How To Plan Your Funeral in Advance

No one likes to think about their own funeral, but it’s something that everyone will eventually need to plan for. You can let your family and friends concentrate on mourning, when the time comes, by making your own arrangements and last wishes are known. Advance arrangements are called “pre-need funeral planning.”

Pre-need planning enables you to make such choices as to whether you want a burial in the ground, entombment in a mausoleum, or a cremation. Do you prefer a formal, religious funeral or a simple memorial service? What clothing and jewelry do you want to be buried with? What music would you like to be played at your service? Maybe you want a simple graveside ceremony or your ashes scattered someplace meaningful. Preplanning will also empower you to decide who will be left in charge of any decisions that you don’t choose to make in advance.

Some pre-need arrangement approaches require prepayment. Generally, there are two options for prepaid plans: guaranteed and non-guaranteed. If you go the guaranteed plans route, you’ll lock in prices when you buy the plan, even if they keep rising for new customers over the years. Non-guaranteed plans mean no locked prices, but the money you put toward your arrangements will grow over time through interest. The money deposited will be held by a third-party company in a trust or life insurance policy, even though the prearrangement plans are made through a funeral home. As the name implies, the proceeds may or may not cover the funeral charges at the time of your death. If you’re facing a Medicaid drawdown due to nursing home costs, you can shelter some of your money with a pre-need plan purchase of either type.

Prepaying offers multiple advantages.

Any money that you prepay can be used for your casket, embalming, chapel, floral arrangements, stationery, staff for services, and basic service fees. You also can prepay cemetery expenses, such as the headstone, opening and closing, and vault.

If you are the survivor of someone who has prepaid for a funeral, you’ll find out at the time of their death what kind of plan was purchased and what services and/or items may still need to be purchased. Don’t fret if the funeral home goes out of business — the prepayment is held by a third party, so it is both protected and available to you at this time.

Pre-need contracts are portable, so aspects of such arrangements can be changed. Plans can be canceled and money refunded. If you unexpectedly die away from home, your family may end up paying for you to be quickly cremated out of town. Your plan may still pay as much as a 90% refund to your surviving loved ones, but the specifics of this situation will depend upon where you die and where the policy is held. States have different laws and regulations, so keep that in mind.

It’s often a good idea to buy your burial plot or niche in a mausoleum ahead of time because land rises in cost through the years. But know, too, that you can save money for your funeral in a savings account.

Finally, don’t keep it a secret that you’ve prepaid for arrangements. Too many times, families pay for an expensive funeral only to discover that their loved one pre-planned and prepaid. Make things easier on your family and get the send-off you want by planning your own funeral and making your efforts known to your loved ones. 

Funeral planning is a conversation that you should seriously consider having with your loved ones, laying out your wishes with the understanding that your funeral will be, in some ways, your last chance to say goodbye. Work with an attorney to make sure that the financial details of your pre-planning arrangements are properly taken care of and that your wishes will be enforced after you’ve passed away.