It's unsettling to think of cremated remains being held as collateral for an unpaid bill. In the eyes of the Illinois Funeral Directors Association, it's unethical.
Still, it's legal. And we can understand why the McDaniel and Lee Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Sparta does it. Once a person's ashes have been released, the funeral home loses most of its leverage in collecting the debt. Otherwise a deceased person's family and friends would have no pressing reason to pay the bill.
This is a good reminder of buyer beware. Grieving families often don't pay close attention to the terms and conditions of services at a funeral home, but it's important to do so. The funeral home presumably disclosed in advance that bills have to be paid in full before cremated remains will be released.
If people don't like the payment requirements, they can either negotiate different terms or choose another funeral home.