At one time, final arrangements were nearly the same for every person, from the schedule of events to the choice of funeral home, church, hymns, and the cemetery. Today things are a lot more complicated. There are many choices, costs and personal preferences to choose. Final arrangement planning has become important, so your wishes are known in advance by your loved ones.
The one decision most of us put off talking about is the one to do with the inevitable day when we’re not here to make those decisions together. Choices that have to be made by the surviving partner and children are difficult ones. Most families that have gone through the process will tell you it is far better to make decisions in advance so that thoughts are clearer and the emotions not as overwhelming. That is what pre-planning is all about. It is for you to carry out your wishes and for your family not to be burdened of deciding what you wanted. Pre-planning is about love.
By pre-planning, you alleviate the stress that would otherwise be placed on your loved ones and family during one of their worst life experiences. It can also help establish a budget and even a pre-funding plan can be included.
Depending upon circumstances, people are motivated to pre-plan and pre-fund for a variety of reasons:
Step One – The Conversation
An honest and open family conversation about death is the first and most important step in pre-planning. Thoughts, preferences and wishes about our final arrangements with those closest to us should be shared. This is a conversation and not a monologue. Our choices have consequences for our survivors and we must consider what they may want from the service to make it meaningful and meet their emotional needs. This conversation should address disposition choices such as burial or cremation, service choices such as viewing, visitation, religious focus, and the participation of family, friends, as well as Veteran and service organizations.
Step Two – The Funeral Director and/or Cemetery Director
Another important step is to meet with your funeral director and cemetery director to discuss your wishes. Both should present options and offer suggestions to help you craft the service meeting your family’s needs. The directors can help you find ways to make meaningful choices while staying within your budget. Forms recording your biographic information, choices of venues, disposition, participants, music, scripture, and merchandise can be prepared and kept in the funeral home or the cemetery’s files.
Step Three – Pre-Funding
The third step in pre-arranging your final arrangements is pre-funding. Many people pre-fund as a part of their overall estate and family budget planning. Others look to pre-funding as a way to relieve their adult children of the financial burden that eventual death will bring. Some must quickly put funds away before they may be lost when a loved one goes under medical assistance. Because each state has its own regulations on bank trusts, insurance trusts, and other forms of prepayment, your local funeral director or is the one to ask about which options are available for you. Generally, the plan should be in a form that cannot be counted as an asset should you ever need to go under medical assistance due to an extended convalescence. It should minimize tax and relocation consequences. Depending upon your circumstances, one plan may be more appropriate for you than another. The more your final arrangement planning professional knows about your wishes and circumstances, the better they can help you. For example, if you are a frequent traveler, some policies can protect your family against the expenses involved in a death that occurs out of the state or out of the country.
Keep your plans current and accessible
Like all good estate planning, your final arrangement pre-arrangements should be revisited when major changes occur in your family, residence or wishes. Please discuss your arrangements with your family, and let them know where to find important documents recoding your wishes. Keeping these documents in a lockbox or with your lawyer may prevent family from accessing them until after the service, so keep a copy at the funeral home or cemetery.
Death is a difficult subject to talk about, but avoiding the conversation just makes death more difficult to deal with when it comes. Final arrangement planning is no longer just for the dead and dying. We all need to share our thoughts and wishes about our funerals with those close to us. As we age, it becomes more and more important for us to formalize our plans and budget for the expenses. Your local final arrangement professional can help you to plan the service that is right for you, and find the best prefunding option as well.
You have control over all of these details and the financial responsibility for your arrangements and can plan for these ahead of time!
If you are considering pre-planning for your parents, you may be wondering how to broach this delicate subject. The following may help you: