Many people have done everything they can to protect their family’s future: invested wisely, opened savings accounts, and acquired insurance on their life and home. But if they haven’t taken care of their own funeral arrangements, their surviving family members will be responsible for handling this difficult task during a time of sadness and loss.
It’s vitally important to give serious thought to your loved one’s personal wishes and encourage them to prearrange their services. There are many myths surrounding advance funeral planning, but understanding how this process works will clarify the many benefits of preplanning.
How to Plan a Funeral or Cremation Service Ahead of Time
- Know the choices.
How would your loved one like to be remembered? The best way to personalize a funeral is by encouraging them to plan it themselves well in advance. A loved one’s funeral or cremation service should reflect his or her wishes and bring comfort to surviving family and friends. These days, no two services are alike. Videos, photographs, music, special readings and the involvement of family and friends are all appropriate and encouraged.
Prearranging gives your loved one the opportunity to learn about their options in a pressure-free environment and think through these decisions. They’re in full control and can select and specify the services that are meaningful to them and those they love. A local Dignity Memorial® provider can explain all of the available products and services and accommodate your loved one’s wishes to make the memorial a truly unique and personal experience.
- Wishes need to be properly documented.
Many people think they have taken care of everything by writing a will, establishing a living will or even purchasing their cemetery plot, but these preparations do not ensure that their wishes for a memorial will be honored. A will simply imparts instructions for the handling of an individual’s estate, while a living will clarifies their wishes for medical treatment. Even if your loved one has completed both of these legal documents, their funeral or cremation service still needs to be planned and paid for.
When a funeral or cremation service is not planned in advance, all of these decisions may fall to someone who is not aware of the deceased’s preferences. Prearranging ensures that your loved one’s wishes are made known. Make sure that their desires are recorded in writing and discussed with family members as well as an attorney. Keep a folder with copies of this document and other important papers in a place that is easily accessible to family members. A local Dignity Memorial® provider can offer a valuable Personal Planning Guide to help your loved one record his or her wishes.
- Involve the rest of the family.
A funeral or memorial service is an important part of the grieving process for family members and friends. The service provides an opportunity for them to express their grief, share memories and celebrate a life well lived. When planning a funeral or memorial service, the opinions and wishes of family members should be taken into consideration.
Prearranging is an excellent time for relatives to discuss arrangements and make objective decisions together, free from the time constraints and emotional stress that often occur when a loved one passes away. Involving those closest to your loved one in this process can foster peace of mind and a sense of relief. More importantly, knowing their wishes and carrying them out can bring great comfort to surviving family members and friends.
- Decide on the method of final disposition.
This is a very personal decision that is influenced by an individual’s faith and beliefs. Whether your loved one chooses a traditional burial, entombment in a mausoleum or interment in a cremation garden, it is important to respect their choice. Their wishes should be specified in a prearrangement document and clearly discussed with family members ahead of time. The Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers offers a wide range of services and options to help commemorate a life.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about prices.
Funeral and cremation costs can vary considerably from place to place. Be sure to choose a funeral home that presents its prices clearly and simply, and ask for an itemized price list for their products and services. Prearranging gives your loved one the opportunity to become informed about their options and the various costs in a more relaxed environment. They’re in full control, and can thus make more objective decisions regarding affordability. Your loved one may choose to spend less or more, but the decision remains theirs.
- Consider planning and prepaying for arrangements.
Planning a funeral or cremation service in advance can finalize the details, but only prepaying for services can take care of the actual expense ahead of time. Remember that these services are subject to inflation. Prepaying makes good financial sense because it locks in current prices for an event that may not happen for many years. In fact, the cost of the products and services they select may never be lower than it is today. Prearranging enables your loved one to make a comfortable financial commitment, and it minimizes the future financial burden on surviving family members.
- Insurance may not cover everything.
Life insurance and final expense insurance typically provide a lump-sum benefit after a death has occurred. However, there is no guarantee that the funds will not be exhausted due to a long-term illness or a serious accident. Even with insurance in place, the actual funeral or cremation service still needs to be planned and paid for. This can be a complicated task for grieving family members. In addition, insurance policies are not protected against inflation. Prices of products and services will continue to rise, while the amount of policy coverage remains the same. Survivors may not receive sufficient insurance proceeds to cover the higher cost of funeral expenses, and they may have to use their own funds to make up the difference. Prearrangements purchased through a local Dignity Memorial® provider combine the benefits of insurance with a guaranteed funeral or cremation service and price, leaving life insurance policies untouched for surviving family members.
- A prearranged service may be Medicaid exempt.
If your loved one plans to apply for Medicaid assistance, a prearranged funeral agreement can be an extremely beneficial part of their Medicaid spend-down process. In many states, a prepaid irrevocable funeral or cremation contract may be treated as an exempt asset for Medicaid qualification purposes. This allows your loved one to prearrange the service they desire and maintain their Medicaid eligibility. Many states have no maximum limit on the cost of a prearranged funeral or cremation service. To learn more about your state’s individual eligibility requirements, consult with a reputable elder law attorney.
- Government benefits may help cover costs.
Most burial benefits provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are limited. Many families find that additional funding is necessary in order to provide the type of funeral or cremation service their loved one wanted. Under certain conditions, the SSA provides a one-time death benefit to the spouse of an eligible recipient. The VA also offers burial benefits and one-time burial allowances for the surviving family members of eligible veterans to help offset funeral and burial costs.
To learn more about these benefits, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-722-1213 or visit their website at www.ssa.gov. For assistance with veterans benefits, contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 or go to www.va.gov. A local Dignity Memorial® provider can also assist with applications for government benefits.
- Seek help from an expert.
Arranging a funeral or cremation service can seem overwhelming and complicated, but there’s always a Dignity Memorial® provider close by that can help. Dignity Memorial® funeral counselors are trained professionals who can be a vital and supportive resource for you and your loved ones. Due to their years of experience, counselors can explain all the options available and help you and your family make informed decisions. They can also provide step-by-step guidance throughout the process of prearranging a funeral or cremation service.