Let’s face it. No one likes thinking about death and dying — or their own funeral, for that manner. In fact, only 21% of Americans have talked with a loved one about their funeral wishes.1 Preplanning your funeral and making your final wishes known can help ease the burden on your loved ones. It will also relieve them of the emotional stress that comes with having to make tough decisions while grieving.
Here are seven things to consider when planning your funeral to ensure it’s carried out according to your wishes.
1. What Choices Do You Have for Your Body?
First things first, what do you want to happen to your body when you die? The three main choices are burial, cremation or donation. Burial arrangements are usually the most expensive option and can cost up to $9,000 or more. Cremations can cost in the range of $1,000-$8,000 depending where you live and what services you choose.2 Lastly, you can donate your organs or gift your body to an organization for the purpose of supporting medical research, education and training. The tissues not used are then cremated and returned.3 Donating your body to science typically doesn’t cost anything, usually just a nominal fee to cover expenses.4
2. What Kind of Service Do You Want?
There are many different options when it comes to funeral services. The most common ones are a traditional funeral, direct burial, direct cremation or graveside service, but it all comes down to your personal preference.
A traditional funeral service is a formal ceremony where the deceased person’s body is present. They are most common with burials and usually start with a viewing or visitation before the ceremony where friends and family can view the body and pay their respects, followed by a reception afterwards. The ceremony usually takes place in a funeral home, church or a space of your choosing.5
A direct burial occurs when the deceased is buried shortly after death without a formal ceremony or viewing, and direct cremation is where the deceased is cremated right after death. Memorial services are celebrations of life and are usually more informal. A graveside service means that the ceremony takes place at the burial site.6
3. Where Do You Want the Funeral to Be Held?
If you choose a burial, where do you want your casket to rest? If your wish is to be cremated, where do you want the urn or ashes placed after the funeral? Research funeral homes and cemeteries in your area ahead of time to ensure you pick what is most meaningful to you. Read reviews online to get a feel for whether they may be a good fit or go visit the location and talk to the manager to see for yourself. If you choose to donate your body to science or donate your organs, decide what university or program you wish to go through.
4. Do You Want a Reception Afterwards?
Do you want a gathering after the funeral service? A funeral reception provides your loved ones the opportunity to spend time together and remember the person they lost in a more casual setting than the funeral itself. It’s a great way to help with the healing process and gives your friends and family the chance the share their memories. A reception can be held essentially anywhere, commonly in church halls, restaurants, parks or even your family’s home.
5. Consider How You Want the Funeral Personalized
Consider personalizing the service to make it your own. How do you want the funeral to feel? Do you want it to be treated like a celebration? Do you want the service led by a pastor or a close family member?
There are many things you can decide ahead of time. For the service, you could select a eulogist, obituary preferences and the readings you might want to include in the service. You can decide what type of flowers you want for the service or reception, memorabilia or photos, food and decorations. You can get creative with the small details!
6. How Do You Plan to Pay for It?
Determine how you will pay for your funeral. The total cost of a traditional, full service funeral varies greatly and can range anywhere from $2,000 to around $14,000, depending on the services you include.7
There are a variety of options available. Consider creating a budget and setting aside funds that are earmarked for funeral expenses. You could fund a payable on death account with a named beneficiary, which would ensure the funds are available immediately to your heirs without having to go through probate. Unlike a joint account, the beneficiary you name cannot touch the money while you are alive. These accounts may be established at a bank, where they will be FDIC insured, and you can access the money at any time.8
Another option to pay for funeral costs could be through proceeds received from a life insurance policy, which would provide a lump sum dollar amount to your named beneficiaries after death. The proceeds can be used to cover the funeral expenses and will cover the financial needs of the beneficiaries named on the policy. The insurance proceeds are disbursed soon after death, also avoiding the probate process.9
7. Write Down Everything
Most importantly, once you’re finished preplanning, make sure to document your final wishes and discuss them with your loved ones. Be sure to store the document/s in a place where they can be easily located by your family. It’s also a good idea to give a copy to the funeral home or any of the vendors you’ve chosen.
Don’t feel pressured to plan it down to the last detail. Any preplanning you do will be beneficial, and your family will appreciate it!
These are some of the toughest emotional decisions you’ll have to make in your life, but you can gain some peace of mind. Reach out to an advisor for assistance in discovering your options and planning ahead.