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Should You Consider An Online Cremation Company?



The pros and cons of going online for this outdated service

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So much of life is online these days, but what about death?

If you can handle everything from medical needs to life insurance and estate planning online, should you also handle the physical reality of death that way? Should you go online to have a loved one’s body collected, legally processed and ultimately cremated?

Various cremation startups are saying a resounding “yes,” as more than 50% of dead people in the U.S. are cremated, with that percentage expected to rise to 64% in the next four years, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

Cremation is a business that has changed little, if at all, in decades, and some people find the traditional model clumsy and opaque. (Surveys have shown that the vast majority of traditional cremation companies do not list their full prices online.)

New online cremation companies promise greater transparency, lower costs and less hassle, which is a meaningful concern when you’re already dealing with grief. To find out more about the benefits and limitations of cremation startups, we spoke to Keith Crawford, co-founder and CEO of cremation company Solace.

In this article:

The professionals

Simplicity and transparency

“The traditional model generally involves a visit, or two, in person to a funeral home, a lengthy ‘arrangement’ meeting with a funeral home, and analog paperwork,” says Crawford. “In some cases, these meetings are designed to ‘upsell’ the family on additional services or products.”

While some of these products can be useful (a nicer urn, perhaps), many people aren’t in the best frame of mind to make decisions about them, and the feeling that you shouldn’t snoop when your loved one just died can lead to financial decisions that you usually don’t understand.

Solace, like other cremation startups, “will take someone into our care from basically anywhere: residence, facility, coroner,” says Crawford. They then send the cremated remains to you by mail or via a driver, along with the paperwork.

Online cremation services “are very easy to schedule, either online or over the phone,” says Crawford. “All the paperwork is digitized, there’s generally a fixed price and no upselling. There’s a fee that covers everything.”

If the family has made the decision to go with direct cremation (no viewing, no service) then they really don’t need the old model,” he says. “One of the best comments we get from families after they use our service is that we made it really easy for them and gave them time back to be with their grief.”

Plan ahead

Making cremation arrangements is something you can do with a traditional cremation company or funeral home, but it’s easier with an online company, because everything is online. “The model is built around simplicity,” says Crawford. “We do advance planning for families, which means filling out the digital paperwork and collecting e-signatures, but don’t charge until services are needed. It’s a very simple process to help people plan ahead.”

Arrangements at a distance

If your loved one passes away in a state other than where you live, you may well find it easier to make arrangements online with a digital company that does business in that state (and others), rather than having to find a brick and mortar. cremation service in a state you don’t know well. It is also helpful not to have to make a physical visit if you live thousands of miles from where your loved one died.

The disadvantages

Reporting

Currently, cremation startups only operate in certain areas — Solace, for example, is currently only available in the Portland, Oregon, Southern California and Jacksonville, Florida metro areas. (There are plans to expand to other parts of the country.) So if it’s a service you might be interested in, be sure to check if it’s available in the area where you need it.

Displacement

One reason cremation start-ups are relatively cheap is that their offerings do not include any form of memorial service, and you cannot be present when the cremation takes place. (This means they do not offer a “guarded placement” or “witness cremation.” What they do offer is “direct cremation.”)

Many who use cremation start-ups hold an informal memorial service or celebration of life after receiving their loved one’s remains, but you should think carefully about whether that arrangement is right for you.

For some family members, being present when their loved one is either buried or cremated is an important part of saying goodbye, and that feeling isn’t easily replicated by receiving ashes in the mail. Ask yourself honestly how you feel about it.

If being present during cremation doesn’t seem important, there are many real benefits to starting a cremation. If, on the other hand, you think you’ll want to attend, start looking at bricks and mortar in the area now: It’s not something you want to do at the last minute.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less difficult if they fit your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide and should not be used for tax, legal or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to obtain advice from their own tax or legal advisor.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a term life insurance policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in some states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in some states, including NC) issued by CM Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Police and driver form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by AM Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is valid from 1 April 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other credit rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The driver is not available in all states and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual is responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made available under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party providers (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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