Cremation Funeral Planning Guide California: What Should You Pay?

If you’re planning a funeral in California, you probably have some questions about the process.

How much should you pay? Who are the best providers?

In this guide, I’ll take you through every decision that needs to made.

I’ll discuss the cremation process, costs, laws, and scattering ashes.

I will also recommend some very trusted funeral providers who will take care of you.

Here is my breakdown of everything you need to plan a cremation in the great state of California.

Cremation in California

Partially because of its high population, California has one of the highest rates of cremation in the country, with over 60% choosing it over traditional burial.

The costs vary depending on your budget, final wishes and where in California you live.

The Process

In making your decision, you may want to know exactly what happens during the process of cremation.

Here is a brief overview of what the process entails.

For more detailed information, feel free to take a look at this cremation guide as a reference.


After a death has occurred, the funeral home or crematorium that you’re working with will come to pick up the body.

They transport it from the place of death to the crematorium.

After that, there is some paperwork to do before they can prepare for the cremation.


Once they have the death certificate and all proper permits in hand, the crematorium will prepare the body by removing anything that can’t be cremated (such as jewelry).

They will also remove any pacemakers or therapeutic implants.

The Cremation

The cremation chamber is heated to a temperature of about 2000℉.

The body is then moved into the chamber, either automatically or manually.

Organic matter is incinerated and bones reduced to fragments.

This process takes about two hours.

Direct Cremation

This option is all about simplicity.

The cost of a direct cremation includes transportation, paperwork and the cremation itself.

It does not include a funeral, memorial service or a viewing.

It’s sometimes called a “low-cost cremation” or a “simple cremation.”

Scattering Ashes

Scattering a loved one’s ashes from a boat or in some special place can be a deeply meaningful way to say good-bye.

Each state has different laws and regulations about where you can scatter ashes and the precautions that need to be taken.

Here are the up to date laws in California.

Where Can You Scatter Ashes?

There are many options to choose from when deciding where to have a scattering.

You can do it on the ocean, in a public park or even in your own backyard.

However there are a few things to keep in mind


Instead of scattering, you may consider burying your loved one’s ashes in the ground in a cemetery.

This gives you a place to visit where you can feel close to your loved one.

Other options: placing an urn inside a columbarium or mausoleum.

At sea

The Federal Clean Water Act bans the scattering of ashes within three nautical miles of land.

Unless it is biodegradable, you are also required to dispose of the container separately.

Don’t forget to notify the EPA within 30 days of the scattering.

Private land

You are free to scatter ashes on private land as long as you get written consent from the owner.

If it is your own land, no precautions are necessary, except that you must dispose of the container separately.

Federal land

The law requires that you get permission before scattering ashes on federal land.

However, this law is not really enforced. As long as you do so quietly and discreetly, you won’t find any resistance.

Just be sure to keep the remains well away from public trails and waterways.

By air

There are no laws that specifically regulate dropping ashes from the air.

Keep in mind that federal law does prohibit the dropping of any object that might hurt people down below (such as the container).

Scattering Services

There are a number of companies in California that specialize in scattering ashes.

These have some unique offerings to make a scattering ceremony meaningful and memorable.

If you are looking for something like this, here are our picks for scattering services in California.

A Journey With Wings

A father-daughter team of pilots use their skills to provide scattering ceremonies by air.

They will work with you to create a customized and unique experience.

You can even choose to have the ashes scattered over a special spot.

Davey’s Locker Burial At Sea

This company has been providing “burial at sea” scattering services for over 20 years.

They use several sites along the California coastline including Newport Beach, Long Beach and Huntington Beach (to name a few).

The Angel’s Ashes

This prestigious company won the Best of Long Beach For Funeral Services and Cemeteries in 2017.

They take families out for scattering ceremonies using a US Coast Guard certified vessel.

Unlike other companies listed here, the Angel’s Ashes is a non-profit, which helps keep costs low.

Funeral Costs in California

There are many moving parts in the big picture of funeral and cremation costs.

An array of choices are available, and costs for these differ depending on where you live.

It’s important to be clear about exactly what you want. This will help guide your budget.

Funeral Costs

The average cost of a funeral in California ranges from $2700 to more than $10,000.

The wide range is because there is so much variety in post-death options.

The kind of service you want has a big influence on the final cost, as does location.

Cremation Costs

The average price for cremation in California ranges from $600 to $3000, making it an affordable alternative to a traditional funeral.

The overall cost will vary depending on (again) the style of service you want, as well as what city you’re in.

Average Cremation Cost

Here is a breakdown by city of what you can expect to pay for cremation in California.

Average cost in Los Angeles

The cost of a direct cremation in Los Angeles averages around $1524.

In the immediate area, you can find direct cremation providers who charge as little as $625, so it’s worth shopping around.

Average cost in the Bay Area

The cost of direct cremation is comparatively low here because there are a number of competing companies specializing in low-cost cremation.

Prices for direct cremation in the Bay Area (which includes San Jose, San Francisco, Stockton and Oakland) average between $650 and $850.


In Sacramento, the average cost for a direct cremation is $1642.

However, Sacramento is also home to many providers who specialize in low-cost cremation. Because of this, it’s possible to have a direct cremation here for as little as $695.

