Many families may be expecting that a cremation can take place very quickly following the passing of a loved one. However, the process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
The length of time and requirements necessary to conduct a cremation can be surprising to some people. In most states, anyone can plan for a burial and it can be done quickly following a death, but cremation is an involved process. The main reason is because once the deceased is cremated, this process can’t be reversed.
Because of this, most states have restrictions on how soon after a death the cremation can occur. Keep in mind that this process involves different agencies working together and cannot be expedited.
First, the doctor must sign and certify the cause of death and time of death electronically. State laws typically give doctors several days to complete this process. A permit for cremation cannot be granted without a death certificate being filed first.
Once the doctor has filed the death certificate, the medical examiner may also have to approve the cremation, which can take up to several more days.
While the funeral home is waiting for the death certificate they can begin working with the family, however. The next step is to get proper authorization to cremate. This must come from legal next of kin and he or she must sign the required documents before the cremation can take place.
Not just any family member can stand in as the legal next of kin. The decision to cremate must follow a legal chain of command. The first person who can make the decision is a legally surviving spouse. If there is no spouse, then the decision will likely need to be made by a majority of the surviving children. Ex-husbands or wives, partners, friends, or other relatives are typically not able to make this determination, even with a power of attorney.
Once all the appropriate paperwork has been signed the cremation can take place. It’s important to keep in mind though, that the cremation itself is still a process and takes several hours. In some areas, there may also be a waiting period to access the crematorium.
If you have any questions about what to expect, don’t hesitate to ask your funeral director.