It’s not uncommon for an estate planning attorney to get a phone call from a personal representative of the estate of a recently departed, asking if the attorney has any documentation about the decedent’s wishes for a memorial service. Unless some sound planning took place, chances are there are no instructions.
If your wishes are documented, it can help eliminate your family’s stress during a highly emotional time. A 2017 study by the National Funeral Directors Association found that while 66% of Americans believe that pre-planning is important, only 21.4% had actually completed the exercise.
Pre-planning does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a written statement of your desires or a legal Funeral Planning Declaration.
There are several reasons why pre-planning makes good sense. Let’s take a look at them:
Decreasing stress. Pre-planning can eliminate some of the stress on family or friends. It also can avoid emotionally charged conflicts right after your passing. Spend some time now to make your preferences known or make the actual arrangements.
Avoid spending excessively. If you pre-plan, you can select appropriately. Your family may not consider the cost as they decide right after your passing—a time when they can barely think. Some may mistakenly feel the amount spent shows the amount of respect and love they have for you. Either way, it often means overspending.
Specify detailed instructions. You can provide some peace to your family by knowing that your final wishes will be carried out. You might consider things like burial or cremation, your attire, the location, service participants, music, readings, flowers, and photographs. Some feel that this level of detail is unnecessary, but if you don’t specify your wishes, someone else will make these decisions.
Reimbursement of family expenses. If you want to reimburse long-distance family members and friends for their travel, you can add that into your pre-planning documentation. Talk to your attorney about including this provision in your will.
You should also think about how you’ll pay for your funeral expenses. Perhaps you can designate funds in your savings or investment account or use life insurance proceeds. By pre-paying, you can lock-in today's funeral prices but be sure your funds are safe. Ask if the salesperson is an agent of your funeral home and how and where your money will be held.
Once you decide on the details of your pre-planning, share the details with your family. Pre-planning your funeral is an act of kindness for your family and friends. It’s also a chance to express your personal desires and to potentially avoid issues that can arise after your death.
Reference: Inside Indiana Business (January 15, 2018) “The Gift of Pre-Planning a Funeral”