MSU Extension Offers a New MontGuide to Help You Decide

BOZEMAN — According to Montana State University Extension educators, Montana’s cremation rate is well above the national average. In 2020, 79% of people who died in the state were cremated. To address the rise in interest, MSU Extension has released a MontGuide on the topic.

Dr. Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist (MSU Photo)
Dr. Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist (MSU Photo)

According to data from the National Funeral Directors Association, the U.S. cremation rate was nearly 56% in 2020, up from just over 40% a decade prior. James Brown, executive director of the Montana Funeral Directors Association, said there are myriad reasons behind the increase.

“There are many factors contributing to the rising popularity of cremation among consumers, including cost considerations, environmental concerns, an increasingly transient population, fewer religious prohibitions against the practice, and changing consumer preferences, such as the desire for simpler, less-ritualized funeral ceremonies,” Brown said.

The charge for cremation is typically less than a traditional burial, Brown said. However total cost depends on the services desired by the family and the products requested from the crematory. The Federal Trade Commission has information about funeral costs and a pricing checklist which includes cremation, says Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist.

In Montana, the state’s Board of Funeral Service, under the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, licenses and governs crematories, crematory operators and technicians, mortuaries, morticians and privately owned for-profit cemeteries. It also hosts a license lookup system that allows consumers to find license or discipline information. More information on the board is online at

According Goetting, the MontGuide answers questions such as: Does my body have to be embalmed? Is a casket required? How can my family be assured that my ashes are the ones given to them? Which survivors can receive my ashes? What can my family do with my ashes? Where can I have my ashes scattered?

“People who desire cremation should place their requests in writing and provide copies of the written instructions to relatives,” Goetting said.

Copies of the MontGuide can be found at Paper copies are also available at county and reservation Extension offices.

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