There are many reasons to plan your own funeral. Perhaps the most important is to obtain peace of mind. Planning your funeral allows you to:
1. Take control of your funeral and burial expenses. Whether you want lavish final arrangements or only the most minimal funeral services, creating a funeral plan is a way to communicate your last wishes to your survivors. If you don't want your money wasted, leaving specific funeral instructions may help ensure more of your assets pass to your heirs or beneficiaries.
2. Let your family know your preferences regarding a final resting place. Your spouse, children, siblings, and friends may have very different ideas about the disposition of your remains. If you have a preference on choice of cemetery or where you want your ashes scattered, making a funeral plan is a good way to reduce the likelihood of disputes and ensure your last wishes are honored.
3. Address what level of privacy you want with regard to your final arrangements. Some people do not want a viewing at their funeral. Others feel this is an important part of the grieving process for survivors. Some individuals only want their closest family members to attend their funeral. Others want their funeral services open to the public. Advance funeral planning lets the person carrying out your final arrangements know how to respect your privacy.
4. State your preferences on burial versus cremation. Most people have a preference on this important choice, but it is very difficult for most families to discuss. Many spouses and partners never share their preferences on this issue or tell their children what they want. By making a funeral plan, you can direct how your disposition of remains should be handled and ease the burden on those you leave behind.
5. Express whether you want memorial donations made to an educational or charitable organization. Upon the death of a loved one, many people want to make a contribution to a worthy cause in honor of the deceased. While sending floral arrangements has long been the traditional way of honoring one who has passed, it is becoming increasingly popular to ask for a donation in lieu of flowers. By making a funeral plan, you can state your memorial preferences on this issue.
6. Designate a funeral home or mortuary to handle your final arrangements. Choosing a funeral home in advance is an important detail often overlooked when outlining your last wishes. Relatives often disagree over the location for funerals and memorials. If you no longer live in the town where you grew up, you may have strong feelings about the location of your funeral. Perhaps you still want services held near your childhood home or you may want them held where you currently live.
7. Select someone to oversee your final arrangements. Not everyone is cut out to make funeral plans. It can be very stressful, especially if the loss is sudden. Some people are too grief stricken to make important decisions after the death of a loved one. Nevertheless, funerals, burials, and cremation are expensive. The person who meets with the funeral home director should be able to distinguish between items that are necessary and those that exceed your family's budget. You may have someone in your life you prefer to be in charge of these decisions. Making a funeral plan allows you to name that person so your preferences are clear.
Dealing With the Cost of Final Arrangements
There is no requirement that you pay for your funeral, cemetery plot or other services in advance. These costs are typically paid out of funds in the estate or by surviving family members. However, today's seniors and Baby Boomers are taking a more active role in estate planning, including last wishes. As a result, more people are prepaying for funerals.
There are several reasons to prepay for final arrangements. You may want to secure a particular type of arrangement, such as a joint burial plot for you and your partner or a mausoleum in a beautiful location. You may want to reduce your funeral costs and obtain a discount by prepaying. Advance planning gives you the opportunity to talk with a funeral home director and learn about available options. Finally, paying in advance is a way to ensure your loved ones do not have to pay for your funeral or burial.
If you are one of the last surviving members of your family, it may be a good idea to make your own final arrangements. If you do prepay for any items or services, be sure to inform your executor or trustee.