We know, another "boring" article about funeral pre-planning. But we have some news for you: we are all going to die one day. And while no one can predict when that day will be, pre-planning gives you the power to decide what will happen to your body once you die, and allows your family to know that they are honoring your wishes. This is where funeral pre-planning can help, and why you should read this article.
Funeral pre-planning lets you take control of the unexpected and protects your family from difficult decisions and financial pressures when the time comes. There are however many misconceptions about funeral pre-planning, so it is important to learn what you can do to prepare and make informed decisions.
Funeral pre-planning becomes important when your loved ones are at their most vulnerable.
Benefits Of Funeral Pre-Planning
Funeral pre-planning becomes important when your loved ones are at their most vulnerable. This can leave them at the mercy of rapid-fire decisions that can be traumatic and certainly costly. Pre-planning is more than just putting money aside. It takes care of funeral arrangements in advance, and with that, a guarantee to deliver the funeral services you envision. Do you simply want direct cremation and have your ashes scattered in your favorite park? Making your arrangement now, while sound of mind, saves your relatives from making rushed decisions under duress that may lead to disputes and unnecessary stress. Instead of scrambling, a simple phone call can set off the motions of your pre-planned funeral arrangements. But where do you begin?
Funeral Options and Considerations
A funeral is not necessarily only a service. And funeral pre-planning does not necessarily mean you even need to have a memorial service (no soggy tuna sandwiches here, please). You can personalize your plan at any time with as much or as little detail as you choose. You can specify that you wish to have your body donated to science with no memorial service, or you can set out detailed wishes for a special ceremony and decide how the service is to be conducted, along with special readings, music to be played, your favorite flowers, or whatever else (Star Wars themed procession, anyone?).
There are, however, three main categories of choice:
What? Where? When? Who?
- Related events that accompany a funeral service are visitation (open casket or closed), a wake, a procession after the formal service, or a memorial service later at another location.
- A house of worship, a funeral home, a family home, or other location.
- Take into account religious doctrine, travel time for family and friends, and set hours for a visitation or wake, if you wish.
- Decide who, if anyone, is to conduct your service (a celebrant, a religious official, or family member). Make a list of people you want to attend (especially if they are unknown to your family), and who you’d like to deliver eulogies, if any.
Disposition of the remains
- Embalming or not
- Cremation and scattering of ashes or placement in a cremation niche
- Burial and Green Burial
- Resomation (also known as water cremation or bio cremation)
- Entombment in a mausoleum
- Donation to Science (Canada, U.S)
- Casket type (wood, metal, wicker, etc.)
- Burial Vault and Grave Liner
- Cremation urn
- Burial shroud
Other considerations are what information is included in your obituary notice, if you prefer to have a home funeral, and bereavement counselling for family. Yes, there are a lot of decisions to make when you are pre-planning a funeral. Imagine, however, how much easier it is for you to make these decisions now, rather than your grieving loved ones having to make choices after you’re gone.
Pre-Paying For Your Funeral
Pre-Paying Through a Funeral Home
Increasingly popular in both the United States and Canada, a trust account at a funeral home will include all your funeral arrangements. For this type of funeral plan, you will likely have two choices: either you set up a guaranteed contract with all the services paid for in advance, or a non-guaranteed option that will need to be augmented by your executor. A guaranteed contract is useful because a contract does not necessarily ensure that funds deposited today will cover all the costs associated with the funeral in the future. In some Canadian provinces, people are protected from rising inflation and will not owe extra money upon death, IF they have signed a guaranteed contract. This is an important detail to discuss while pre-planning.
Should I Pre-Pay for my Funeral?
Many people choose to pre-pay for funeral services with a funeral home directly. While this has its benefits, especially if your family has a previous relationship with a funeral provider, it can have some drawbacks. For example, pre-paying for funeral costs today does not guarantee that there will be no additional costs in the future. If the casket you paid $2,000 for today costs $3,000 in 10 years, you may have to cover the difference. If you pre-pay for a funeral service today, and die in 20 years, there is little to guarantee that the funeral home will still be in business or still has a good reputation. Lastly, unless it is specified in your contract, obtaining a full refund from a funeral provider may be difficult. The safeguards and guarantees around pre-paying, (such as what happens if that funeral home goes out of business), differs throughout the United States and provinces in Canada. In the U.S. for example, only New Jersey and New York make it mandatory for funeral homes to place your funds in a trust. As such, you need to ask important questions before putting any money down.
