Talking about death — and what comes next — is understandably tough for many of us. The numbers say it all: A recent survey from The Conversation Project found that 92% of people say it’s important to them to talk with their family about their end-of-life planning and wishes. Yet only 32% have had the conversation.
Even if it’s still years in the future, planning your funeral in advance can take a big burden off your family because they won’t have to guess what you want (and second-guess their own decisions) during an emotionally taxing time. Funerals are expensive, with the average funeral costing $9,000 or more in 2021. Planning for your funeral can help you ensure your family has enough money to fulfill your wishes once you’re gone.
We know that thinking about the end of your life can be overwhelming. Remember, you don’t need to coordinate every detail, like your sock selection or the exact color of flowers at the service. That said, planning a few key aspects, and discussing them with loved ones, can help make things go much more smoothly later.
Arrangements to consider before planning your funeral
Will you choose burial or cremation?
The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether you want a burial or a cremation. Burials are more costly than cremations, and the casket is the biggest ticket item in a burial. According to the Federal Trade Commission, caskets can range anywhere from $2,000 to over $10,000, depending on the quality and materials used.
If you want your loved ones to bury you, you must choose a cemetery plot. Consider whether you want other family members to be buried there, and plan for that. Other typical burial expenses involve the plot and grave marker, transportation for you and your family to the cemetery, and graveside service.
If you want loved ones to cremate you, think about the final resting place for your ashes. Will they be buried, scattered, or given to family members? With cremation, you’ll need to plan for the cost of an urn or other container, the cremation itself, and the transportation of your “cremains,” or cremated remains. Additionally, some people decide to forgo both options and donate their body to science. You’ll want to investigate this ahead of time should you choose this route.
Funeral service details
- The type of service and the location of the service.
- Choose the readings, songs, and other celebrations.
- Choose whom you would like to include in your service.
- Include other personal requests, like special flowers or music.
Funeral service cost
Ensuring that you have covered the cost of your funeral is an important part of end-of-life planning. Think about the money you’ll need for a funeral, plus any additional medical bills or expenses that might crop up unexpectedly. Final expense insurance can help ensure your family has enough money to cover everything and is typically available in amounts up to $40,000, depending on the company. You can typically purchase this kind of policy until age 85, and it’s easy to qualify since it doesn’t require a medical exam.
When you buy final expense insurance, you can name a spouse or child as your life insurance beneficiary or assign it directly to your funeral home if you know they will make your final arrangements. If you decide to go this route, check in with your funeral home to ensure they can accept final expense insurance as a form of payment.
How to plan your funeral arrangements
Choose a funeral home and contact the funeral director
They can help you plan your service, select the items you need ahead of time, and help you understand overall costs.
Make cemetery arrangements
Is this the place you want your body to rest? Do they have room for other family members, if needed? You might visit the location yourself first.
Let your loved ones know if you want to be buried or cremated
Telling them whether you prefer a burial or a cremation (or if you don’t have a preference) ahead of time can help avoid much stress later. Consider putting arrangements in your will or writing them down to avoid confusion. If you change your mind later, that’s OK, too. Just be sure to communicate anything new with your family members. Choose a trusted family member to be the main person in charge of arrangements, which can help make things easier.
Communicate other final wishes
If you have any specific final wishes about your funeral, burial, or cremation, let them know now while you still can. Also, talk to them about your obituary or write it down beforehand.
Make sure your estate plan is in order
Once the funeral is over, having a proper estate plan can help avoid unnecessary hassles and costs for your family. A will covers where you want your things to go when you die and who should care for minor children or dependent relatives. A will may not cover all your assets, so you may also need a trust or other estate planning documents.
Without the proper documentation, your family can end up in probate court to sort things out, costing thousands of dollars. An estate plan may also include powers of attorney, which give your family the power to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf before you die if needed. Learn more about why you need a will.
Other considerations for planning your own funeral
For many people, making funeral arrangements in advance can provide a sense of control and peace. No one knows when their time will come but planning where possible can help make it easier for you and your family.
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