Barbara Fradkin – FLORIDA TODAY

Q: I was advised to pre-pay my funeral expenses. How do I decide between a traditional burial or cremation?

A:  This is a great question about a seldom-discussed topic. It’s actually wise to plan and pre-pay your funeral (as off-putting as that may seem) for several reasons: You pay at today’s prices, you relieve your loved ones of decision-making while they are grieving, and (for us control freaks) your sendoff is exactly the way YOU want it.

My friend died from breast cancer.  As her disease progressed, she planned her funeral alongside her husband and children, to spare them additional pain after her passing. She picked her music, the readings she wanted, and even details about roses to be distributed to the ladies present.  She was cremated prior to the memorial, and her urn was there, along with a beautiful photo showing her vibrant and healthy.

For anyone unsure which route to take (burial or cremation), let me explain some differences.  When the body is cremated, it is incinerated, and only ashes remain. With a burial, the body is intact.  Both options can take place before or after a funeral/memorial service. In the case of a burial, the body can be interred in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum. The ash “cremains” can be kept by the family, scattered (perfectly legal in Florida), buried in the ground, or entombed in a columbarium. Cremation is generally the more economical choice.

Many people consider the impact on the environment. Some people will say there is a significant amount of pollutants released during the cremation process. Others point to the lack of biodegradable materials in traditional caskets, as well as the toxicity of embalming fluids, as the reason they think cremation is a more green choice.

Then there is religion. The Catholic Church lifted its ban on cremation in the 1960’s. Although the vast majority of Protestant denominations also allow it, some fundamentalist Christian branches, along with the Eastern Orthodox Church and Islam do not permit cremation. Presbyterians and Mormons prefer a burial for the intact body. Judaism has traditionally shunned cremation, although some Jews now accept the practice. Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists prefer cremation, believing the soul is then released from the physical form.

Ron Skitowski from National Cremation puts it well: “Choosing burial or cremation is really about what’s best for your family. Any pre-planning you do serves the loved ones you leave behind. Making your final choices now allows them to begin healing sooner.”

Want more information? One Senior Place holds monthly seminars on this topic. Check the event schedule at or call me at 321-751-6771.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Barbara Fradkin is a Social Worker and a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place in Viera.