Most people find it difficult to discuss and think about their own mortality. However, pre-arranging your own funeral can make things much easier for your loved ones once you are gone. Your loved ones will be consumed with grief and any arrangements you can make ahead of time will most probably be welcomed. Be mindful to explicitly arrange or at least put in writing things that are important to you. However, leave some flexibility for your loved ones’ wishes.
Do everything with a tone of helpfulness, refraining from making impossible or impractical requests. Once you have determined your wishes, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your family, your funeral director and your clergyman. This ensures everyone is on the same page in regards to your wishes and will carry them out after your death. Pre-arranging your funeral is also a good idea in case you are not survived by anyone or do not have anyone capable of planning a funeral.
You will want your loved ones to be as prepared as possible. Regardless of the size of your estate, everyone needs some basic financial documents to ensure things go as desired after death. These documents are outlined below.
Will – A will allows you, and not the government, to determine how your money will be divided among your heirs. It also allows you to appoint guardians to your minor children or other dependents.
Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney gives you the ability to name someone as your agent in the event you become incapacitated or seriously ill. Your agent will be able to pay bills, deposit your checks and make other financial decisions on your behalf.
Health Care Directive – Also known as a living will, a health care directive gives directions as to how you would like your care to be handled should be become permanently unconscious or terminally ill. An example would be life support.
Financial Inventory – Make a list of all you bank accounts, credit cards, life insurance information, mortgages and income sources. Also, make a list of the phone numbers of your doctors, financial advisors, lawyer, accountant and anyone else that would have knowledge of your financials.
Keep this information in a safe place, but not in a safety deposit box. The person you appoint as your Power of Attorney should know where this information is and how to proceed after your death. A good place to keep your funeral arrangements is at the funeral home with the home’s director.
Find a Funeral Home & Funeral Director
Start by asking friends and family members about experiences they have had at different funeral homes in your area. It’s becoming more common for funeral homes to be included on various review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List. When choosing a funeral home it’s important to consider their facilities, the services they provide, their costs and if the funeral home will be able to meet your religious and cultural needs. It’s a good idea to meet with the funeral director to discuss any questions you might have.
Types of Funerals
Typically, there are two different types of funerals – a traditional funeral and cremation.
A traditional funeral involves burying the body. A memorial service is held either before or after the burial. The body may be present at the memorial service, or not. If the body is present, you may choose to have an open or closed casket. A combination of these can occur as well. Sometimes a memorial is held before and after the burial, each with a different tone.
The second most common type of funeral is a cremation. Sometimes there is a memorial before cremation, where the body may be present. Other times, there is a memorial service after the cremation has taken place. Cremation is becoming more common in the United States, and some view it as a way to keep your loved one with you in a meaningful way even after their death.
Types of Funeral Products
While a variety of funeral products are becoming more readily available, the two most traditional are discussed below.
Caskets – A casket is most likely your largest expense if you plan to have a traditional, full-service funeral. This is where your body will be placed in for viewing (if you wish) and what you will lay to rest in when buried. Usually, they are constructed of wood, metal, fiberglass or plastic.
Urn – An urn is used in cremation. Your ashes are placed in the urn and given to the family. Sometimes family members choose to split the ashes in multiple, smaller urns so each person can have a piece of you with them. If you wish for your ashes to spread somewhere, a less decorative urn is usually used.
Funerals can be costly events. You can either pre-pay for your funeral or leave funds set aside in your trust or life insurance for your funeral costs. Cremation tends to be less costly than a traditional service. However, cost should only be one factor when determining your wishes for your funeral.
If you do decide to pre-pay for your funeral costs, you will want to shop around and compare different pre-payment plans. You will also want to ask about refunds and cancellations. You might later on decide to have your burial somewhere else or want a different type of service. You will want to know your refund and cancellation options should the need arise.
Also, read the fine print. This should be understood but it’s always important to read the entire document before signing anything. Just because you prepay doesn’t mean all of your funeral expenses will be actually covered by the prepaid plan. Know exactly what you are paying for and what your loved ones will still have to pay for after you are gone.
Knowledge is power. The more you know the more informed your decisions can be. Know your options and know what you are signing up for.
Updated: March 31, 2014