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New Options for Disposing of Remains – Have You made Your Choice?

By March 13, 2013Estate Planning

For many years there have been only two legalized methods of disposing of a person’s remains: burial or cremation.  However, with today’s movement towards greener methods of living, we are also looking at greener methods of, well, dying.  In fact, there are two new methods of disposing of one’s remains that are gaining great notoriety and are working towards joining the ranks of corpse disposal in the United States.  These methods are known as Corpse Composting (or freeze-drying) and Resomation.

Corpse Composting is a method that reduces environmental impact on our water, air and soil by avoiding harmful embalming fluid and removing mercury and other metals from the body before it is returned to the earth.  In this method, the body is frozen to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and is lowered in its coffin into liquid nitrogen, making the body very brittle.  A light vibration is then used upon the body and coffin which causes them to disintegrate into an organic powder.  They then use a vacuum chamber to evaporate water from the powder and a magnetic field to remove mercury and other metals.

The powdered remains, when dry, do not decompose.  Generally they are then placed into a new coffin made of corn starch and buried in the upper mulch-forming layers of soil.  The moisture and microorganisms create compost from the coffin and remains in about 6-12 months.  Individuals can choose to have the gravesite at most any location (not required to be in a cemetery), and many choose to plant a tree or bush over the remains as well.

Resomation uses water and alkali to quickly decompose a body, avoiding the high carbon footprint associated with cremation, and using an eighth of the energy.  While enclosed in a silk coffin, the corpse is place in a steel chamber with potassium hydroxide at high pressure.  The temperature is set at 356 degrees Fahrenheit – which is far cooler than the cremation process that can get up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.  The combination of pressure and temperature dissolve the body in only a couple of hours.  Similar to cremation, the bones are then crushed and dental amalgam is removed before the remains are given to the family in an urn.

Resomation is currently legal in six states while Corpse Composting has not yet been approved in the US.  This may be changing, and changing soon, as our country moves towards becoming more “green.”  Both of these processes claim to leave a far smaller carbon footprint on the economy and to provide greater benefits for corpse disposal.  Resomation is currently more expensive than cremation as there are very few facilities that currently provide the service.  As popularity grows and more sites provide Resomation, it is likely that it may become similar in price to cremation – potentially even less costly.  Currently, Corpse Composting, available in the UK, is slightly less expensive than cremation.  All three of these options are less expensive than burial, which involves the purchase of a coffin as well as a plot of land within a cemetery.

While cost may be an issue for some, most people make their choices based upon a number of factors: religion, availability, individual preference, culture, society, family history.  Most individuals have a personal desire as to which method they would like for their own body after they have passed away.  We recommend including your wishes for the disposal of your remains as part of your estate planning.  Make sure that your loved ones also understand your wishes for your funeral and/or memorial services as well.  If you would like your remains to be placed somewhere specific, make note of that.  Your loved ones have to make these decisions during a very difficult time of loss, and knowing your wishes will make the process far easier for them, while allowing them to fully honor your memory.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our offices today at 888.222.1328.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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