokesman didn’t respond to a request for an update on the review’s status.

One state, California, requires funeral homes with websites to include pricing information online, or to list services and note that prices are available upon request.

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