Making A Plan to Plan Ahead

If the past few years has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected.  There is not much we can do to prepare for life's unexpected turns, but what if I told you that you could prepare you and your family for some of the darkest days you or they will ever face?  Well, you can, and that's where advance funeral planning comes in.


For many people, talking or even thinking about their death is a difficult thing to do.  However, if it is difficult for you to think about it when you are perfectly healthy, think about how hard it will be for your family to face once you have died.  When a close family member's death has occurred, it is a confusing, overwhelming, and stressful time.  All of this can cause people to make irrational decisions that they may not make under normal circumstances.  If you could take all of that away from them, you could create a clear, organized roadmap for them to follow. 


Once you have decided to start your advance funeral plans, you will want to make an appointment with the funeral home you plan for your family to use at the time of your death.  For some people, making this decision will take a little bit of work.  Don't feel weird about calling different funeral homes and comparing service options and prices.  You need to feel confident that the establishment you choose will take care of you during the advance planning process and take care of your family in their time of need.  During the initial planning meeting, the arranger will collect vital information to complete the paperwork.  Upon your passing, such documents will be used to acquire a death certificate and write an obituary. 


Not sure what services you may prefer? The arranger can review the different service options available to you.  This detail you may want to discuss with your family.  Your funeral, memorial service, or absence of service should reflect your wishes. Keep in mind that your family members are the ones that need an opportunity to grieve and support one another, so you may want to make this a unified decision.  For families, the struggle of doing what their loved one would have wanted is a real concern. The family can rest assured things are exactly how you would have wanted them when items like the casket, urn, or burial vault are preselected.  Your service or memorial can look and feel exactly how you want it to based on your selections. Things like music, readings, eulogies, and even that hideous dress you wouldn't be caught dead in can be expressed to your family. Preplanning can take the hassle out of decision making while preventing your family from overspending.


Once these decisions are made, it all comes down to the big questions; how much will this cost, and how will I pay for it?  As a starting point, it does not have to cost you anything right now. Preplanning your services does not mean you have to prepay your services. Pre-funding your funeral arrangements has many benefits for you and your family, so most people choose to prepay. 


Do you remember when you could buy a brand-new home in a great neighborhood for $85,000?  What if you could have paid the builder for that home but built it 25 years later? Do you think they would go for that?  No way!  The cost of inflation would make that impossible!  Well, that's how pre-funding your funeral contract works. You pick and decide how everything will be while paying for it at today's cost.  Then, hopefully, many years down the road, we perform those same services and provide the merchandise you have selected for no additional money.  Preplanning really is that simple.


The money you prepay is placed in an insurance policy that is designated for your funeral services.  The funeral home cannot access the funds until the death has occurred and the services have taken place.  With this, your family does not have to come up with money out of their pocket, and you don't have to worry about getting the services you want because no one has the funds needed to pay for it. If you do not have the financial means to pay your entire contract at once, you can spread your payments out over time in affordable monthly payments.  Most funeral homes expect payment prior to the services, so your family will not have this luxury once you have died. In addition, if you are placed into a nursing home or a long-term care facility, you do not have to worry about losing the money you have set aside for your services because it is protected from well-meaning third parties like Medicaid.


If you preplan and prepay services with a funeral home and then later in life relocate, the arrangements you have made can move with you.  Since it is still your money, you can take it where ever you wish. Should you die while away from home, there may be additional money available to your family to bring you back home.


All in all, advance funeral planning does five things:

  • Spells out your wishes to reflect your life
  • Eliminates the emotional stress on your family of having to gather information and make decisions on the most challenging days of their life
  • Gives you a safe and secure place to hold funds to pay for the services that you have selected
  • Saves you money over time by protecting you from inflation
  • Takes away the financial stress of your family, knowing that they can concentrate on their grief and supporting one another instead of worrying about how they are going to pay for your funeral


Save your family the burden of having to make difficult decisions during the darkest time of their lives.  Preplanning will be one of the greatest gifts you leave for them.


Contributor: Kathleen L. Morton-Jones, CFSP

Article Published in Sussex County Womens Journal, Spring 2021

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