Usually the estate planning attorney gets the call from a child or close family friend: did Mrs. Jones leave any documentation behind about her wishes for her funeral, did she want to be cremated, or what kind of memorial service did she want? In most cases, there are no instructions, and the family must make quick decisions and hope that they have done what their loved one would have wanted.
Inside Indiana Business’ recent article, “The Gift of Pre-Planning a Funeral” explains that 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, yet 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. Immediately following your passing is a time when your family can barely think, and they may not seriously consider the costs as they plan your funeral. 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. These choices bring on added stress, and can lead to questioning whether they correspond to what you would have wanted.
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.
Along with the above reasons as to why pre-planning is in the best interests of you and your family, you should also think about how you will pay for your funeral expenses. Not planning ahead for this again complicates the decision making process for your family, or leaves them with trying to pay for it themselves, which can lead to tough discussions about sharing expenses. Instead, 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 sales person is an agent of your funeral home and how and where your money will be held. Adding this step to your financial plan will also ease the suffering of your family from losing a loved one.
Here’s another missing element: tell your family members what you want and where they will find the necessary documents and details. They may be uncomfortable with the discussion, but when the time comes, they will be grateful that you didn’t leave these tasks undone. At Family Estate Law Planning Group, our approach is to have a Family Care Meeting to facilitate this uncomfortable discussion. We want to ensure you and your loved ones are confident, no matter what happens, there is a plan in place that meets your wishes and eases the burden of moving forward for those left behind.
For more information on this and other estate planning topics, visit our website to schedule your consultation today! Now is the time to get a plan in place.
Reference: Inside Indiana Business (January 15, 2018) “The Gift of Pre-Planning a Funeral”