What to Ask Before You Pre-Pay
If you choose a trust fund at a funeral service provider, ask them about the possibility to cancel or alter the terms of agreement in case you move to a new location or have changed your mind. Ask what happens if you choose to change details of your funeral plan. Additionally, many funeral homes will state that if the exact goods and services are not available at the time of the funeral, good and services of equal value will be provided in their stead. It is important that you agree on what constitutes "equal value" before you proceed. Finally, ask yourself about your current and future financial situation and which of the aforementioned options are best for you. Another question to ask the funeral home is, what happens if you were to die out of town? Some funeral homes may not cover the cost of the funeral unless you die in your registered State.
For a detailed overview of the pros and cons of pre-paying with a funeral provider, we recommend the Funeral Consumer Alliance.
Pre-Paying Outside the Funeral Home
Many people choose to purchase a life, funeral, or burial insurance policy. These can be set up independently through an insurance provider. Life insurance delivers a lump sum to your beneficiaries to do with as they want when you die, while funeral and burial insurance are funds specifically accumulated for funeral expenses. The difference between the two is that funeral insurance is paid directly to the funeral service provider, whereas the latter is paid out to a beneficiary. Another benefit of funeral insurance is the possibility of having your body repatriated in case of death overseas.
Another course of action is to set up a personal designated funeral savings account and leave it to your beneficiary or executor in trust. There, the approximate cost of a funeral today is placed to be collected later by a beneficiary. The money will accrue interest in the savings account to offset inflation by the time it is needed.
In the United States:
Life, funeral, and burial insurances are available options for those planning a funeral in advance in the United States. Similar to Canada, funeral insurance is directly paid out to a funeral home. Upon death, life and burial insurances are delivered to a beneficiary to do with as they see fit. You may also dedicate funds in a savings account for funeral costs, known as a “payable on death” (“POD”), or a Totten trust account. Money in such an account will grow with interest and will be released later to a named beneficiary (this account also allows you to bypass probate court entirely, but that is entirely another subject). Keep in mind that American citizens covered under Medicaid will need to ensure that their trust is irrevocable; should you experience a medical emergency, your funeral savings would not be considered an asset and drawn from, keeping your trust protected.
As funeral costs have risen faster than both the rate of inflation and savings rates, it's highly unlikely that money kept in a savings account or what is paid out from an insurance policy will be enough in the future. In all cases, it is important to keep in mind that a savings account or an insurance policy covers only funeral costs, not any additional fees that can be incurred by a memorial service (so save a little extra for that fancy catered vegan memorial dinner).
Funeral Pre-Planning Without Pre-Paying
You do not have to pre-pay for your funeral and may simply want your preferences for body disposition and your funeral documented. If you have a good outline of your wishes, you can still speak with a funeral director who will record them. Your selected funeral director can guide you and make note of the funeral parameters mentioned above.
Once you’ve arranged for a funeral pre-plan make sure that you give your family members a detailed list of your chosen plans.
In regards to pre-planning you have four options. (1) You can detail your wishes with a funeral home to be kept on file (at no cost, generally). We recommend shopping around for prices and to find a service provider that you feel good about. (2) You can detail your requests yourself, or with the help of a pre-planning website (like the one found here), and entrust it to someone. (3) You can (and should) create a will. And finally, (4) in the United States you can set up an advance directive. The latter is especially important in case of a medical emergency where you may not be able to make decisions yourself. While these avenues will not protect against rising funeral costs, your intentions will nonetheless be catalogued.
Once you’ve arranged for a funeral pre-plan make sure that you give your family members a detailed list of your chosen plans and talk to them about it. If you’ve contracted a funeral director, be sure to have a funeral arrangement package for your relatives that will tell them everything they need to do when the time comes. If you wish to have a home funeral, a good deal of advanced planning is required, along with close participation of family and friends (this article is a good place to start).
Funeral pre-planning relieves those you love from making tough decisions under difficult circumstances and empowers you to make decisions over your own body. Death is a difficult time, but an honest and open discussion is always a good idea. If you’ve chosen to pre-plan, most people will understand your efforts are a means to relieve their future financial and emotional burdens.
When You Die
When the time comes, a single phone call from your family to your funeral provider, or whomever you've entrusted with your end-of-life decisions, should put your plans into motion. While there are many contingencies to consider, funeral pre-planning can help relieve your family of many of the financial burdens that come with death. Detailed planning today means that your loved ones won’t have to stress or worry, for you have made provisions for your funeral well in advance.
This article was written and researched with the help of Roa Gawad:
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I think that being able to have some pre arranged funeral arrangements could be good for my family in the future. I’m glad that you talked about it being as simple as a single call to the funeral provider, which I think would be good. I’m going to have to see if we can work on pre arranged funeral arrangements with my parents and make it easy when the time does come!
