JurisdictionUnited States,Federal
CitationVol. 34 No. 1 Pg. 8
Publication year2021
No. Vol. 34 No. 1 Pg. 38
Utah Bar Journal
February, 2021

January, 2021

Innovations in Funerals, Burials, and Cremation

by Natalie C. Segall

I practice in the area of estate planning and probate administration, primarily in Park City where I live and work. I regularly meet with Parkites who have pretty specific ideas about body disposition. When I raise the topic, my clients typically provide detailed plans of what they want done with their bodies when they die, the guest list for their “Celebration of Life” party, what music they want played, and even what food they want served. Ideas around what constitutes a proper burial have transformed from the days of pre-paid, pre-arranged religious funerals with a shiny casket, viewing, and internment. Today, there are new and fascinating ways to RIP, many of which are more economical and earth friendly.

Two of the biggest concerns my clients have are the cost and the environmental impacts of traditional funerals, burials, and cremation. According to The Cremation Institute, average costs for funerals and traditional cremation are:

Cremation with a traditional funeral service (casket and viewing): $10,000–$12,000

Cremation with basic funeral service (no viewing): $8,000–$10,000

Direct cremation (no memorial or funeral): $2,000

Burial with traditional service (viewing then service at cemetery plot): $15,000

Burial with memorial service (no viewing): $10,000

Funeral home costs: $2,000

Caskets: $2,300

Embalming: $600

Cemetery Plot: $1,000–$4,000

Burial Vault: $1,395

Headstone: $1,500

Viewing/Calling Hours: $450

Memorial Ceremony: $500

Transportation: $325

Flowers: $500–$700

See Funeral Costs Tips for 2020: How I Surprisingly Saved $3400, Cremation Inst., (last visited Sept. 27, 2020).

However, People’s Memorial Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington that provides information and education on after-death arrangements, found that cremation prices may vary by as much as 750% and burial prices vary by over 400% in Washington, according to its biennial survey last done in 2018. See Price Survey Results, People’s mem’l ass’n, (last visited Sept. 27, 2020); see also Compare Mortuary At-A-Glance, Funeral Consumers Alliance of Utah, available at (last visited Sept. 27, 2020), for Utah prices broken down by region.

Environmental factors are a major deterrent for traditional burials, which include the use of chemicals like formaldehyde, placing the embalmed body in a plastic-lined concrete vault, taking up “real estate” in a cemetery, and marking a grave with a protruding headstone. Becky Little, The Environmental Toll of Cremating the Dead, Nat’l GeoGraphic (Nov. 5, 2019), is-cremation-environmentally-friendly-heres-the-science/. Cremation, previously thought to be the most eco-friendly choice, actually “requires a lot of fuel, and it results in millions on tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.” Id. “The average U.S. cremation, for instance, ‘takes up about the same amount of energy and has the same emissions as about two tanks of gas in an average car,’ according to Nora Menkin, the executive director of People’s Memorial Association.” Id. It is estimated that “one cremation produces an average of 534.6 pounds of carbon dioxide” and that could mean “cremations in the U.S. account for about 360,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.” Id.

Eco-Burial and Green Burial

There are alternatives to cremation or being embalmed, put in a casket, which is then placed in a vault and then buried in the ground.

Eco-burials are burials where no embalming fluid is used, and there is no traditional casket or vault. Eco-burials take place quickly after death, using a biodegradable container, and bodies are typically wrapped in a simple cloth shroud, although other “container” options are available. For example, wicker baskets are popular in the United Kingdom. See Sussex Willow Coffins, You can also be buried in a cardboard container, Cardboard Coffin Company,, or a traditional pine box, The old Pine Box, There are even companies that produce luxury fabric shrouds such as fine silks and infused linens. For example, Kinkaraco touts a line of fabulous silk shrouds called the “Mort Couture® Luxe Collection.” Mort Couture Luxe Collection, KINKaraCo, https://

In the Jewish faith, the body is not embalmed and is buried as soon as possible after death. See Jewish Funeral Traditions, everplans, (last visited Sept...

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