Planning your funeral service in advance gives you peace of mind

Lacy Robinson Director of Professional Development, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer Aurora Casket
Planning your funeral service in advance gives you peace of mind

America is a nation of planners. Americans plan their vacations, retirement, careers and every hour of every day in some cases. Research shows that 70% of Americans have some type of life insurance policy and 55% die with a written will or estate. Yet only 33% pre-plan their funerals. Why is formally preplanning a funeral with a funeral director not a part of these important preparations?

Discussing funeral planning is difficult and sensitive, but every year over two million Americans are involved in this task. Unexpectedly and with no experience or knowledge of the process, individuals will be faced with planning a funeral for a loved one in their most difficult of times.

This article offers expert advice for preplanning a funeral service to ensure that family members are financially prepared and have the opportunity to remember their loved one’s legacy, and not be overwhelmed by the details and price tags of memorializing them.


Do

Do meet with a funeral professional

Consumers often select a funeral home or cemetery because it's close to home, has served the family in the past, or has been recommended by someone they trust. But people who limit their search to just one funeral home may risk paying more than necessary for the funeral, or narrowing their choice of goods and services.

Comparison shopping need not be difficult, especially if it's done before the need for a funeral arises. If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider is required by law to give you a general price list itemizing the cost of the products and services the home offers. If the general price list does not include specific prices of caskets or outer burial containers, the law requires the funeral director to show you the price lists for those items before showing you the items.

This is the best way to get all of your questions answered, not just related to cost, but process and available options.

Do plan financially

The average funeral is a major expense for most families, costing anywhere from $6,500 to $9,000. No one wants to be concerned with cost when the time comes or overwhelmed with trying to make the choices that their deceased would have wanted. Pre-planning will prevent loved ones from having to face this great burden and avoid regrets related to the service.

When comparing prices, be sure to consider the total cost of all the items together, in addition to the cost of individual items. Every funeral home should have price lists that include all the items essential for the different types of arrangements it offers. Many funeral homes offer package funerals that may cost less than purchasing individual items or services. Offering package funerals is permitted by law, as long as an itemized price list is also provided. But only by using the price lists can you accurately compare total costs.

Make choices that suit you, but are also realistic for your budget.

Do involve family in the process

Before beginning to pre-plan, you should have a will in place and know who you would like to be responsible in making arrangements when the time comes. Although it is difficult for you and your loved ones to think about death, involving those closest to you in the planning process will help them to know that they can fulfill exactly what you wanted for your service and not leave them guessing during their time of grief.

Do personalize your service

A funeral can and should be as unique as the life that is being celebrated. Don't feel that you have to have a cookie cutter type of service or that your ideas for a special ceremony are foolish.

You shouldn't feel pressured or rushed into making a decision and pre-planning can relieve some of those feelings. Funeral directors are caring, dedicated professionals willing to help you make the arrangements that you want.

Personalizing a funeral or memorial service can be very therapeutic - it gives you and your family something to concentrate on as you relive memories. It's also welcomed by family and friends attending a visitation or service because it gets them involved and provides a topic of conversation when they might otherwise not know what to say.

Do ask questions

A pre-planning arrangement is the ideal time to ask the hard questions. Take time with a funeral professional to ask questions and address all of your preferences regarding cremation vs. burial, pre-funding, and ceremony options like religious influences and other personalization options.


Don't

Do not be afraid

Scary as it might be, pre-planning is the best way to ensure a dignified service that is consistent with a loved one’s wishes and supportive to the grieving process. Yes, death can be scary. Yes, death is an undeniably difficult topic to think about and discuss. However, it is also an inevitable part of life that we all must face at some point. Grief counselors agree that the act of having a funeral service, regardless of choosing cremation, burial or other disposition, is absolutely critical to the grieving process, and that most Americans want some type of funeral service for themselves or a loved one.

Pre-planning is an opportunity to make certain that you and your loved ones can have a greater peace of mind when the inevitable occurs.

Do not push it off

Just like purchasing a life insurance policy or writing a will, financial experts agree that everyone upon hitting certain milestones in life should begin the funeral planning process - such events as getting married, having a child or grandchildren, hitting retirement age. These important life celebrations are good reminders that time is precious, as are the people that share in it, and there are certain things that need to be done to protect them and a life well lived. Fear is typically cited as the main reason for not pre-planning, however in many ways it is even less difficult than writing a will and dealing in legal matters that may be completely foreign.

It is never too early to consider your options in preparing your family for life without you. Having this discussion means every detail can be arranged according to your wishes and
saves your family from any additional burden at a time of emotional stress.

Do not rely on personal conversations alone

Often, people will mention in personal conversations some of their thoughts regarding things they might like for their own funeral. Perhaps, you’ve even heard a loved one say they don’t want a service, “I don’t want anyone to make a big fuss, just bury me and be done with it.” Or perhaps various family members have strong opinions about cremation vs. burial.

Pre-planning your funeral can be very informal, and as simple as writing down your wishes for a service and sharing your wishes with a family member. More formal arrangements in the form of a preneed contract can be set up with a funeral director and pre-funded through life insurance, bank trust agreement, or another method.

Formalizing some plan will prevent conflicting accounts from different family members and give everyone peace of mind that there will be honorable closure to the life of the loved one.

Do not withhold information

Having personal documents organized and in a safe place where they can be accessed by the executor of your will is extremely important. Include all of that information in your pre-planning documentation.

When it comes to budget, be open and honest about what is affordable for your service. You want your insurance money to go to supporting your loved ones, not to be spent entirely on funeral costs. Arrangement professionals can only help you if you are realistic about your budget with them.

Also, don’t forget this is not a closed document. If you change your mind about anything at any point you can go back and update your plan to reflect that change. Your family and funeral home are there to support your wishes and they need you to tell them what you want.

Do not forget, funeral services are for the living

It is important to realize that the ritual of a funeral and/or memorial service isn't for the deceased, but for the living. It is a time when friends and family can gather together to grieve openly and to provide support for one another. The event of death is obviously a very emotional time and it can be hard to think clearly or, in some cases, make rational decisions.

Pre-planning a funeral is simple; it’s free and is a very tangible act that anyone can do to not only take care of their family, but to make things as easy on them as possible when the inevitable occurs. Planning in advance will mitigate overspending or lingering questions about the memorial.


Summary
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Beginning the pre-planning process presents several choices to consider. A good start is by searching online for a funeral service that suits your needs. Simply making an appointment at a funeral home and sitting down with a funeral director to discuss choices, budgets, and final wishes should not be overlooked in planning for a family’s future.


More expert advice about Estate Planning

Photo Credits: Demaine Funeral Home by Flickr: NCinDC; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Lacy RobinsonDirector of Professional Development, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer

Lacy Robinson is a Kentucky licensed funeral director/embalmer and a certified member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. She is a graduate of Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky holding a bachelor’s degree in Communica...

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