California leads the nation with the highest number of cremations (currently 56 percent), and cremation is expected to grow in popularity among Californians needing end-of-life services. As the practice becomes more common, more people are learning about the cremation process and guidelines for a safe, simple, and natural final disposition.

California cremation providers must comply with federal rules regulating cremation. Additionally, California’s Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau provides guidelines for arranging a local cremation. They are as follows:

Who can make disposition arrangements?

California law lists a number of persons who may legally make disposition arrangements for the deceased, including a spouse, child, parent, or other family member. An appointed conservator, an agent under a California power of attorney for health care, and a domestic partner who is registered with the Secretary of State are also allowed to make arrangements. The law gives priority to the final wishes of the deceased, if they were laid out ahead of time.

How much is a cremation provider allowed to charge?

California law allows cremation providers to set and charge a fee for services. However, they must provide a cost quote over the phone, a General Price List (GPL) and a Casket Price List (CPL) to the client. California cremation prices range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, and are much lower than those of burial. The law allows customers to pick only the services they wish to purchase and create an itemized list. Coroners are allowed to charge fees that vary by county.

Are embalming and a casket required?

Neither is required for a California cremation, but a combustible container is. Many people choose a direct cremation that omits the viewing, eliminating the need for embalming and a casket.

Is a cremation provider or funeral home required?

Under California law, authorized individuals are allowed to care for and prepare the body for final disposition at home, instead of at a funeral home. Those interested in doing so must obtain a Death Certificate, Permit for Disposition, and a combustible container for cremation, as well as make arrangements with the cremation facility.

Is prepaid cremation legal?

The state of California allows individuals to preplan cremation and set aside funds ahead of time for final services. It offers a number of guidelines for prepayment to help protect consumers, including getting a guaranteed price list and setting up an insurance plan or trust.

Can multiple people be cremated at the same time?

Yes, but only with written authorization and permission from the cremation facility. Not many facilities have this capability or allow simultaneous cremation.

Where can I legally store or scatter cremated remains?

Cremated remains may be buried in a plot, interred in a columbarium, kept at home, scattered in a public place that allows it, scattered at a cemetery, or scattered at sea at least 500 yards from shore. When using a scattering service (either by air or sea), the disposer must have a registered pilot or boating license and perform the scattering within 60 days of receiving the remains, unless the family is notified otherwise.