Financial planning is a powerful tool to help us and our loved ones. But the best planning looks beyond our lifetimes. For example, wills and estate plans allow us to continue caring for loved ones, materially and otherwise, after we’re gone. Another very practical way to support those we’ll one day leave behind is to preplan our funerals.
The Value of Preplanning
While it may seem like a morbid topic, preplanning your funeral will one day free those mourning your loss from the stress of making weighty decisions during their time of grief. By specifying arrangements and even prepaying for our funeral, our loved ones won’t have to guess at our wishes. Your plan will offer them a welcome road map to follow during a difficult time and give them the space they need to grieve.
The Gift of Clarity
Family members often misinterpret and misremember verbal conversations about funeral wishes, especially if they happened many years earlier. The last thing you want is arguments over matters like cremation versus burial, whether your casket will be open or closed, whether the ceremony will be religious or nonreligious, or even what type of music will be played during the ceremony. By clearly articulating your wishes and removing ambiguity, preplanning can head off potential conflict that can only compound survivors’ grief.
Paying for Your Own Funeral
Preplanning often includes prepayment, which relieves loved ones of another layer of responsibility. One way to handle this is by purchasing so-called preneed funeral insurance directly from a funeral home. This goes hand in hand with a contract detailing the services the funeral home will provide. Preplanning directly with a funeral provider allows you to lock in a contract and price. But be aware that not all plans are portable to other states—you may wind up moving between now and your death. Be sure to ask those questions up front before signing a contract. And if your designated funeral home goes out of business, the insurance may not be transferrable to other providers.
Using Trusts to Fund Funerals
Trusts are frequently used to prefund funerals and other final expenses. One type is a payable-on-death bank account known as a Totten Trust. Funds for final expenses are placed in the account and a trusted individual is designated to access them after your death. In another arrangement, a trust is designated as the owner of a life insurance policy; upon your death, the trustee files a claim and funds are disbursed according to instructions you’ve enshrined in the trust documents.
Thinking About Generations to Come
Funeral planning can naturally lead to decisions about other family members and the size of a burial plot. Some families choose to buy a large family plot from a cemetery in advance, ensuring they can share neighboring burial spaces and creating a single place for future generations to visit deceased relatives. An above-ground mausoleum is a larger investment that some families prefer. The potential scope of this undertaking is a good reason to start thinking about your funeral long before it’s likely to occur.
When Loved Ones Might Change Your Plan
While you should expect your written plans to be faithfully carried out, experts do advise surviving family members to exercise commonsense discretion. If it turns out that the funeral provider you chose, possibly many years before your death, has fallen into disrepute, your survivors shouldn’t feel obligated to entrust your funeral to that business. In such a case, your loved ones would do well to find a different provider.
Get Your Plans in the Right Hands
Once your funeral plan is signed and notarized, be sure that key parties are aware of it. Share the written instructions with a trusted individual and make sure the executor of your estate also has a copy. Few people will find it easy to plan their own funeral, but that’s part of what makes doing so such a meaningful gift to your loved ones. Nor do you have to do the work alone. Your wealth advisor can help get you started and can assist you throughout the process.
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