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As we age, it naturally becomes more common to think about after-life expenses. As it is still difficult to discuss end-of-life plans and concerns, financial burdens and unknown wishes are still very common for families struggling to cope in the aftermath of a loved one’s passing. Pre-planning (or Pre-Need Planning) your funeral and documenting your wishes will go a long way toward easing the burden of surviving family members and will also ensure that any money set aside for such expenses are used properly.
It is important to note that pre-planning does not mean pre-payment. Pre-planning simply means having everything lined up and your final wishes documented so that surviving family members don’t have quite as much to worry about when the time comes. They will still have decisions to make, you can’t take it all away, but by documenting what you would like to happen, it takes some of that burden away. Pre-planning can also happen in conjunction with purchasing a life insurance policy to cover the expected expense of the funeral. This is a popular way of ensuring the adequate and necessary funds are immediately available immediately for your family to cover after-life expenses. You can receive and compare no-obligation life insurance quotes from national life insurance companies using the Policygenius widget at the bottom of this article.
There are important considerations and questions to think about when pre-planning your funeral. What kind of burial do you want? What kind of casket or urn do you prefer? Is there a specific funeral home you want to use or preferred cemetery to be buried? Do you want to be cremated? If so, what do you want to be done with your remains? What kind of service would you like? What flowers should be used? Do you have any special, non-traditional requests? (i.e. type of music to be played, photos to be displayed, etc.) These are all things that will need to be determined, and these are all things you can choose ahead of time, making sure your family knows exactly what you want.
Here are some tips for pre-planning your end-of-life wishes:
- Determine the type of service you want and where you will be buried. Do you want a viewing? Will the casket be opened or closed? Do you want a traditional funeral service or just a graveside service? Is there a specific cemetery your family uses or that you prefer?
- Decide how you will be buried. If you want a casket, what type do you want? If you will be cremated, do you want someone to keep your remains or have them scattered somewhere special? Will you have a gravestone or be placed in a mausoleum? Do you want an alternative burial or a green funeral?
- Shop around. Not all funeral homes are created equal and prices may vary greatly. Be sure to note what items are included in any packages and only purchase what you want. You are not obligated to buy a package, nor are you obligated to purchase your casket/urn from the funeral home. Make sure to note any fees, what they are for, and when they are due.
- Know the laws of your state. Laws regarding funeral expenses vary by state, so be sure to know the ins and outs of what your state protects and what it doesn’t.
- Document everything. No one can know what your wishes are unless you tell them! This is not something you put in your will as that may not be discovered until after the funeral. This is something you put in writing and share with trusted family members who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. Be as specific as you can, but also make sure said family members know that it’s okay if they can’t meet all of your wishes.
As a last note, be aware that pre-payment comes with risks. As mentioned above, the laws in every state vary greatly. Pre-paying can be a problem if the funeral home goes out of business, if you move states, or if your family is unaware that you have done so. Instead of pre-payment, consider a Payable on Death bank account where you can set aside funds to cover the costs of a funeral. The only risk with a POD account is that it counts as an asset with Medicaid. If you are required to spend down, consider putting the funds in an irrevocable trust. These types of accounts are best set up and discussed with trusted family members. Consulting an attorney is not a bad idea either, although not required.
In short, pre-planning your funeral and final expenses takes a large burden off of surviving family members. They will still have to make decisions but having as much in order as you can will ease that process during a time of grief. Pre-payment is an option but comes with risks. Your best bet is to document everything, shop around and make sure you share your final wishes with those you trust. No one likes to talk about death or final expenses, but it is a part of life and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be on those you leave behind.