Page 32 - BusinessWest 2021 Senior Planning Guide
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Planning Your Own Funeral
Thinking Ahead Means Less Stress, More Careful Decisions By the FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
To help relieve their families, an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals, designating their funeral preferences, and sometimes 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.
An 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.
You may wish to make decisions about your arrangements 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’s a good idea to review and revise your decisions every few years, and to make sure your family is aware of your wishes.
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 arrange 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
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planning attorney can assist you with designating beneficiaries and making other appropriate changes to accounts and assets, and engage in trust planning if needed — all of which will keep the court out of your private life and assist your family with managing and transitioning your assets more easily.
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 pre-arranged 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
Bottom Line
Nobody likes to contemplate what the future inevitably holds, but it is critically important to follow through on the estate-planning process and complete the necessary documents in order to protect you, your family, and your assets. n
on the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed.
Shopping for Funeral Services
When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends are often 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 about the availability of environmentally friendly or ‘green’ burials? What other arrangements should you plan? And, practically, how much is it all going to cost?
Funeral-planning Tips
Many funeral providers offer various ‘packages’
of goods and services for different kinds of funerals. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately. That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want. Here are some tips to help you shop for funeral services:
• Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
• Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
• Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
• Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary
to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.
• Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
• Apply the same smart shopping techniques you
use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.
• Shop in advance. It allows you to comparison-shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family. n
Amanda R. Carpe is an attorney with Bacon Wilson, P.C. and a member of the firm’s estate planning and probate department. She works on matters of estate planning, probate administra- tion, guardianship and conservatorship, and elder law; (413) 781-0650; [email protected]
  “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.”
  32 AUGUST 2021

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