Burial vs. Cremation: Personal preferences ranging from simplicity of “green burials” to the traditional to the extravagant

As part of our estate planning process, one of the topics we cover with clients is their preferences regarding being buried or cremated upon their passing, as well as any strong preferences as to pre-planning, location and any special requests or stipulations. Over our many years in this profession, we have seen a trend from an almost uniform preference for burial to a current, almost equal, desire for cremation. However, those wanting cremation often have a much stronger preference than those wanting burial, except when their decision is religiously motivated. Concerns for burial have arisen over costs, hassles, the placement of chemicals in the ground and the use of limited land resources.

A new option now exists, which is becoming more popular with the Baby Boomer crowd, namely a “green burial.” With a green burial, no chemicals are added to the body. The burial is done within a relatively short time after death, and the body is either wrapped in a shroud or is placed in a biodegradable container, such as a cardboard box. The goal is to have the body return to the earth, as part of the circle of life, as soon and as naturally as possible. The grave is marked not with a traditional headstone, but rather a simple plaque or stone. My mother-in-law actually chose this method of burial a couple years ago, before I even realized that this was an option. She wanted to be wrapped in a simple shawl in which to be buried. We had a beautiful ceremony at the cemetery site, which was basically a nice, tranquil field. A small flat plaque marks the site where she was buried.

The burial and cremation options are plentiful and the choice is yours. You can pre-plan what is to happen with your body after your death or you can leave it to your loved ones (or Executor) to make the choice for you. As planners, we just want to make sure you are able to make an informed decision, so we can help ensure your desires are carried out as intended.

For more information on this topic along with a discussion of the new “green burial” movement, please see the article published in The Washington Post on October 6, 2014.

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