Planning for our own funeral means facing our own humanity. For many, this might cause reflection, reminiscence, and even some blurred discomfort. For others, it might be just another responsibility of life.
However, making plans for end-of-life includes several realistic issues. How are you going to like your remains handled after you pass away? Who are you going to delegate to carry out your wishes? How are expenses going be paid?
Each person’s answers to these questions will be highly personal. As you figure out the answers for yourself, this article flags some important points to bear in mind.
Benefits of Planning Your Funeral Ahead of Time
There are a multitude of benefits of planning your own funeral. Firstly, final wishes typically reflect individual values, and some individuals find it comforting or empowering with the knowledge that their end-of-life decisions are going to be their own. Although each individual’s values may vary, making end-of-life decisions on our own can feel like a final affirmation of the ideology that give our lives meaning.
Secondly, when you do not make a plan in advance, one has to be made quickly when you pass away. This can be highly taxing on your grieving family members. Failing to give instructions can even produce disagreements among loved ones attempting to make difficult decisions for you.
Lastly, planning in advance is the best way to decrease funeral costs. It might appear like a tragic irony that, even in death, bills need to be paid. Aside from Irony, funeral arrangements can be rather costly. Having an idea of how these final expenses are going to be covered provides you and your loved ones with some peace of mind.
Who Is Going to Arrange My Funeral If I Fail to?
The individual responsible for managing your estate when you pass away is referred to as your “personal representative.” Unless differently specified, this individual is generally also responsible for making funeral arrangements for you.
Your personal representative may be designated in your will, in such a case they are sometimes referred to as an “executor.” If there is no will, your personal representative is going to be appointed by a probate court, in such a case they are occasionally referred to as an “administrator.”
When a will is nonexistent, courts allocate your estate and designate a representative based on state statutes of intestate succession. Although laws differ by state, they generally allocate and designate based on the subsequent hierarchy: spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and then relatives.
You might feel comfortable counting on a court-designated representative to manage your funeral. Nevertheless, the highly personal nature of losing a loved one typically leads to family discord. For instance, if an excluded relative feels personally entitled to engage in the decision-making, they may challenge the court’s designation. This type of conflict can be extremely burdensome on your loved ones, as well as on your estate because it funds continual litigation.
Why Not Leave Funeral Instructions Through My Will?
Your last will and testament is an important document that is the foundation of your estate plan. On the other hand, as regards to planning your funeral, your will should be used as a last resort. Why? Since wills are usually not read or accessible until weeks—often even months—following the testator’s death. By that time, it will likely be too late to implement your funeral instructions.
Alternatively, think about leaving end-of-life instructions in an advance health care directive. They are legally binding paperwork that details how you would like your health care decisions to be made should you become debilitated. Subject to the laws of your state, they can also be utilized to leave funeral instructions.
In addition, you can leave a straightforward “Letter of Instruction.” This informal document details your end-of-life wishes and can be affixed to your will. Although not legally binding, it can go a long way in making your wishes clear to your loved ones and personal representative.
What Should be Included in My Instructions?
Funeral rites typically carry emotional cultural, spiritual, or philosophical importance. Consequently, funeral plans are as diversified as they are personal. Nevertheless, the below list should assist you in beginning to think about the specifics you would like to focus on in yours:
- What funeral service is going to handle your remains?
- Do you wish for your body to be cremated, buried, or embalmed?
- When buried or embalmed, where are you going like your remains interred (for instance in-ground burial, private mausoleum, above-ground crypt, natural burial)?
- When cremated, are going to you wish your ashes stored or spread?
- Are you going to want a grave marker (for example a tombstone, plaque, or monument)?
- Are you going to want a ceremony and, if so, what type (full funeral service, grave side service, direct cremation, scattering service, direct burial, wake, memorial service, visitation, etc.)?
- What is your preferred ceremony venue (for instance, house of worship, funeral home, grave side)?
- How would you wish your body to transported (hearse, pallbearers, etc.)?
- Who needs to be specifically notified of your passing and invited to your ceremony?
- How are your funeral costs going to be paid?
What Services are Available from Funeral Homes?
