The Future Of The Funeral Industry

Moving Past Traditional Funeral and Burial Services

Path in a cemetary with flowers on graves on both sides

Funeral services have been around as long as man has. They give family members the ability to have the space and time to grieve, process and pay respects for their lost loved ones. While the funeral industry boomed into a multi-billion industry, traditional funerals are not eco-friendly or wallet friendly which has caused people to turn to alternatives to the traditional funeral and burial processes.

According to NFDA, in 2010 the percentage of traditional funerals was 53.3% while cremation was well below at 40.4%. By 2015, we saw a huge jump in the number of cremations with a percentage of 47.9% while traditional funerals fell to 45.2%. Impressively it is projected that by 2025 cremation rates will be 63.3% while traditional funerals fall to 30.9%.

With these numbers in mind, there are plenty of factors why people are moving away from traditional funerals, the main reason being the cost. Funerals are expensive and the industry and price grow steadily every year, making them difficult for some families to afford. Below is a chart that compares the basic expenses included and total cost in a traditional funeral versus a cremation.

Traditional Funeral Expenses

Embalming Process
Visitation and Memorial Services
Burial Plot Cost
Gravesite Expenses
Casket Price
Vault or Coffin Container
Funeral Home Basic Fee
Facilities and Staff to Manage Viewing
facilities and Staff to Manage Ceremony
Transportation Fees (hearse, service car, transporting to and from funeral home)
Cost of opening the ground, placing remains in the ground and actual burial

Cremation Expenses

Basic service Fees
Cremation Fee
Transportation Fees
Cremation Casket

Optional Expenses For Viewing/Memorial Services:
Embalming Process
Visitation and Memorial Services
Funeral Home Basic Fee
Facilities and Staff to Manage Viewing
Facilities and Staff to Manage Ceremony

Average Total Cost: $9,000+

Average Total Cost: $800-$3,000

While a traditional funeral offers plenty of services, cremations, even if they include viewing/memorial services, are still regularly a third of the price of traditional funerals making them a more affordable option. While losing a loved one is tragic and celebrating their life is important, families can end up going into debt and add unnecessary extra stress over simply trying to afford the outlandish cost that is involved in a traditional funeral.

Other Notable Funeral Industry Trends

While cremation is quickly taking over as the first option for families, there are other contemporary trends popping up in the industry that cut costs, allow for a more hands-on experience, safely bring more people together and offer options beyond basic burials and cremation processes.

Virtual Funerals

Due to COVID-19, virtual funeral services come on the scene in a huge way and are proving to be a growing trend. While many funeral homes have implemented accommodations out of necessity, the popularity of them might transform virtual funerals into a staple service in the funeral industry. With apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Periscope, and other professional streaming services, this trend is beneficial in the growing digital age by allowing people to attend regardless of location, transportation, or health.

Integrating Technology

In addition to virtual funerals, technology has been introduced into the funeral industry in a major way. Since many people rely on the internet for information, all industries must increase their online presence and the funeral industry was no exception. Beyond just being able to offer consumers access to the valuable information, some funeral homes allow you to request funeral services directly through their website. Another emerging technology trend is headstone technology, this is when NFC-enabled microchips or QR codes are embedded into a weather-proof headstone allowing visitors to access online websites that have images, information, and videos about their loved one.

Body Donation

Whole body donation is an end-of-life option that is not only cost effective but incredibly beneficial to healthcare research and education. Opting for a whole body donation program can be done before death and after death, the program will work with families after death and typically covers the cost of transportation, cremation, paperwork and returning a loved one’s remains. This option is a huge financial relief for families and offers amazing strides in disease/cancer research, medical education, and surgical device development for generations to come.

At-Home Funerals

As the name states, at-home funerals are done typically in a family member’s home and are legal in all states. Home funerals cut down on many common funeral costs and are considered to be eco-friendly and helps families process their grief by being personally involved. Some common cut costs are by opting for freezing instead of embalming and, though it is not required, using a Death Midwifery in place of a traditional funeral home director. Now, there are nine states that require you to work with a funeral director on some level whether it’s to file a death certificate or supervise a funeral and burial.

Creative Alternatives to Cremation

While cremation services’ popularity grows, so do the creative alternatives to a typical cremation urn or scattering. Families can opt to use cremated remains to do a space burial, tree planting burial, sea burial and can even be incorporated into fireworks. Cremated remains can also be made into ever-lasting gifts such as memory diamonds, memory glass, parting stones, one-of-a-kind paintings, and vinyl records. Other alternatives to actual cremation include:

1. Aquamation – the process of being “bathed” in water which helps speed up the deterioration process in place of typical cremation processes that use fire.
2. Promession – this is the process where a body is transformed into fertilizer. The process starts by freezing a body in liquid nitrogen then turning into a powder. This eco-friendly burial method helps give back to the earth by helping plant life grow with a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
3. Dissolution – a strong chemical process that is quick and efficient at rapidly breaking down a body. The body immediately dissolves and there are no remains that can be returned to family members.
4. Resomation – this eco-friendly burial method decomposes a body using alkali and water based solutions that are under high pressure that breaks the body to liquid and bone to ash. The remains can be recycled into a garden or collected in a traditional urn.

Choosing how to grieve the loss of a loved one is a personal option for families to decide for themselves. While the traditional funeral and burial always have the appeal of bringing everyone together and offering a place to visit and pay respect to loved ones, the number of alternatives is growing every year. The funeral industry regularly sees more personalized, cost effective, eco-friendly, and intimate ways to celebrate the life of a passed loved one being introduced.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.