Nobody particular wants to spend their day visiting a funeral home. Especially if no one has passed on. Yet, every day across America thousands of people make plans to sit down with a professional and map out instructions when the time comes.
Why? Because they are thinking ahead and arranging their last moments on earth;
and in doing so, they are helping their families through one of the most difficult situations they will ever encounter.
At one time pre-planning a funeral was considered somewhat taboo. That attitude has changed significantly over the years. Now many financial experts recommend pre-planning a funeral as a very practical and sound way for an individual to alleviate a major burden his or her survivors will encounter.
Plus, in this age of individualization, choosing the pre-planning route gives a person control over how they want to be remembered and adds a personal touch that can only reinforce the unique personality that each human being brings to the planet.
There are also some solid financial benefits for those considering funeral pre-planning. Thinking ahead can help you relieve survivors of a sudden expense or taxes to be paid.
Here are some detailed reasons why you should consider establishing a pre-planned service:
1) Relieve a major burden on your family:
When someone dies, there certainly is incredible emotional stress on a family. However, on top of the anxiety and grief, the survivors are yanked out of their daily routines and forced to make a multitude of decisions. In a very short period of time, a family must find a funeral home (FuneralHomes.com offers a convenient list here). They must also make choices on burial or cremation, caskets, urns, flowers, music, etc. Other items to consider are what to include in the obituary? Who will be the pallbearers? Will there be a family gathering afterward?
While resolving all of these and other issues, the family members have to constantly ask themselves, "What would the deceased want?" Some families can easily answer this question. But there are instances when the overall stress of the situation can result in arguments, crying spells and hang-wringing, an experience that no one wants their survivors to go through during this sensitive time.
By pre-planning a funeral, a person can sit down with a professional and make many of these decisions in advance. This way the family can grieve and concentrate on helping each other through the mourning process.
Pre-planning a funeral does take some time and effort. A licensed funeral director can easily walk you through the procedure. But that time and effort will be offset tremendously by the peace of mind one will experience knowing that in the future, their family will be relieved of this emotional and financial responsibility.
2) Arrange a funeral to your personal preferences:
You can customize many things today: computers, cars, even running shoes. More and more people now want to arrange their funeral the way they want it arranged. They are taking control on how they want to be remembered. If the person was an avid Willie Nelson fan, why play classical music at the service? Instead of a plain casket, perhaps a lifelong fan of the Fighting Irish would prefer to be buried in a casket with the Notre Dame blue and gold logo. Today there are more choices than ever for consumers. A funeral director can present all the options available to you.
However, it is important to note that you want to be careful not to be too specific or extreme in your requests, because your family may not be able to fulfill your wishes. But if you make reasonable arrangements in advance with your funeral director, you will have the satisfaction of making those decisions yourself.
3) Save money by pre-paying for funeral services:
Rather than stuff money under your mattress to one day cover funeral expenses, there are many financial strategies available for you to pre-pay for funeral expenses. These options have two major benefits. First, you can lock-in the cost of most funeral services at today's prices. This will cover inflation and the increased costs of a funeral service that will be held in the future. Check with your funeral director to determine which prices are guaranteed and which are not.
Secondly, if you pre-pay for a funeral, your family will be relieved of the burden of having to come up with the funds on short notice. With the average cost of a funeral now averaging $7,000, a pre-paid service can be a major relief for a family that is strapped for funds at that time. With many life insurance policies, especially large ones, it may take weeks for the claim to be processed and the money sent to survivors. In the case of a will, there is still a time delay. If someone in a family disputes the will, it could take months or even years to reach a settlement and release the funds.
One important item to consider - what to do with the pre-plan policy.
Now you can see why there is this national trend where consumers are choosing to sit down with a funeral director or pre-arrangement counselor to pre-plan and pre-pay for funeral services.
But one special note: be sure that when you pre-plan and pre-pay for a funeral you let your family know the details and which funeral home or financial institution handled the arrangements. Leave the information in a convenient place, preferably not a safety deposit box at a bank but some place that is accessible and will be seen by the surviving family members. One woman wanted to be doubly sure her survivors found the details of her pre-planned services, so she hung the information in a picture frame on her living room wall! You do not have to go to that extreme, but be sure the information can be obtained easily. Also, do not leave the information in a will as wills are generally read days after the funeral service. The funeral home, cemetery and other entities will want to be paid sooner.
There are three ways to pre-pay a funeral. One is to just establish a simple savings account that is held jointly with a funeral home. The key is to be sure the interest earned on the account covers the rising cost of the funeral service. But there are other more sophisticated products you might want to explore. Each one has it advantages. They are pre-need insurance and pre-need trust accounts.
Chad R. Harding, CFSP
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