On Death and Dying: Burial and Memorial Planning

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • Who was it that said, 'I guess that's how death works. It doesn't matter if we're ready or not. It just happens'? Planning your future needs includes your wishes about your funeral. It can all feel a bit spooky!


    Many people avoid any talk of death. It is as though speaking about it will somehow hasten it! But, writing down your wishes and discussing them with close family and friends, helps them to carry out your wishes. It can also help guide them through the emotionally difficult times that surround a death.


    My father talked about his wishes only the other day. I want the cheapest coffin and I want no fuss! Can I really carry out that wish? It poses the question, who are funerals for? I guess the answer is - everyone. So it seems fair that flexibility is part of the plan. However that is not necessarily everyone's agenda.

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    Informal Approaches to Funeral Planning

    A trip to a funeral director will inform you about options, any medical requirements that may dictate ways a body should be handled, and costs. Armed with the knowledge you can discuss your wishes with your family or you can write them down. You can use My Funeral Choices worksheet to write down information about what you want.



    Financial Planning for Burial and Memorial Plans

    Prepaid plans do seem like a good idea. It is important to be aware of your rights and risks under a prepaid plan. There are two main types; Insurance-funded plans and Pre-need trusts.


    Prepaid Insurance Funded Plans:

    Under these plans you can buy an increasing benefit life insurance policy from a funeral director or cemetery. The price of the goods and services are usually guaranteed. On your death the policy proceeds are paid to the funeral director or cemetery.


    Pre-need trusts:

    The buyer of a pre-need trust pays the funeral director or cemetery an amount for guaranteed goods or services to be provided at the time of death. The seller of the pre-need trust holds the money in a trust fund. Although a good idea in principle they may have serious pitfalls. These can include hidden expenses, big penalties for cancellation, a limited selection of funeral homes or cemeteries, and possible financial instability of the company with which you have the trust.


    Funerals: Consumer information from the Federal Trade Commission will give you more information about your rights and possible problems involved with prepaid funeral plans.


    If you are on public benefits such as Medicaid make sure any plan does not cause ineligibility problems.


    More advice is available from The Funerals Consumer Alliance (FCA). You can also call them on (800) 765-0107.


    Financial Help for Veterans

    The cost of death is high. If you or your loved one is a veteran you can get financial help with the costs. Here is a link for more information on burial and memorial benefits for veterans. Or you can contact your regional Veterans Affairs office at (800) 827-100  


    Tips on Burial and Memorial Planning

    • Keep a record of all the payments you make to the plan, to whom and where.
    • Make sure your family can find the information easily.
    • Don't rely on your will to provide instructions, since it may not be read until after memorial events.
    • State any address readings, music, or ceremonies you want included in the service.
    • Identify any charity or organization to which you would like memorial gifts be made in your name.
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Published On: March 23, 2010