While a grim reality, final arrangements are a certain and often costly requirement of life. After adding up the cost of an attorney, making funeral arrangements, securing a burial plot or cremation, and issuing obituary notices, your family could face thousands of dollars of compounding bills upon your death. Fortunately, by planning ahead you help ease the financial and emotional burden presented to your family at this time.
While we aren’t around to dictate the exact details of our final arrangements, written instructions can serve as guidelines for our surviving loved ones. Since memorial services and burial arrangements are typically a manifestation of our deepest personal and spiritual beliefs, it is important to document our exact plans to assure they play out as we envisioned them. Depending on the state you live in, there are laws set in place to determine who has the right and responsibility to carry out your final arrangements.
In many cases, your surviving spouse, closest family member, or legal guardian will be called upon. However, in some states, a signed and
affidavit or advanced health care directive can designate a self-appointed representative and pre-planned course of action. A death in the family can often stir up a mix of heightened emotions, including grief, anger, and sadness. In some cases, a clear plan of action can help alleviate the stress of decision-making.
As sad as it is, final arrangements are a booming business. While there are countless ethical business professionals, it is unfortunate that some people prey on the vulnerability of survivors. The Fair Trade Commission has done their part to help create transparency by eliminating deceitful advertising and pricing. Moreover, there are several public non-profit organizations that help guide consumer’s to make informed decisions in regard to their final arrangements. While it may not be a validating shopping experience, one option is to pre-arrange and pay for a funeral package with an institution of your choice. Another option is to set aside designated funds.
Whatever plan you choose, it is important to know that you have options and rights as a consumer. For example, if you are planning on setting aside funds in an informal trust or dual-savings account, Social Security will permit you to designate up to $1,500 as asset-free. There are also many different burial expenditure insurance programs that guarantee a payout in return for monthly premium payments. Your local funeral home may even offer their own insurance which offers a payout consisting of their own goods and services. No matter your financial situation, careful planning can help save your loved ones from overpaying or take precious time away from grieving to deal with sizable financial burdens.
Whether you opt to pay outright, make installments, or set aside a designated savings account, make sure that money is separate from your will. While many people assume that an inheritance will cover the cost of final arrangements, this money is typically locked up and subjected to legal scrutiny for months preceding a person’s death. Nevertheless, final arrangements need to be arranged and paid for in the days immediately preceding a person’s passing. This money or prepaid services alongside a plan are a priceless commodity to grieving family members.
The sooner you start planning for your for your final arrangements, the quicker you can get back to living your life and cherishing your loved ones. However, before you purchase or begin saving for a funeral plan, you’ll want to get an understanding of the scope of goods and services offered at the time of death.
Funeral parlors and mortuaries collect, store, and prepare the deceased’s body for a final burial or cremation. These services often include curating ceremonies, goods such as caskets and grave markers, and occasionally acquisition of a cemetery or tomb property. Once a funeral director understands your desired arrangements, they can work within your budget to come up with a personalized plan.
At the same time, you’ll want to collect and prepare information for a final eulogy and /or obituary. Living relatives often look back upon these final documents to remember and honor their lost loved ones. In doing the prep work, you can play a part in writing your own history and alleviate this pressure from those in mourning.
The sooner you begin making plans for your final arrangements, the more control you’ll have. From accumulating and saving funds for bills incurred for funeral services to talking with family members and funeral parlor professionals, time is to everyone’s advantage. Events, such as a change of address or the loss of a family member, can call for alterations in an original plan. Remain diligent in updating your plan. Moreover, discuss your plans with those who will likely bear the burden after your passing. While often a taboo to discuss our passing, the event is inevitable and, therefore, should not be brushed under the rug.
The Cemetary and Funeral Bureau of the Department of Consumer Affairs recommends the prepayment and pre-planning of funeral and burial services but recommends you look into the specifics of a contract before signing. For example, you may want to determine the penalty or option to cancel a contract or the ability to transfer the terms somewhere else if you should move. By planning ahead you should have authority over your final arrangements.
Making final arrangements is a difficult process, but it is far easier to plan ahead than to pull together at the last-minute. Grieving family members are an easy target for devious businesses and not always qualified to make complex and finite decisions, such as where the final resting place should be or what type of casket to purchase. What’s worse, many families are left with an overwhelming financial burden. Between the cost and pressure of making final arrangements, give yourself and your family a peace of mind by planning and updating your final arrangement plans.