It’s interesting to learn that the pre-planning stage of your funeral is very open and flexible in accordance with your wish. Therefore, if you’d like your body to be donated to science with no memorial, they would make that happen. Additionally, if you’d like a themed memorial, that will be entirely up to you too to plan at your own pace. That’s perfect since I wouldn’t like my family to be bothered with my death. I’ll have a pre-plan made later on and see if I can get a package if I do this. I would love it if this can lessen the burden they will have when I pass on. Thanks!
I like how you said that by pre-planning the funeral we can avoid traumatic decision making and ensure that I really do get the type of funeral that I want by doing some pre-planning arrangements. I know that my mom is against this because she doesn’t feel comfortable about it. It’s not like I want any of us to die soon, I just think that it’s best to get everything prepared just in case. Thanks for sharing. It might be best to talk to mom again.
Like you said, pre-planning the funeral relieves my family from making tough decisions under difficult situations and allows me to make decisions over my own body. That’s pretty much the point of the whole thing. My job requires me to work in a risky situation, and I know that anything can happen to me anytime. Pre-planning a funeral is advisable for my case, but I know that my wife is against it. I’ll try to convince her again. Thanks a lot for sharing!
I really like how you mentioned that you can have a trust account at a funeral home will include all of your funeral arrangements. My dad has been really wanting to pre-plan his funeral for years. That is great he can set up a system with a funeral home. I will have to let him know.
Thanks for the tip to ask about the possibility of canceling or altering the terms of agreement when you choose a trust fund at a funeral service provider. Ever since the death of my grandmother, my family has been thinking more about planning ahead for future funerals. When working with funeral planning services, I’ll be sure to check the conditions of trust funds with providers to see if they match my needs.
I’m glad that you talked about considering how many hours away your family lives from a home. I have been getting older and I feel like it’s time to plan out my funeral. I can see how it would be smart to choose a home that is close to where my family lives because it would make traveling for the service feel less stressful.
The other day, my friend was updating me on her grandmother’s funeral services. Her grandmother wants to plan everything now so that it is not a heavy burden beforehand. They would really like your advice to shop around.
I agree with you in that it is important to remember that planning ahead can help you avoid making difficult decisions in this time of need. It is important to remember that doing some research can help you find the best way to arrange your funeral. My parents are thinking about preplanning their own funeral so they don’t have to leave all those decisions to us, so I’m glad I found your page.
I love how you said that a guaranteed contract will ensure that your price doesn’t increase in the future. My dad passed away recently and my mom will probably follow, but nor for some time. Being able to prepay for the funeral home would be helpful because we could get a low price now that wouldn’t increase.
It was great how you pointed out that one of the benefits of pre-planning the funeral was that it will save the family from the hassle of making tough decisions while they’re under emotional stress. I actually think that’s a good point to think about because I have a few siblings who can get quite rattled when they’re emotional. I don’t want to bother them. I have been diagnosed with an illness a few weeks back, and I’m not sure if I will survive it. I better start planning my funeral as early as now. Thank you. I appreciated this post.
It’s good that you included in the things to take note of the religious belief, travel time, and visitation hours for the wake in pre-planning the funeral. That will really serve as a good way to begin the planning considering we have never actually arranged a funeral before– or at least my family hasn’t. All I want is for everyone to be prepared in case anything happens to me because my job can be a bit dangerous, so I’ve decided to preplan a funeral. Your tips will surely help me. Thank you!
It’s interesting that you mentioned the funeral home being able to keep your files on record for free. I have been looking for someone to help me plan my funeral. I can see how it would be nice to have someone else hold onto my plan because I lose files all the time.
A good friend of mine was telling me about one of her family members going to a funeral service to make plans for the future. She was worried about if this was a good idea or not and was asking for my opinion. I will let her know that this is a good decision because they can plan for the future more effectively.
It sure got me when you said that one of the things to consider when planning the funeral is the family and friends and the amount of time it will take them to arrive. Seeing this made me realize that we should pick a funeral home that is convenient for everyone. I mean, the family is a bit separated by cities, so we need to consider that. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for suggesting that you talk to the funeral home that you decide on and make sure you know if they will alter the terms of the agreement or not. My grandmother passed away a few days ago and we are trying to plan her funeral. We have almost everything done except booking a funeral home. I am wanting to do some research and find the best possible funeral home for her.
