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The pros and cons of burial

By Erica Lamberg
Deciding if a burial is the best choice depends on several factors, including religion or spiritual beliefs, cost, and family dynamics. Brett Sayles / Pexels

Deciding if a burial is the best choice will hinge on several factors, including religion or other beliefs, cost, and family dynamics. While it’s considered a more traditional choice, fewer than half of deaths now end in traditional burials. The National Funeral Directors Association reports that burials will be used in only 37 percent of deaths in 2020; cremation is now used more than half the time. By 2040, the association projects burials will account for only 15 percent of final dispositions.

Here are some of the pros and cons of burial.

Pros of burial

Commonality among beliefs

One of the main advantages of burial is that from a religious perspective, it likely will support choices for the most family members or other close loved ones. If there are varying religions in the inner circle, a burial is usually an acceptable option for a wide range of religions or beliefs among family members.

Family tradition

Many families choose to purchase family plots or cemetery plots or spaces together. This tradition can give comfort knowing loved ones are at peace close to each other. This type of purchase can be done in advance.  

A permanent place to visit

A burial in a cemetery offers family and survivors a permanent place to grieve and visit their loved one. The headstone can display special messaging to pay tribute the life of the person lost. Knowing there is a place to visit can be comforting. Visitation can be done whenever a loved one feels they need to visit.

Loved ones can include special things in the coffin or casket

A traditional ground burial offers loved ones a chance to select the outfit the loved one wears, and any special tributes they would like to include. Sometimes people bury photographs, jewelry, notes and other heirlooms. It can be comforting for mourners.

Cons of burial

Higher costs

Burials are usually more expensive than other options. Costs to be considered include funeral service directors, coffins or caskets, flowers, transportation, cemetery costs and other fees. The Federal Trade Commission advises to compare prices from at least two funeral homes and ask a price list. The FTC’s Funeral Rule mandates that funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services. (If you aren't yet working with a funeral home, we have some advice on how to choose the best one for your unique needs.)

Emotions may cause overspending

Planning any memorial service is an emotional time. Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don't really want or need. The FTC cautions consumers shouldn’t overspend due to emotion, or feel compelled to purchase elaborate caskets to honor your loved one. Going into debt is not prudent.

Geography can be a factor

Keep in mind where your loved one’s family and friends reside. If family members move away from the cemetery where the loved one is buried, it may be difficult to visit the gravesite. 

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