Though it's not a topic most of us want to think about, planning for what happens after your loved one's death and understanding your loved one's options can reduce the stress on grieving family members and caretakers. Making decisions now about what happens when they're gone can help assure those left behind that your loved one's wishes are being honored.
The death of a loved one is always stressful. Fortunately, preplanning is something your loved one can do now to help his or her family. Often, family members and friends are unsure of the answers and worry about making poor choices. Preplanning can help your loved one's family make better choices and significantly reduces the number of difficult decisions that traditionally confront loved ones at a time of loss.
Preplanning helps to answer questions like:
- Did she want a traditional funeral with burial?
- Didn't he say he wanted to be cremated?
- Should we have the service at the funeral home or a church?
- What funeral songs should be played?
Step 1: Decide on the Service
Deciding on the type of service your loved one wants is a great step towards feeling confident that their wishes will be fulfilled. Traditional services generally have a visitation at a funeral home and a funeral service. These services are most common, but options are changing. Funeral homes are responding to the demand for customized, complete services. Spend some time with your loved one deciding what type service he or she wants, if it should have religious elements, if it should be intimate or large and if there are any unique requests that can be accommodated.
Another important element to discuss is body disposition. Will your loved one have a burial or cremation? A cemetery plot should be purchased if your loved one is having an in-ground burial; a mausoleum crypt for above ground. If cremation is the choice, plan the disposition of the ashes. Will the ashes remain with someone, be stored or buried or scattered somewhere?
Step 2: Shop Around
Don't think that your loved one's local funeral home is your only option. Investigating different funeral homes is an important part of planning a funeral. After your loved one has decided what type of ceremony he or she wants, work with a funeral director and ask all the questions you and your loved one need.
It is appropriate to ask for a price listing. Many funeral homes offer package funerals that may cost less than purchasing individual items or services. Remember, it's your loved one's funeral, have it done the way they want. The sky is the limit, so the funeral homes of today should be able to accommodate your love one's requests.
Step 3: Choose a Funeral Home
Choose a home that fits your loved one's budget and is willing to work with him or her on their requests. It is important that your loved one is comfortable with their decision, so choose the home that they trust most. Never feel uncomfortable asking questions; a good funeral director understands this process is not something people do everyday and should be able to assist your loved one and make them feel comfortable.
Many funeral homes are able to offer specialized services that help during this difficult time. Because funerals are an investment of time and money, ask about the transferability of your loved one's funeral plans. For example, the Dignity Memorial® National Transferability allows prearranged funerals to be fully transferable across their North American Network. So if life takes you to a different location, your loved one's plans will transfer.
Step 4: Understand Your Loved One's Funding Options
Know that your loved one does not need to prepay in order to preplan their funeral. Simply sharing a written record of their final wishes with family and friends relieves everyone of the burden of making difficult decisions regarding your loved one's final arrangements. If your loved one does choose to prefund their prearrangement, they can lock in today's prices for products and services that likely will be more expensive in the future. Work with a funeral professional to understand your state's particular laws and regulations that protect preneed funds, and select a funeral provider that provides its own guarantee of your loved one's funds' protection.
Regardless of whether or not your loved one funds his or her prearrangement, preplanning their funeral ensures that their services will be as they would have wanted and relieves loved ones of additional stress at a trying time.