Also referred to as “mortuaries,” funeral homes offer a variety of services and goods. You are able to pick and choose in accordance with your needs. Essential goods and services usually include:
- Caskets, coffins, cremation urns;
- Transportation of the body from the place of passing to the mortuary;
- Preparing the body as required;
- Storing the body until its final arrangement;
- Transference of the body to its final resting place;
- Preparing and filing required documents (for instance death certificate and certified copies);
- Devising and/or issuing an obituary; and
- Planning and carrying out requested ceremonies.
Paying for Your Funeral
Funerals are unusually costly. As reported by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average total expense of a funeral with a viewing and burial in 2021 was upwards of $7,848. In that same year, a funeral with viewing and cremation expense was an average of $6,970.
When you don’t plan ahead, these funeral expenses can create a considerable headache for your mourning family and friends. Having said that, there are a lot of ways for planning ahead.
- Life Insurance. Often referred to as “burial insurance” or “funeral insurance” when bought in that context, life insurance policies can be a practical way for covering your end-of-life expenses. Rather than one substantial funeral bill, you can pay a budget-friendly monthly premium in return for a sizable payout when you pass away. Since life insurance proceeds bypass probate, the beneficiary gets the funds directly from the insurance company.
- Funeral Trust. A trust is a property agreement whereupon a grantor transfers assets to be overseen by a trustee on a beneficiary’s behalf. Through a funeral trust, the grantor earmarks assets to cover their own end-of-life costs. The trustee might be an institution (for example a trust company or financial institution) or a trustworthy person. The beneficiary is going to be a funeral venue of your choice.
- Payable-On-Death (POD) Accounts. Also referred to as a “Totten trust,” POD accounts are simply a financial account (for example a financial institution account or investment account) with a designated beneficiary. When the owner passes away, the assets bypass probate and are instantly transferred to the beneficiary. You can offer just enough funding for covering end-of-life expenses.
- Veteran Benefits. Veterans, military members, and some military family members may be entitled for burial in a Veteran’s Association National Cemetery. Free to the family, benefits include burial, continual care, a governmental headstone, burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Cremations are also offered with full death benefits. Some veterans might also be eligible for burial allowances.
- Savings Accounts. You can always earmark funding in a savings account to fully cover or counterpart your end-of-life expenses.
- Credit Cards and Loans. Accruing debt to pay for funeral costs is, obviously, the least appealing option. Having said that, it enables you to cover funeral costs when paying down the debt in payment. It may also offer a brief solution when the required funds are available but not yet obtainable.
Be Careful of Funeral Pre-Payment Plans
As you browse, be careful of pre-paid funeral plans. Regrettably, dishonest funeral providers often exploit vulnerable consumers searching for an easy funeral-planning solution. Even though funeral homes are greatly-regulated as a consequence, regulations differ widely by state.
The funeral home industry is also controlled by the Federal Trade Commission, in which combats dishonest methods by enforcing the “Funeral Rule.”
Among others, the Funeral Rule necessitates that funeral providers—equally licensed and unlicensed—provide each customer a tangible price list that they can take home and go over. The list needs to include every funeral goods and services offered by the home, enabling consumers to peruse on an itemized basis. This is meant to hinder providers from coercing vulnerable consumers into purchasing overpriced funeral “packages.”
A few of the many hazards you may come upon with pre-paid funeral plans are:
- The funding you prepay with are abused, lost, or stolen;
- The funeral provider goes out of business, leaving you with no means to reclaim your funding;
- You put down a non-refundable pre-payment and then move to another area where the provider doesn’t operate; or
- The pre-paid funds are not enough to cover future costs (for instance burial plots become more costly prior to the provider making a purchase).
Questions About Planning a Funeral? Speak with an Attorney.
Devising your end-of-life plan now is going to make things easier when the unavoidable finally happens. Preparing funeral instructions now offers some assurance that your final wishes are going to be honored and that your loved ones are not going to be forced to make difficult decisions as they grieve over their loss. Whether creating binding funeral instructions or exploring options for funding your end-of-life expenses, your local estate planning attorney can assist you in making informed decisions.
Thomas Hootman, J. D. (2022, June 9). Funeral planning FAQ. Findlaw. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.findlaw.com/estate/planning-an-estate/funeral-planning-guide-faq.html
There’s nothing better than the peace of mind you will have knowing you’ve protected your family at a time when they need it most. Let us help. Schedule a consultation or contact Ogborne Law, PLC of Arizona today.