When Discussing Your Estate Plan: What To Do With Your Remains

One of the major decisions you will make as a part of your estate plan is how you want your remains handled. Some approach this as a matter of disposal, others as an opportunity for preservation of their legacy. But the options are only getting more interesting if you’re willing to think outside of the box on this issue. For the sensitive readers, if frank discussion of death and the natural processes that accompany it makes you uncomfortable, maybe now would be a great time to check out this excellent estate planning article instead.

Still with us? Let’s get right into the nitty gritty details of some of the more novel approaches to memorializing human remains. If this news story seems a little too intense for you, check out one of our previous estate planning news pieces on celebrity deaths.

Human Composting: Return to the Earth and Create New Life

The idea may seem distasteful on the surface, but stick with it for a moment. Are cremation and burial any more glamorous? With exceptions for religious variation, most folks are fine with burial, an essentially wasteful process (absent other altruistic actions like organ donation, a very cool thing) that involves a return to the earth from whence we all came. But what if your body could continue to provide life as part of a greater ecosystem as a part of that process? Well, it can if you use a human composting service. 

While there are multiple specific methods for human composting, the process involves using natural and biodegradable materials to encourage the remains’ reintegration back into the earth. Some companies use funguses or mushrooms, while others may use a variety of organic materials.

Is Human Composting Legal?

Location will determine if human compositing is a possibility for your own estate planning needs. Those with a specific plan for where they would like their resting place to be would be wise to research well in advance about the legalities of the issue in the relevant jurisdiction. Some, but nowhere near all, states and even smaller units of government have regulations requiring either burial or cremation. Generally, human composting is type of service that is legal where offered. Private providers of such services should be able to advise where they can and cannot operate. This area of law may change in the coming years as more advances in estate planning technology inevitably occur.

Washington was the first brave state to spearhead formal legalization of human composting, thus allowing an industry to flourish.

Why Would I Consider Human Composting or Other Burial Alternatives?

Burial is expensive. Very expensive. Somewhere between $8,000 at the most bare bones to $20,000 on average. Cremation can be cheaper but still runs comparable to the low end of burial. A representative of a major human composting company went on the record to confirm the price of their total service as $5,500.

If you find human composting isn’t as desirable for you, consider some of the other interesting burial alternatives that more Americans are embracing in part to combat end-of-life costs. The LifeGem is yet another memorial novelty, though this type leaves loved ones with a carbon-pressed gem made from the naturally-occuring carbon in your body. The result is a gem that can be mounted on jewelry or other keepsakes. What do you think of these more physically conservative memorialization options? Odds are good that trends that minimize costs and add meaning to the grieving process will have plenty of room in the estate planning market.

Last Updated: 
July 3, 2019

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.

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