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PLANNING YOUR HOMEGOING PLANNING YOUR HOMEGOING

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PLANNING YOUR HOMEGOING

Posted on Thu, Apr 8, 2010

WHAT WE NEED TO DO AND KNOW

Recently my family has experienced five deaths in less than six months. The Wayman Family Nation has experienced five deaths within a three month time span.

Death is not a subject we care to speak on, yet it's a journey we all will have to take.. Making final arrangements is emotional and costly.  This article gives us some basic insight in preparing our final wishes. The last thing we want for our family is added worry and stress, during this difficult time.

When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral - all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What other arrangements should you plan? And, as callous as it may sound, how much is it all going to cost?

Each year, Americans grapple with these and many other questions as they spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends. The increasing trend toward pre-need planning - when people make funeral arrangements in advance - suggests that many consumers want to compare prices and services so that ultimately, the funeral reflects a wise and well-informed purchasing decision, as well as a meaningful one.

Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although "extras" like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000.

Yet 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, pre-need or at need. Compounding this discomfort is the fact that some people "overspend" on a funeral or burial because they think of it as a reflection of their feelings for the deceased.

Pre-Need 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.

Thinking ahead can help you make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. It allows you to choose the specific items you want and need and compare the prices offered by several funeral providers. It also 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 - a nonprofit organization that provides information about funerals and disposition but doesn't offer funeral services. If you choose to contact such a group, recognize that while some funeral homes may include the word "society" in their names, they are not nonprofit organizations.

One other important consideration when planning a funeral pre-need is where the remains will be buried, entombed or scattered. In the short time between the death and burial of a loved one, many family members find themselves rushing to buy a cemetery plot or grave - often without careful thought or a personal visit to the site. That's why it's in the family's best interest to buy cemetery plots before you need them.

Put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and 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.

Millions of Americans have entered into contracts to prearrange their funerals and prepay some or all of the expenses involved. Laws of individual states govern the prepayment of funeral goods and services; various states have laws to help ensure that these advance payments are available to pay for the funeral products and services when they're needed. But protections vary widely from state to state, and some state laws offer little or no effective protection. Some state laws require the funeral home or cemetery to place a percentage of the prepayment in a state-regulated trust or to purchase a life insurance policy with the death benefits assigned to the funeral home or cemetery.

If you're thinking about prepaying for funeral goods and services, it's important to consider these issues before putting down any money:

 
  • What are you are paying for? Are you buying only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?
 
  • What happens to the money you've prepaid? States have different requirements for handling funds paid for prearranged funeral services.

 

  • What happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid and put into a trust account?

 

  • Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?

 

  • Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?

 

  • What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home? Some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but often at an added cost.

 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.