If you have had to arrange a loved one’s funeral or been closely involved in the planning of a funeral, you may have some understanding of the emotional and practical difficulties of the whole process.
From sorting out the finances to choosing the flowers, there are many elements to consider, and decisions to be made all whilst in a cloud of grief.
One day, your loved ones will be doing the same for you. But what if you could somehow reduce this burden?
Even with little experience of funerals, just taking a moment to think of how your family may cope with the responsibility of arranging your funeral may be enough to take action.
In life, we do our best to take care of our loved ones, but we also have the chance to do so in death.
In the US, you may have heard it’s possible to pre-plan and/or prepay your own funeral, each with a number of ways to do so, which can be confusing.
We highlight the 5 major benefits of making either provision:
1. Pay in advance (and avoid rising funeral costs)
Funeral costs have continually risen in the last 40 years and are likely to continue to rise into the future.
There is research to support that the cost of a funeral is increasing faster than the cost of living, meaning many people are likely to take out a loan, use savings or borrow money to cover funeral expenses.
The cost varies across the US, but you’d expect to pay between $6,000 and $10,000 for the average funeral these days.
This is a huge expense that many of us are yet to prepare for.
If you decide to pay in advance, it is sensible first to compare funeral providers, and their prepaid (or preneed) funeral plans.
It is important to choose a reputable funeral home that will provide a pre-need agreement to ensure your money is safe.
Within this agreement your funeral provider can ‘guarantee’ a fixed price for all agreed services and products. So, upon your death, there should be nothing else to pay.
The cost of your funeral will be frozen at today’s price, avoiding rising costs of the future.
Paying for your funeral in advance could mean securing the best possible price today.
The longer you wait to pay for your funeral, the more expensive it will be when you pass away.
2. You have funding options
Your family won’t have much time to make financial preparations for your funeral, particularly if your death was unexpected.
They may need to rely on credit cards, loans or their own savings to make payment.
They could try crowdfunding and other fund-raising methods, but these could be unreliable and are not guaranteed.
Fortunately, you have the opportunity to choose the best financial option for you and your family, before it’s too late.
Here are some of the options, however the process for each may be different in each state;
Preneed (or prepaid) funeral contract
Pay in advance for your funeral by taking out a preneed funeral contract with your chosen funeral provider.
You’d be able to make monthly or quarterly payments to a third party, such as a funeral insurance company, spreading the cost over a set period of time.
The funds will then be used to cover all the agreed funeral arrangements. Preneed funeral plans can be quite complicated and differ between funeral homes.
As with any financial contract it is best to weigh up the pros and cons of this payment option.
You can set up a funeral trust when you’ve established a preneed contract with your chosen funeral provider.
The funds from the trust will be used when you pass away for the agreed funeral services.
Payable on Death Account (POD)
You could set up a Payable on Death Account (POD) through the bank to pay for your funeral.
You’d name a trusted beneficiary and the funds will become available to that person when you pass away.
The added bonus is that a POD account avoids probate.
Life insurance (or funeral insurance)
Any life insurance policy can be used to help cover funeral costs. Not only that, your family may have some funds remaining from the policy to cover any other debts left behind.
You may expect to have plenty of savings in place specifically for your funeral when the time comes, however, your family may have to wait for probate for weeks or months before they have access to these funds.
If you do have sufficient savings then using these to pay for your funeral (in full) in advance directly to a funeral provider will lock in the current price of a funeral, saving you money in the long run.
3. You can protect your family from financial worry
Preplanning your funeral doesn’t mean paying for your funeral in advance, however doing so could protect your family from the financial strain your funeral may bring.
Some families may even put themselves in a vulnerable financial position when arranging and paying for a loved one’s funeral, to ensure they receive the ceremony and final send-off that they deserve.
Paying for your own funeral in advance not only reduces the financial burden from your family but saves them from the inflated funeral costs of the future.
If you are unable to prepay your funeral, and your family struggle to come up with the funds, then they may be able to receive help through the state or county.
However, the level of financial assistance varies at both state and county level. Even if your loved ones receive a contribution, this may not be enough to hold a funeral service and a direct cremation is likely to be carried out.
4. You can relieve family of the funeral arrangements (and decide what YOU want)
Your loved ones may only have a few days or weeks to make all the arrangements for your funeral, and this means making a lot of new decisions during a short period of time.
Decisions that could be more difficult if they have not been made aware of your end of life wishes.
In some cases, key family members are unable to agree on certain details. Even the closest of families may have different views of what they think is best for the deceased.
Conflict amongst the family can cause additional stress during an already difficult time; potentially delaying the arrangements and prolonging the grief.
Furthermore, shopping around for the best deal and comparing services, may not be feasible for your loved ones during this busy time.
They may end up paying too much or paying for services they don’t need.
Why not lighten the load and plan your own funeral?
By taking control of the arrangements, you can decide on the type of funeral that really matters to you.
For example, if you are passionate about reducing our impact on the environment, then you may be interested in a natural or eco-friendly funeral.
Or you could create a day that celebrates your life instead, in which your mourners could wear colourful clothes, have a party and share happy memories.
These and other non-traditional funerals are becoming more and more popular.
Nevertheless, planning your own funeral does not have to be a lonely journey – your chosen (and hopefully experienced) funeral director will guide you through the whole process.
Also discussing plans with close family members or friends can provide you with additional support, which leads us on to our next point.
5. Discuss you end of life wishes
Many of us are reluctant to think about the end of our life, and this is quite normal. Having straight forward conversations on the topic with loved ones is not an easy task.
Although, The Dying MattersCoalition in the UK believe that discussing death and dying should be encouraged, and that it is a necessary part of bereavement. At the end of the day, death is inevitable for all of us whether in the near or far future.
Learning to accept this may encourage you to live more fully, appreciate loved ones more and make better preparations for when our time comes.
Planning your own funeral provides you the opportunity to openly discuss the usually taboo topic amongst family and friends.
Though initially you may be faced with some resistance, it is sensible to share your plans with them so that when the day comes, they will know what to do.
6. Peace of mind
And finally, planning your own funeral will provide you with peace of mind in the knowledge that everything has been sorted ready for the day, whenever it may come.
Even more so if you have made the selfless decision to prepay for your funeral, of which may require further research from here.
You’ll have peace of mind your funeral will be just as you wished it to be, so your loved ones don’t have to worry. Now wouldn’t that be worth it?
This post has been contributed by award-winning UK life insurance broker Reassured.