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Check out the following 501(c)(3) foundation which offers free cremation with return of the cremated remains to the family for subjects qualifying for anatomical donation. There is a lot of info on their web site plus a toll free number to call to explain your specific situation.
In Oklahoma, you can force the County to pay a funeral home for the cremation/burial if no one "claims" the remains. But, you don't get your choice between burial or cremation. It is the County and the servicing funeral home's choice.
This means not contacting or talking to anyone in the industry or the Medical Examiner's office or the Coroner, or the funeral home. You must stay away from the whole situation, and if you do, the remains will almost always be considered "indigent" and unclaimed, and therefore elegible for the state to legally take control of and be responsible for the disposition.
Some states donate these remains for medical research, and after they are "researched", they are cremated and the ashes are stored in case someone comes forward to claim them. Sometimes the ashes are scattered after "research". You'll just have to ask a funeral home in your state what happens if someone is unclaimed after death.
Some states will still bury the deceased if they are indigent or their next of kin cannot be contacted.
If the deceased is cremated, you can find out which funeral home handled the cremation from buying a copy of the Death Certificate, and then you can almost always claim the ashes, tell them you were out of the country when this happened, and if you can prove yourself or someone else is next of kin, they will usually be glad to give you the ashes. They don't want to be stuck holding unclaimed cremated remains, and they can't demand payment from you either, because they have been paid by the government in full.
You can also buy a copy of the Death Certificate, and it will tell you where the deceased was buried, or to which organization a body donation was made. Then you can follow up.
It works this way in Texas and Florida and Oklahoma, so ask around and find out if it works this way in your state. Just be discreet when the time of death occurs.
P.S. Most funeral homes wish no one knew this....the government pays very little. They may not be forthcoming with details. If that's the case, piece together the process in your state by calling several funeral homes and asking.
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