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CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Funerals > Embalming

Embalming Cost


How Much Does Embalming Cost?

 
 average costMedium: $200-$700 
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Embalming is a chemical process used to slow the decomposition of a dead human body. It is usually optional, particularly if the body is not going to be on public display and if the burial or cremation will be done within a week of the death. Even when embalmed, a body will eventually decompose.

Typical costs:

  • Embalming is done by funeral homes or mortuaries and can cost $200-$700, depending on local rates and the size and condition of the body. Embalming a body that has been autopsied or has extensive injuries often costs more than embalming an uninjured and intact body.
  • Typically the embalming fee does not cover the related tasks of washing, dressing, cosmetically preparing the body and placing it in the casket. These charges can add another $95-$400 or more, depending on the local rates and the amount of cosmetic restoration needed, bringing the total cost to $295-$1,100.
  • For example, Magnolia Funeral Home[1] in Louisiana charges $325-$525 for embalming and $125 for other body preparation work, or $325-$650 total; Mueller-Bies Funeral Home in Minnesota lists $490 for embalming and $185 for other preparation, or $490-$675 total; and Ocean Grove Memorial Home[2] in New Jersey shows an average sample price of $945 for embalming and all other preparation.
Related articles: Casket, Funeral Service, Gravesites, Funeral

What should be included:
  • When a body is embalmed, it is drained of blood and gases, and chemicals are used to temporarily slow decomposition. (The other option is to refrigerate the body until it is buried or cremated.) The American Society of Embalmers provides a brief overview of the embalming process[3] .
  • Embalming became more common in the United States during the Civil War, when the war dead were embalmed before being shipped long distances. The National Museum of Funeral History provides a history of modern embalming[4] .
  • State laws differ, but generally embalming is only legally required when: the body will be transported from one state or country to another by airplane or train; if there is more than a specific length of time (usually a week, but it varies by state) between the death and the burial or cremation of the body; or if death was caused by a communicable disease and embalming is likely to slow the spread of that disease (a rare situation). Under federal law, known as the Funeral Rule[5] , embalming can't be done without prior written permission from the person responsible for making the final arrangements for the body. The Federal Trade Commission provides an overview of the Funeral Rule[6] .
  • It's possible to have a private family viewing without embalming (the body will be kept refrigerated) but many funeral homes require embalming if there is any sort of public viewing. A combination of embalming and cosmetic enhancements can make a dead body more attractive and life-like for public viewing as part of a visitation or wake, or for an open casket funeral. Some funeral industry experts argue that viewing the body[7] after it has been embalmed and cosmetically prepared has a beneficial effect on mourners, giving them comfort and closure. However, the nonprofit Funeral Consumer Alliance[8] argues that embalming uses harsh chemicals that are bad for the environment, and in many cases is an unnecessary expense.
  • Embalming is either strongly discouraged or prohibited in some Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i faiths, according to the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance[9] .
Shopping for embalming:
  • A local nonprofit funeral or memorial society[10] can help determine if embalming is necessary, and will provide information about all aspects of the process of arranging for the final disposition of a body.
  • Each funeral home is required to give anyone inquiring about costs with a general price list (GPL) as specified by federal law. The nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance explains how to read a funeral home price list[11] , including possible pitfalls.
  • Funeral homes and mortuaries generally offer the same services at similar prices. The difference is that funeral homes do not offer cremation on site and in most places mortuaries can offer on-site cremation. Search for local companies with the National Funeral Directors Association or the Selected Independent Funeral Homes[12] , or at TheFuneralSite.com.
  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau[13] .
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External Resources:
  1.  www.magnoliafuneralhome.com/2010_GPL.pdf
  2.  www.ogmhognj.com/PrInfABurialW.htm
  3.  www.amsocembalmers.org/docs/embalming-process.pdf
  4.  www.angelfire.com/rebellion2/acwundertaker/history1.html
  5.  www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/funeral/index.shtm
  6.  www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0070-shopping-funeral-services
  7.  www.amsocembalmers.org/docs/viewing.pdf
  8.  www.funerals.org/frequently-asked-questions/funeral-arrangements/48-what-you-should-kno...
  9.  www.funerals.org/faq/48-what-you-should-know-about-embalming
  10.  www.funerals.org/affiliates-directory
  11.  www.funerals.org/frequently-asked-questions/funeral-arrangements/28-arrangements/47-how...
  12.  www.selectedfuneralhomes.org/
  13.  www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/
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