Northern California

Cremation costs are slightly higher in Northern California.

The cost of direct cremation varies between around $995 and $1400, depending on which city you live in.

Southern California

The costs of Southern California are lower than other areas.

The average cost is $1358.

However, you can find providers who offer this service for as low as $600.

Burial Costs

Not surprisingly, burial in California is significantly more expensive than cremation.

An immediate burial, without any ceremony or viewing, has an average cost of $1790. Prices range from as low as $660 to as high as $4400.

A full service burial (with a graveside service, a hearse and a viewing) will cost you about $4250. But this cost can range from $2770 to $9770.

Best Cremation Services in California

The choice of a cremation service is a big deal.

Besides wanting to keep costs down, you also need to make the process of saying goodbye as meaningful as possible.

We have selected the cremation services for each city that will give you the best value for your money.

Los Angeles

If you are seeking cremation services in the “City of Angels,” there are plenty of choices, even in terms of cost.

You don’t have to settle for mediocre service, no matter what your budget is.

The companies below can meet your needs effectively and affordably.

Tulip Cremation

Tulip Cremation offers direct cremation starting as low as $700.

All arrangements can be made over the phone or online, saving you time and hassle.

They pride themselves on giving honest, down-to-earth advice to their customers.

Convenience is another perk of working with this company: they promise that arrangements can be finalized in about 15 minutes or less.

Neptune Society Los Angeles

The Neptune Society has been providing cremation services to residents of Los Angeles and Sherman Oaks for 45 years.

They specialize in prepaid cremation plans and are committed to working within your budget.

You can contact them by phone or make arrangements online. They also offer free seminars to learn more about them.

DFS Memorial Los Angeles

Simplicity and dignity are hallmarks of this company, as is affordability: they offer direct cremation for just $625.

They honor all religious faiths and they are available for advice 24 hours a day.

DFS Memorial consists of a chain of family-owned businesses throughout the U.S.

San Diego

When we think of San Diego, we automatically think of year-round warm weather and miles of beautiful beaches.

But San Diego also has some of the most affordable cremation costs.

With historical roots in Native American and Mexican culture, post-death rituals are important here, and the best cremation providers in San Diego honor that.

Trinity Funeral Services

Affordable and friendly, Trinity Funeral Services advertises a cost of just $595 for direct cremation.

Their approach is simple, with a goal to keep overhead costs low and prices down.

They use a crematorium within San Diego County to make the process more convenient.

California Cremation

Respectful and timely cremation services can be arranged with this company entirely online.

You can order and pay for everything without having to leave your home. Ashes are shipped to you after the cremation.

Staff is available 24 hours a day by phone to guide you through the process.

San Jose

The global and affluent culture of San Jose might make it more challenging to find affordable cremation services.

But there is a small handful of companies which work to give you the best possible care for your money.

Oceanview Cremations

This company advertises caring and compassionate service and affordable prices.

Their price for direct cremation is only $769. This includes picking up the body from the place of death and moving it directly to their crematorium.

A user-friendly website and 24-hour availability by phone makes the planning process simple and convenient.

Bay Area Cremation Society

This is one of the few companies that have their own crematorium on-site, a great way to streamline the process and keep costs down.

They have been in business in the area for the last 15 years.

San Francisco

The City By the Bay boasts a vibrant culture and rich history.

Residents of San Francisco enjoy high incomes and an equally high standard of living.

But even so, quality cremation services do not have to come with a high cost.

Best Cremation Care

This company advertises a price of $699 for direct cremation.

The price includes transporting the body, storing it securely, and filing the death certificate.

It also includes a cremation container and a temporary urn.

Additional fees may include a disposition fee (if you want to send ashes to multiple locations) and copies of the death certificate.

Tulip Cremation San Francisco

Like its counterpart in Los Angeles, Tulip Cremation offers the opportunity to arrange cremation services completely online.

A Family Care Team carries out every aspect of the process, from transporting the body all the way to delivering the ashes to your home.

Cremation Laws

There are a number of laws and regulations surrounding cremation. These will differ depending on where you live.

Here are some regulations to keep in mind if you are planning a cremation in California.

How long does cremation take in California?

Cremation cannot take place until the service provider has received a signed death certificate from the attending doctor or medical examiner. This may take a few days.

On average, you can expect to receive your loved one’s ashes in 7 to 10 days.

Do you need a permit for cremation?

Your cremation provider must secure a cremation permit from the county before starting the cremation process.

This permit must be signed by the cremation provider and by family members.

How do you get a death certificate in California?

The best way to get a death certificate is to simply ask the person who files it for you at the time of death. It’s a good idea to get at least 10 copies.

If you were unable to do this, you can also download a mail-in order form from the website of the California Department of Public Health.

Is embalming required in California?

California law requires that a body must be refrigerated or embalmed within 24 hours of death. In addition, embalming is required for bodies being transported in a carrier (such as an airplane).

However, there is an exception to this rule for families that want a home burial.

Is a casket necessary for burial or cremation in California?

A casket is not required for burial in California. However, the cemetery may have rules about the kind of container you can use.

You are not required to use a casket for cremation, either. In fact, funeral homes are required by law to make alternative containers available.

Leave a Reply