3 Ways to Get a Free Cremation in Tennessee


Planning a loved one’s funeral can naturally be an emotionally draining experience. It can also be financially challenging. 

That doesn’t mean it has to be. Government programs, charities that help with funeral costs, and various other options can help a family save money during their time of need.

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How you go about reducing spending when planning a loved one’s funeral may depend in part on certain choices you’ve made throughout the process. For example, perhaps you live in Tennessee and are planning on cremating your loved one’s remains, but you worry about whether you can afford this service.

Keep reading, if so. This guide will offer valuable information about how to arrange for a low-cost or free cremation in Tennessee. 

Places or Programs That Offer Free Cremation in Tennessee

You have a few options from which to choose when attempting to arrange for a free cremation in Tennessee. They include:

1. Science Care

One of the most common ways individuals and families arrange for free cremations in Tennessee (and virtually all other parts of the country) is by donating a body to science. Anatomical donation programs involve agreeing that a body be used for research purposes in exchange for free cremation services. Organizations and companies offering this option will typically cover related expenses, such as transportation costs, as well.

Science Care is one of the leading anatomical donation programs in the country. Although it is not technically a Tennessee-based operation, it does allow people from throughout the country to register for their body to be donated to science after their death.

There is no guarantee the program will accept a body. The organization will evaluate each application individually to determine if a person and their body meet certain criteria before making a final determination.

In many cases, if an individual or family wants to donate a deceased loved one’s remains to science, it will also be helpful if they can indicate by citing a will or similar document that doing so is in accordance with their loved one’s wishes.

That said, donating a body to science can be a very powerful way to memorialize a loved one who has passed on. By donating a body to science, you give researchers an opportunity to learn more about numerous ailments, making it easier for them to develop treatments that can improve and potentially even save lives in the future. Thus, donating a body to researchers ensures that the deceased leaves behind a powerful and important legacy. 

2. Metro Social Services Indigent Burial/Cremation Program

If the deceased was a resident of Davidson County, did not leave behind enough money or assets for their family to pay for their cremation, and meets certain other criteria (which you can learn about through the link above), they may qualify for a free cremation through the county’s Metro Social Services Indigent Burial/Cremation Program.

Various counties and regions throughout the country offer such programs to ensure deceased members of their communities receive proper burials or cremations despite financial difficulties.

Metro Social Services Indigent Burial/Cremation Program is only one example of such a program in Tennessee. This directory offers information about similar programs throughout the state. Check it to see if there are any programs available in your area.

3. Genesis Legacy

Genesis Legacy is another program through which it’s possible to donate a body to science in exchange for free cremation services. This option may appeal more than Science Care or other such programs to Tennessee residents because the organization’s headquarters are in Memphis. As such, working with Genesis Legacy may be more convenient for Tennessee residents.

Tips for Saving Money on Cremation in Tennessee

You may not meet the criteria necessary to qualify for an entirely free cremation in Tennessee. However, there are still many ways you can reduce the cost of cremating a loved one. Tips to keep in mind include the following:

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The importance of this tip can’t be overstated. If you are ill or simply wish to make the process of planning your funeral easier on your loved ones should you pass away unexpectedly, planning your cremation ahead of time offers a range of benefits.

Naturally, planning any aspect of your funeral beforehand can give you a greater opportunity to make important decisions about all elements of the process, from the type of service you want (if any) to the ways you want your loved ones to memorialize you. Pre-planning a funeral also helps your loved ones avoid unnecessary stress in the future, as they will not face the burden of having to make various important decisions with limited time to do so in the immediate aftermath of your passing.

Pre-planning a cremation also allows your family to save some money in many instances. When a funeral home or cremation service offers pre-planning options, they typically let customers lock in current prices. Thus, if inflation causes prices to rise by the time you pass away, that won’t influence what your family spends on your cremation.

Additionally, planning a cremation before your passing lets you and your loved ones “shop around” to find a cremation provider whose prices better suit your budget. 

Get permission from your loved one

Again, it’s usually necessary to show that your loved one wanted you to donate their body to science before a program will accept their remains. Even if their body meets all the physical qualifications necessary for acceptance into this type of program, an organization may not accept it if there isn’t sufficient evidence that your choice to donate their body matches their wishes.

This is yet another reason it’s wise to pre-plan for your death with your loved ones ahead of time. One of your most essential priorities may be to ensure your loved ones do not struggle financially after your death. Donating your body to science to arrange for a completely free cremation is one way they can potentially avoid otherwise significant expenses.

However, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to do so if you don’t specify your wishes beforehand. Along with stating in your will that you want your loved ones to donate your body to science, when you find a service through which you would like your loved ones to make a donation, check to see if the program gives you the option to sign up yourself. Then, when the time comes for your family to make the donation, those evaluating your qualifications can simply reference their own list of donors to confirm this is what you wanted.

Use crowdfunding services

Soliciting donations to assist with funeral and cremation expenses is easier than ever in the digital age. If you’re struggling to pay for a loved one’s cremation, you could create a page on GoFundMe or a similar platform through which you can ask friends, family, and even complete strangers to offer financial help. While you shouldn’t rely solely on this method to save money on a cremation, as there is no guarantee you will reach your fundraising goals, it can potentially supplement other methods here.

Apply for Veterans death benefits

You may be able to receive Veterans death benefits from the VA if your loved one was a veteran and you meet certain criteria. In some cases, the VA will offer financial help to the surviving loved ones of veterans who have passed away. Check out the VA’s website page to learn more about whether you might qualify and what you must do to apply for these benefits.

» MORE: Need help paying for a funeral? Let Cake help with a free consultation.

Ask for help from your religious community

Many religious institutions and communities offer programs to help active members with various expenses when they’re struggling to cover them on their own. Ask your local religious leader if they offer any such programs. Even if they don’t, they could still potentially help you reach out to other members of the community to ask for donations.

Choose direct cremation

It’s uncommon for funeral homes and cremation service providers to offer only one package to customers. More often, they offer a variety of packages at different price points.

For example, some families choose to organize traditional funeral services, viewings, or other such ceremonies before cremating a loved one’s remains. While the desire to do so is understandable, these packages typically cost significantly more than direct cremation.

A direct cremation package involves omitting the traditional ceremony and cremating a loved one’s remains as soon as possible after their death. You may want to consult with other friends and family members to ensure they don’t want a chance to formally say goodbye to the deceased before their cremation.

However, you can still host a less formal memorial service at your home after the cremation process is complete. This will probably be less expensive than organizing a service through the funeral home.

Low-Cost & Free Cremation in Tennessee: Options to Consider

Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand that there are many ways to at least significantly reduce the cost of a cremation in Tennessee. To learn more about the cremation process in general, check our guide on how cremation works.


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