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How Long Between Death and Cremation?


The average time it takes to cremate a loved one is two weeks from their passing, but what initially happens to your loved one's remains after death depends on where and how they passed, along with a few other factors for consideration.

What to expect after your loved one passes

It is always difficult to cope with the death of a loved one, even if you and your family had time to prepare. If you weren’t expecting your loved one’s passing, your grief may be coupled with confusion and some pressing questions: What do I do now? How long do I have to make decisions and arrangements? How long between death and cremation? What is the next step I have to take?

Common steps between death and cremation

There are several things that must happen between the passing of your loved one and the final memorial or service:

  • Confirming the causes of death with your loved one’s physicians
  • Applying for authorization to cremate
  • Collection of your loved one from their place of passing
  • Respectful preparation and storage of your loved one’s remains
  • Enlisting the services of a licensed funeral director to oversee the process
  • Filing the death certificate with the local county board of health where your loved one passed 

What to expect when planning cremation after a loved one passes

If your loved one was aging or ill, they may have been in a hospital, hospice, or undergoing care at home. In these circumstances, the cause of death is understood and getting the death certificate signed can be more straightforward.

Thirty states don’t require a post-mortem examination before the signing of a death certificate if the deceased had been attended by a medical professional within a certain period of time before the death. The exact requirements can vary by the state or territory, though, so it’s a good idea to call a direct cremation provider for more information on particular requirements in your area. Some examples include:

  • California doesn’t require an exam if the deceased was in hospice care 30 days prior to their passing.
  • Arizona doesn’t require a post-mortem exam if the deceased was attended by a physician within the 36 hours prior to death.
  • Washington D.C. doesn’t require further examination if the deceased was seen by a medical professional in the 10 days prior to their passing. 

When your loved one’s death was unexpected

If your loved one’s passing was unexpected, the time between death and cremation may be longer. If your loved one had not been seeing a doctor or caregiver prior to his or her passing, a post-mortem may be required by law to determine the cause of death. This can delay the signing of the death certificate—and subsequent cremation—for several days.

We understand that this delay can be emotionally painful. However, it is important that the cause of death be accurately determined because it can reveal information that affects the living, such as previously unknown hereditary causes. The time it takes to do the examination is time that you can use to grieve, contact family, and make arrangements for memorializing your loved one.

State laws may impact how long between death and cremation

Some states require a waiting period between death and cremation. Illinois, for instance, requires 24 hours to have passed between the death of a person and their cremation while Texas requires a waiting period of 48 hours.

It’s important to note that even states that don’t have a mandatory waiting period still require a death certificate jointly signed by a medical certifier and a licensed funeral director. The medical certifier can be a physician, coroner, or medical examiner.

Finally, cremation itself can take some time—even if your state doesn’t require a waiting period—for the following reasons:

  • The medical certifier may need more time to sign the attestation if the cause of death needs to be determined and accepted by the state.
  • Your loved one’s passing must be registered with the county and the death certificate is signed by the medical certifier.
  • The county may take time to issue the death certificate, and cremation cannot happen until it is properly registered and authorized with the county government.

The crematorium will also need signed documents from you, the responsible party, that make it clear that you understand the cremation process and are certain this is your wish for your loved one. A direct cremation service focused on family care can guide you through questions about cremation, including state and city laws and regulations.

Ensuring a simple process between death and cremation for your loved one

Grieving takes time. Navigating delays, legal concerns, and paperwork while trying to ensure your loved one’s last wishes are fulfilled and their remains are treated with respect is a lot to handle. You shouldn’t have to do it alone. A straightforward, respectful direct cremation provider can be a great help after your loved one’s passing.

Tulip Cremation’s Family Care Team can help you with the legal and physical process of cremating your loved one’s remains, so that their ashes are returned to you safely for a memorial. In the time between death and cremation, Tulip is always available to help ensure that you—and your loved one—are treated with respect and care.

Tulip’s direct cremation service covers every part of the cremation process between the medical certifier signing the death certificate to the receipt of your loved one’s ashes back home, wherever home is for you. Call our Family Care Team 24 hours a day at (844) 942-4909 or arrange online.

Image courtesy by Shutterstock.