Research by the National Funeral Directors Association shows that, while 62.5 percent of Americans acknowledge the importance of funeral pre-planning, only 21.4 percent have actually done so. The fact is that death is an uncomfortable and taboo subject for many people, who often put off thinking about such plans until the last possible moment. By then, things often need to be rushed or, worse, left in the hands of grieving family members.
Pre-planning your own funeral is never going to be enjoyable, but it is extremely important. If you want your wishes to be followed, and if you want to make things as easy as possible for your loved ones, there are a few decisions you need to make.
Decide on a Disposition Method
The first thing you need to do is perhaps the most obvious one: Decide on how you want your body to be disposed of. Cremation and burial are the most popular options, and most people will have some sort of preference. It’s useful to bear in mind the relative costs. The average cost of a burial funeral with a memorial is $15,000, while the average cost of cremation with a service ranges between $10,000 and $12,000.
There are also, increasingly, alternative methods. For example, alkaline hydrolysis is a more environmentally friendly process that reduces the body to liquid and bone. The bone is then pulverized, so you end up with something similar to traditional ashes. The procedure is not legal in every state, so check out your local state laws if this is something that may interest you.
Sort Out Funding
Once you know what kind of funeral you want, you can more or less estimate the cost. This will allow you to decide on the best method of funding.
Many people simply set some money aside for their funeral, but if you want to keep your savings for other uses, there are other options. For example, burial insurance (also known as final expense life insurance) can cover the cost of the funeral itself, but also other expenses like medical bills and loans. This is ideal if you are worried about the financial burden of your passing on your family. It’s a good idea to look for companies that specialize fully in burial insurance, such as Lincoln Heritage.
Plan Your Memorial
People often think of memorials as something planned by the family of the deceased. However, making the basic decisions yourself will not only save your family a lot of stress, but it will ensure your life is celebrated in a way that feels right to you.
There are several elements you may want to consider: the venue, length of service, obituary, music, decor, flowers, and more. You may want to select who you want to be the Master of Ceremonies, whether it's a Funeral Celebrant or a family member.
Communicate Your Wishes
Once you have made all the decisions, you need to make sure your family can access them. It is best for you to write your funeral wishes down in a document separate from your will or trust. This is because by the time your family gets around to the will, they are likely to have already started funeral preparations. You should also communicate your wishes and plans in person, and let your family know where they can find the detailed instructions.
There are several online resources designed to guide you through these difficult conversations. For example, the Talk of a Lifetime workbook is a wonderful tool that helps families collect precious stories and memories before a loved one passes away. This can not only help you feel closer to your family, but can help them when it comes to celebrating your life.
Pre-planning your own funeral can seem like a monumental, scary task, but it can be fairly simple. Once you have made a few key decisions, all you have to do is come up with a funding plan and make sure your family knows about your wishes. If you’re still uncomfortable with the process, remember: the sooner you get this done, the sooner you can forget about it.