At The Death: When no prearrangment for funeral has been made.
When individuals or family members have not made funeral arrangements before the time of their death, usually family members call the funeral firm of their choice (which may not be the deceased's) and have the body taken to the funeral home of their choice. Later (within a day or two) the family makes the arrangements in an AT-Need Arrangement conference.
Deceased human remains become "quasi-property" at the time of death. This means that the body, although belonging to the deceased person throughout life, now becomes the "quasi-property" of the legal next of kin or person designated in the deceased person's will [Last Will and Testament] as the Executor of the Estate.
It is that person's or persons' responsibility to decide on the care of the deceased body:
1) to embalm for casketing and viewing, followed by cremation;
2) to cremate the body;
3) to make an anatomical donation of the body (more about that later);
4) to have a full traditional funeral with embalming, viewing, and traditional service and earth burial.
The person or persons must also decide on what the final disposition of the remains will be. With traditional embalming and viewing of the body, without cremation, this could be either earth burial or mausoleum intombment. With cremation (even if you have had embalming, viewing and a service) the cremated remains must be given a final disposition. There are many options for the disposition of these remains:
3) Placed in an urn on a mantle (or elsewhere) in a family member's home;
4) Scattered in a flower garden (one designated for that purpose);
5) Scattered at sea (EPA requires that this be done three miles from the shoreline);
6) Scattered on your private property (please check local laws before using this method of disposal);
7) Placed in a niche of a columbarium;
8) Several or all of the family members may wish to retain a portion of the deceased person's remains. For this purpose, a number of "keepsake" urns may be purchased and the remains divided and placed in these urns for each member;
9) It is also possible now to pay appropriate companies to "blast" your loved one's cremated remains into space;
10) I've heard of a hunter who asked his friends to load the cremated remains of his body into shot gun shells and shoot the remains around his favorite hunting grounds.
There are many other options, but please check your local and state laws before acting! Your local funeral professional will be glad to help you.
With anatomical donation, the body is donated to a medical school for studies by medical students, or for research to find a cure for a specific disease. If you decide you can avoid "funeral" costs by using this donation approach, there are some issues to consider. For instance, if you make arrangements with a medical school prior to your death, consider that if that particular medical school has no space, at the time of death, to take another cadaver? Then other arrangements must be made. If the medical school is able to accept the "gift," after the studies or research have been completed, the remains will be cremated and returned to the legal next of kin or designated legal representative. At that time, a decision must be made on the disposition of the deceased's cremated remains.