According to Haruki Murakami, death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it. We all die, just as we all are born. Our parents spend 9 months planning and getting ready for our arrival, but so many of us don’t take the time to plan our deaths. We think it’s morbid or that we are tempting fate. But planning for the end of life isn’t about you. It is a gift for the people who love you.
Why Plan Ahead?
Our culture tells us not to talk about death. Have we ever stopped to ask why? If we are honest and open about the reality of our mortality, death may not seem so scary. Making decisions about the end of life often gives you and your family peace of mind. There are hundreds of decisions that need to be made when someone dies. By making end-of-life financial, healthcare, and internment decisions long before they are needed, you ease some of the burden placed on the people you leave behind. Grief is difficult enough to manage when a loved one dies.
What Should I Plan?
There are three categories of decisions to make in planning for the end of life. The first set is your preferences for health care. These decisions include directives on who your medical power of attorney should be and a living will. More information about medical directives can be found in another recent blog on our website.
The second category is estate planning. These are mostly financial decisions. These decisions include creating a trust or a last will and testament, who will receive your possessions, and who will take care of minors left behind. We published a very comprehensive blog about estate planning recently. Please review it for more information.
The third category of decisions has to do with funeral arrangements. These decisions may be the most difficult for those who don’t like to be the center of attention. However, try to remember that funerals and all of the rituals that go with them are really for the people you’ve left behind. These traditions help your loved ones process their grief.
Your Funeral Arrangements
Start by choosing a funeral home. The best funeral homes will help you make the most impactful decisions for you and your family, and will not try to strong-arm you into extra or more costly services.
One of the most difficult decisions is which method of body disposition you choose. Body disposition is what you want to happen with your body after death. These days you have more options than just burial or cremation. New options are available and will come with different costs. Your options include:
- traditional in-ground or mausoleum burial
- natural, or green, burial
- body composting
- fire cremation
- hydro-cremation or aquamation
- donation for medical education or scientific research
According to Jamie Sarche from Feldman, families can still host memorials and burials when using some of these newer body disposition procedures. It’s important to find a knowledgeable source so you are fully aware of the options and the cost.
There are also several types of funerals you could plan. These include:
- Traditional funeral at a church or a funeral homes
- Viewing and visitation
- Memorial service, usually after a burial or cremation
- Celebration of life, typically a less-formal funeral
- Graveside service, usually after a funeral
- Scattering of ashes, after cremation and usually more intimate than a funeral
These decisions will lead to others. Choose a burial site. Buy the plot or crypt. Choose a headstone. Choose the casket or urn. Plan the service, including location, the viewing, and the burial or scattering of ashes. Choose the music and readings. Choose the pallbearers. Write your obituary. Remember that all of these decisions, while uncomfortable to make, are an act of love your family will greatly appreciate when the time comes.
How Do I Pay for the Plan?
Funerals and burials can be expensive. Pre-paying for your arrangements takes a huge burden off your loved ones. To pre-pay for your funeral, you will work with the same advance planning professional at the funeral home you chose. There are two types of payment plans to review.
“Guaranteed plans” lock in your total cost at today’s prices. Your bill will not change no matter how much prices rise in the years between making the arrangements and your death.
“Non-guaranteed plans” do not lock in your prices, but any money you pay into your account will grow over time through interest. For that reason, there may be enough in your account to cover the charges at the time of your death. Best of all, this growth is non-taxable.
Either way, your regular payments are held by an insurance company, not the funeral home, so they are safe. You can choose to pay all at once or over time, depending on what is best for you. If you make adjustments to your plan over the years, the total cost is updated to reflect the changes. If there is any money left over, it is given back to your family. Because the money is housed with a third party, you will not lose any money if the funeral home closes.
Not only can pre-payment be a blessing to your loved ones, but it is also a good financial decision. Funerals and memorial service prices typically double every 7 to 10 years. By planning ahead and choosing a guaranteed plan, you avoid the price hikes and pay for the services on your terms.
How Will My Family Know I Made Plans?
Your loved ones may not want to have a conversation about your end of life, but you must insist on it. Even if it is difficult and awkward, they will eventually be very grateful that you did.
Here are some tips to get through the conversation.
- Be present. Listen to their fears and concerns.
- Be compassionate and empathetic to their feelings, but also be firm.
- Be completely transparent and matter-of-fact.
- Don’t let them stop the conversation.
- Let them know that you are counting on them to respect your wishes.
You will have plenty of documents outlining your plans, including the funeral arrangements, the pre-payment insurance policy, the deed to your burial plot, and many more. Put everything in one place and make sure your loved ones know where that is. Even better, give one of them a complete set of copies to keep.
Pre-planning can take some of the stress and financial anxiety off your family after death and ensure the kind of memorial you want. While this planning process may be difficult for your family, you don’t need to make these decisions alone. Inviting family members to take part in the process is a good way to help them feel more comfortable with these conversations.
As we age, we all want to enjoy those “Golden Years” we worked so hard for. But it is crucial to take some time to decide what will happen when we leave this world. Remember, “death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” It is also a chance to ensure your loved ones are taken care of when you are gone. There are professionals who can help you create the most effective end-of-life plan that addresses both your needs and theirs. You can better enjoy your life after you’ve made your plans.
Founded by Sam Feldman in 1936, and still under family ownership, Feldman Mortuary has been serving Denver families in their time of greatest need for over 80 years. Honoring and remembering your loved ones is a unique and individual experience. We listen to and respect the wishes of our families and are here to help you create a memorial, funeral, or celebration of life that reflects and honors the wishes of your loved one. Comforting the bereaved and caring for your loved one is our greatest privilege.