When A Loved One Dies
April 18, 2012 — 19:10

Funerals are among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral costs about $6,000, although “extras” like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. The costs can be reduced to less than $1,000. depending on the choices you make.

Even if you’re the kind of person who might haggle with a dozen dealers to get the best price on a new car, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable comparing prices or negotiating over the details and cost of a funeral. The psychological feeling of being unwilling to compromise as doing so is some sort of insult to the dearly departed is strong. This discomfort causes some people to overspend on a funeral or burial because they think of it as a reflection of their feelings for the deceased.

This series will attempt to give you some facts to help make intelligent choices about these difficult issues. The first segment of this series will address pre-planning for your death or that of a loved one.

Pre-Planning

To help relieve their families of some of these decisions, an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals, designating their funeral preferences, and sometimes even paying for them in advance. They see funeral planning as an extension of will and estate planning.

Think ahead. Make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. Choose the specific items you want and need and compare the prices offered by several funeral providers. Doing this in advance spares your survivors the stress of making these decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions.

You can make arrangements directly with a funeral establishment or through a funeral planning or memorial society.

Where will the remains will be buried, entombed or scattered. In the short time between the death and burial of a loved one, family members can find themselves rushing to buy a cemetery plot or grave – often without careful thought or a personal visit to the site. It pays to make these decisions before you must.

You may wish to make decisions in advance, but not pay for them in advance. Keep in mind that over time, prices may go up and businesses may close or change ownership. However, in some areas with increased competition, prices may go down over time. It is also appropriate to review and revise your decisions every few years, and to make sure your family is aware of your wishes.

Record your pre-planning decisions and preferences. Give copies to family members and/or your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. Don’t designate your preferences in your will, because a will often is not found or read until after the funeral. And avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box. That’s because your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened.

Prepaying

Millions of Americans have entered into contracts to prearrange their funerals and prepay some or all of the expenses involved. If you’re thinking about prepaying for funeral goods and services, it’s important to consider these issues before putting down any money:

Be sure to tell your family about the plans you’ve made; let them know where the documents are filed. If your family isn’t aware that you’ve made plans, your wishes may not be carried out. And if family members don’t know that you’ve prepaid the funeral costs, they could end up paying for the same arrangements. You may wish to consult an attorney on the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed.

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