Whether you have a loved one who's requested cremation or you’re looking into it as part of your own end-of-life planning, you may have questions about the process. Below we’ve compiled some of the most asked questions to help you understand the process, associated time frame, and how to go about collecting ashes afterward.
How long does cremation take?
The entire cremation timeframe — including any waiting period, authorization and the actual cremation — can take anywhere from four days to two weeks from start to finish. The cremation itself takes about three to four hours, with another one to two hours for processing.
Once a body is cremated, it typically takes seven to ten days to return the ashes to the family.
What do I need to consider in my cremation timeframe?
“How long does cremation take?” mostly depends on your location, as the waiting periods, authorization process, and paperwork requirements vary by state. When your loved one passes, you can call a crematorium and they will take care of the remains in their facilities while you take care of preparations — like getting the proper authorization.
Here’s what you need to consider before you can begin to plan for a cremation:
The death certificate
A cremation can only be scheduled after the death certificate has been filed with your local registrar. States have varying regulations on filing the death certificate. In California, for example, it must be filed electronically and can take several days to be processed. Generally, once the crematorium reaches out to the doctor for the death certificate, it will be filed within 72 hours. However, if the coroner is involved in a post-mortem investigation into the cause of death, this can delay the death certificate by up to a week.
Some states require waiting periods before a cremation, while others require that it take place within a certain timeframe. Texas, for example, has a 48-hour waiting period and Illinois has a 24-hour waiting period. On the other hand, Minnesota requires that cremation take place within six days if there is refrigeration, or 72 hours without it.
Typically the amount of time it takes to get the death certificate usually takes up this waiting period. Look into your local regulations to learn about waiting periods in your area.
Even if your loved one specified cremation in their end-of-life wishes, you’ll need to get cremation authorization from the person who has the authority to sign off on the process. Again, this varies by state, but it often falls with the person listed as Power of Attorney or the spouse of the deceased. If neither of those exist, the authority falls to the surviving children.
Scheduling the cremation
After the death certificate has been filed and the proper authorization has been received, a cremation can be scheduled. The time frame for the cremation generally remains up to the family. Families who want to view the body or have a religious service before the cremation usually can do so; you will need to check with your cremation center to learn more about their policies. Ideally, the cremation will occur right after the funeral or the next day.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re considering how long a cremation takes is weekends and holidays. Some crematoriums will provide services on these days for an extra fee, but many do not. When you’re planning a cremation timeframe, keep in mind that most lengths of time are in business days, not seven days a week.
Finally, the cremation itself takes between three and four hours, depending on the size of your loved one, the casket material and the type of cremation. Processing the cremains takes another one to two hours after the cremation.
How long does it take to get ashes after cremation?
Collecting ashes after cremation is relatively easy. Your crematorium will schedule a day and time to deliver them to you. This often makes up a large part of the total cremation timeframe, as it can take anywhere from seven to ten days. However, you may be able to pick them up from the crematorium the day after the cremation.
You probably chose an urn, box, or some other closed receptacle during your cremation planning. Often, if no receptacle is chosen, the cremains are poured into a plastic bag, which is placed inside a box. This is because crematoriums are required to have the ashes stowed safely in a durable container with a lid. If you plan to divide or scatter the ashes or you’re just not sure what you want to do with them yet, you may want to choose this option.
If you are planning to inter the ashes in a cemetery, you can make arrangements to have them transported to the final resting place.
What can I do with the ashes after I receive them?
There are a number of options available for what can be done with a person’s ashes; it all depends on how you want to memorialize your loved one. Many people choose to:
- Place the urn somewhere in their home, so the family can view it when spending time together.
- Keep their loved ones close by at all times with cremation jewelry.
- Scatter ashes in a meaningful place, like a national park or the ocean.
- Pick a private and protected tree in a memorial forest.
Collecting ashes after cremation and choosing what to do with them can be one of the most emotional times for grieving friends and family. We hope this information will give you peace while making difficult end-of-life plans.