Some people have their funerals planned to the smallest detail. Their vision of how they will be celebrated and memorialized offers them comfort as they get older and confront your mortality. Others find it too difficult to think about their deaths—or their funerals—at all. Still other people simply don’t care what happens after they are gone—the people who are left behind can decide what to do with them. No matter which of these categories you fall into, we think you should take some time to think about what you want and talk to the people in your life who need to know.
Funerals Are Expensive and Should Not Be an Afterthought
When you die, something has to be done with your body. It’s not pleasant to think about, but it is a reality. The options range from a simple cremation for $2,000-$3,000 to a full-blown traditional funeral for as much as $15,000 or more. If you don’t discuss your wishes with your family, how will they know which route to take? Will their grief and guilt force them to spend more than they should—and more than you’d ever want—because they didn’t know your wishes? As hard as it might be to get your family to listen to you, it’s important that you do.
Should You Pre-Pay for a Funeral?
One option—and one that the funeral home will likely push on you—is to plan your whole funeral and pay for it ahead of time. You pick out the casket, the burial plot, the headstone—everything—and pay for it while you are still alive. This might give you peace of mind, but it’s generally not a good idea. Unless you know you are going to die soon, pre-paying for a funeral can backfire if the funeral home goes out of business or you move to another state. While it might not be a good idea to pre-pay for a funeral, it is still important that you pre-plan for one.
Have the Conversation With Your Loved Ones Now
They might be resistant to listening at first, but it’s up to you to start the conversation and make sure everyone listens. Do you want to be buried or cremated? Are there particular religious rites that should be honored? Do you feel strongly about the service? Even if you truly don’t care what happens after you are gone, you might find that family members have very different ideas about what they want. By opening the conversation now, you could help resolve these differences and prevent conflict after your death.
Some Legal Considerations to Think About
You’ve told your family what you want, and you’ve written instructions down, but how can you make sure it happens? You might want to consider signing a legal document known as a Designation of Burial Agent. With this document, you name someone to be in charge of the disposition of your remains. It sounds a little gruesome, but this person will have the legal authority to carry out your wishes with no interference from others. If someone does try to intervene, your agent can have a court enforce your wishes.
You might have included your funeral wishes in your Will and even named someone to take care of things, but Wills take time to locate and probate. Since funerals cannot wait, it’s a much better idea to execute the separate Designation of Burial Agent document and make sure your agent knows about it.
Can you Save Money for Your Funeral?
Even if it’s not a good idea to pre-pay for a funeral, you can still set aside money to pay for it. You might open a payable-on-death bank account and contribute to it as you are able over the years. An adult child or your designated burial agent could be the beneficiary so that he or she can follow through on your wishes. However, if you should need long-term care at some point, keep in mind that funeral savings will have to be spent down before you can qualify for Medicaid. One exception to this is a pre-paid irrevocable burial contract, which can be purchased when you go into the nursing home rather than years ahead of time. This contract will not count against your application for Medicaid benefits.
Ross & Shoalmire Will Help You Understand Your Options
We realize that this is a heavy topic. It’s not easy to think about, let alone talk about with your loved ones, but we can help you tackle this difficult task. When you meet with our team, we will go over your options and give you ways to start the conversation. Fill out the contact form on this page to get started today.