Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Seven Steps to Planning a Funeral

People have asked me just what it takes to pre-plan a funeral.  It is not complicated but it does take a bit of thought - and some money.  And even though most of us realize that we need to pre-plan our funerals, few of us do it.

There are many reasons that people delay pre-planning.  However, I can say that the two major reasons for stalling are finances and a desire to avoid unpleasant conversation.  Yet, I can also say, with 100% certainty, that if you don't pre-plan, someone else will plan for you!  And you won't have anything to say about it - you'll be dead.  Instead of paying in advance - and perhaps in installments - your loved once will have to pay for everything at once.

So let me identify the seven steps to planning a funeral.  In the coming weeks, I will focus on one step during each posting; this is just a general exposition.  However, by looking at the process in its totality, you will be able to see that a lot of work has to be done.  And I want to ask you again: would you rather take your time and make your arrangements according to your desires - or do you want your family to do all of this planning on the worst day of their lives - and your first day in the next world?

Call me and we'll talk.

Here are the 7 steps:

1. Personal Planning Guide

This is the cornerstone of the entire process.  The Personal Planning Guide takes you through the steps needed to plan a funeral and put your personal affairs in order.  It gives you a chance to designate a funeral home, burial or cremation, military honors, etc.  It also puts items such as your social security card, military discharge certificate, credit card and bank information and the like in one place.

2. Purchase of Cemetery property (or mausoleum crypt or niche)

You need to decide if you want to be buried in the ground, entombed in a mausoleum or cremated.  And if you want to be cremated, do you want your ashes scattered, buried or placed in a niche.  Once you make these decisions, you will need to purchase the property necessary to carry out your wishes.  This is the first financial step towards completing your arrangements.

3.  Opening/Closing fee

Every cemetery charges a fee to open and close a grave, crypt or niche.  You are now able to pay for this in advance.  It is a good idea to take care of this charge, also called an Interment Fee, in advance.

4. Away From Home Protection

Available only for pre-need contracts, Away From Home is travel protection.  For a small fee, you can insure that, should something tragic happen to you while traveling almost anywhere in the world, your body will be returned without additional cost.  You can purchase this protection by itself or as part of a cemetery contract.

5. Pre-paid insurance funded funeral

A funeral is financed through a pre-need insurance policy.  This is different than traditional life insurance, which is used to create wealth and an estate.  A pre-need insurance policy enables you to pay for tomorrow's funeral at today's prices.  It covers, among other items, the basic services of the funeral home, embalming (if desired), the casket, hearse, flowers and often the outer burial container.  There are, of course, other items that can be included.  Deciding on the terms of a pre-paid insurance funded funeral contract helps your survivors to avoid emotional overspending and actually keeps the cost of your funeral much lower than it would be if your family planned your funeral when you die.

6. Outer burial container

Most cemeteries require a casket to be placed in an outer burial container.  This vault or liner serves to protect the top of the casket from collapsing and also protects the surface integrity of the cemetery.  Without the outer burial container, the ground above the casket might sink, causing possible injury to people and damage to equipment.

7. Marker and/or stone memorial

After you are buried or entombed, the marker/memorial tells your loved ones where you are buried - and tells others a little bit about you.  The marker usually is made of bronze or granite.  Granite is also used to build a stone memorial.  These take some time to design and manufacture; they can also be purchased in advance and put in place when needed.

So as you can tell, there is a lot to do.  So with all the contracts that have to be written - and funded - doesn't it make sense to begin now?

We'll talk.