I wanted to thank you for your explanation about the funeral pre-planning. In my opinion, even if we don’t want to, we need to accept and face the reality that we need to prepare for this. And yes, I do agree when you said that funeral pre-planning becomes important when your loved ones are at their most vulnerable.
I like how you mentioned that pre-planning your funeral will help take lots of stress of your family, as it can be hard to make decisions while grieving. My grandfather recently took a bad fall down the stairs and had to get his brain operated on; because of this, he has been wondering what he should do to prepare for his death. I’ll share this article with him, so he can get started on pre-planning his funeral.
My uncle was diagnosed with a terminal disease. It was explained here that funeral pre-planning doesn’t mean that there should be a memorial service. Moreover, it’s advisable to consult professionals when considering a funeral home.
I really like your tip on how with medical insurance, your investments towards a funeral will increase with interest. My wife and I have been starting to plan for our funerals so our kids won’t have to, and we aren’t sure about the best way to pay for it. I will be sure to talk to my wife about getting some funeral insurance that can help us get some money for the future!
My uncle was diagnosed with a terminal disease and he wants to plan his funeral right away. It was explained here that some benefits of pre-planning are being able to save the relatives from making rash decisions. Furthermore, it’s advisable to talk to funeral homes when thinking about funeral packages.
I never knew that planning a funeral would require thinking about conducting the service, special readings, music, and flowers. In my opinion, I would first find a funeral home with the best memorial service package. With their help, my burial plans will be followed respectfully. Thanks for the tips!
[…] The goal of Funeral Consumers Alliance is to ensure consumers are fully prepared and protected when planning a funeral for themselves or their loved ones. The FCA fact-checks, mystery shops, and does funeral information legwork so you can be fully prepared when planning a funeral. […]
Simply good! Planning your own funeral in advance can prevent some of the stress your family and friends will experience at your passing. Instead of having to deal with details and financial responsibilities during their final goodbyes, your loved ones can focus on celebrating your life and healing. If you wish not to Pre-pay, leave instructions about what you want so loved ones will be able to take care of it.
It’s great to know more about funeral planning. I like how you said that it’s important to personalize our plans with as much detail as we want. My wife and I both want to plan ours out so that our kids won’t have to, so this is great to know.
I agree when you say that pre-planning your funeral will make it so that your loved ones don’t have to stress or worry. The death of a friend or family member is stressful and sad enough without trying to figure out how to honor them properly. I’ll definitely have to look into a pre-planned funeral for myself.
You mentioned that to pre-plan a funeral, we should decide who is to conduct the service. This is great to remember, especially since this will make a big difference. I love to be prepared at all times, so I am going to look for a funeral home near me so that I can start pre-planning.
I like how you mention planning your funeral will save your family from making decisions that can be traumatic and costly. Thank you for the information on why you should preplan your funeral. I would recommend to contact your local funeral home and ask what benefits they have for you.
It makes sense that loved ones will be struggling when you pass away and that you don’t want them planning then, but you want them to be able to carry out your wishes. For the last few weeks, my aunt has felt like she’s been getting sicker, and she doesn’t want my uncle to have to worry about planning a funeral if the worst happens. We’ll have to look into pre-planning.
I like how you mentioned that pre-planning helps your relatives with not making rushed decisions if they were to plan your funeral. recently I was wondering if it would be beneficial to pre-plan my funeral so that my family won’t have to stress about it when I pass away. I really appreciate you helping me learn more about pre-planning a funeral!
Thanks for helping me understand how funeral pre-planning works. My grandpa told me to look this up for him and I wanted to help him. I had no idea that in pre-planning, you get to decide which funeral home, which one will conduct your service and how will your remains be disposed of. I should share this with him so he could now consider his options. I do understand that he’s already getting old.
It really helped when you said that we should make sure that we have a list with the details of what we want if we have opted for pre-paid funeral arrangements. I will keep that in mind because I am actually interested in that to ensure that I will not be a burden to my family in case anything happens to me. I am already in my 50s, so I am already thinking about being prepared in that aspect for the comfort of my relatives.
It’s helpful to know how pre-planning your funeral helps give peace of mind to your family. Not long ago, one of my uncles passed away out of the blue, and his family had to deal with all the funeral arrangements and expenses, so I’ll talk to my family about pre-planning this weekend. Thanks for the insight on how pre-planning works and its financial advantages.
Knowing what to expect to spend when pre-planning a funeral sounds like it’s a great way to do things. Rather than be surprised at the cost when you’re emotionally unstable, this will be a much better way of bracing for a cost like that. Should we need a memorial for a relative soon, I’ll make sure we pre-plan the costs involved with a local funeral home.