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Why Cremation Takes So Long in Texas

Simply put, cremation takes longer because it cannot be undone.

A body that is buried can be exhumed, should any question arise, however cremation is truly final. Because of this, many states including Texas, legally stipulate how long a crematory must wait before cremation occurs. They also have very specific regulations regarding what must occur before a cremation can occur.

How long must you wait for cremation?

In Texas, the law requires 48 hours to pass before cremation (unless waived by a legal authority). The 48 hour wait time is based on the time of death provided for the death certificate.

Are there any exceptions to the rule and waiting period?

In Texas, yes. A justice of the peace or medical examiner of the county in which the death occurred can approve an early cremation. A court order will provide the same outcome.

The real delay

Reality is the required 48 hours is rarely the reason for extended cremation delays. The most common reasons are:

  • Doctors not quickly certifying the death. In Texas, the doctor has five days to complete his portion of the medical certification once he receives it. Since the cremation process cannot move forward until the doctor has signed, this frequently causes delays in the process.
  • Doctors not participating in the Texas’ online system for certifying deaths. Although they are required by the state to certify deaths electronically, there are still many doctors who do not. In these cases, documents must be provided in printed form to the doctor to be signed and returned to the funeral home. Then the funeral home manually submits the original copy to the county. If the doctor does not complete the form correctly or has any errors, the County/State may reject it and the process starts again from the beginning.
  • One or more of the next of kin do not quickly sign documents. It is common industry practice to ask all persons considered next of kin to sign an acknowledgement stating they are aware that their loved one is being cremated.

How to avoid delays in the cremation process

Because the cremation process requires adherence to government regulations and the promptness of physicians there is potential for delays. The best approach is to select a cremation provider or funeral home you feel will work diligently to assist you in tackling obstacles that may arise. Using a company that does numerous cremations each month can also be helpful because they are likely to know the most about how to navigate the system and identify possible delays before they occur.

The Good news

Although I’ve painted the worst case scenario, it is the exception…not the norm. Most cremations are without delay. And the majority of physicians understand the urgency and sign electronically within a day or two.

My recommendation is to begin cremation planning with the knowledge that delays may occur, but don’t expect it to happen. aCremation recommends that families who want the remains present at the memorial service wait until all paperwork has been signed and an exact date for the cremation is provided by the funeral home. If you want a memorial service soon after the death occurs, be open to having the service without the actual remains present. Then have a private burial or scattering later. By doing this, you are certain to have a special memorial that truly honors your loved one.

About Mary Beth Barnett

Mary Beth Barnett is a licensed Funeral Directors in Texas. Her involvement with aCremation began before our doors opened – researching how we could provide affordable cremations and still keep quality and service standards high. Through this process, she developed a passion for working with families who are going through one of the most stressful phases of life – planning for death.

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