Prepare For Future Funeral Expenses

Funerals are expensive. In fact, some would argue, they are more expensive than they need to be. If you haven’t planned for those costs in advance, the remaining family members get stuck with the bill. Moreover, it forces them to make many challenging financial decisions at a time when they are emotionally strained. Therefore, it’s really better for everyone if you plan ahead. Here are six things to do to prepare for future funeral expenses.

Why Prepare For Future Funeral Expenses

A few years ago, a friend of mine came to visit shortly after dealing with the death of a sibling. His death was unexpected. Most of the horror and sadness and grief and terrible things were a result of that. However, the whole situation of dealing with the funeral decisions and their attendant costs significantly added to the strain.

Their parents weren’t really in a position to pay for their son’s funeral. Therefore, she ended up bearing a lot of the brunt. Despite that, many people in the family wanted to be involved in the decision making about the funeral. They wanted to help choose the casket, the flowers, the catering … all of which costs money.

Some Common Funeral Expenses

So, in addition to all of the shock and grief of the death itself, my friend found herself:

  • Facing innumerable decisions about the “right” things to get for the funeral
  • Debating with relatives about choices and costs
  • On the phone with banks trying to get loans to cover the costs
  • Covering the costs of her own family’s travel to get to the funeral
  • Plus there was the financial burden of unexpected time off
  • Dealing with funeral business people who were very sales-y in the sense of “well, sure, you could put your sibling in this plot at the cemetery that’s cheaper but wouldn’t he really like the very very nice expensive plot over here?”

It’s difficult to make challenging financial decisions in the best of times. Let alone, one decision after another, during one of the most grief-stricken periods of your life. This is what happens to most families when the person who passes away has failed to prepare for future funeral expenses.

6 Things To Do To Prepare For Future Funeral Expenses

With that in mind, you can start preparing for future funeral expenses today. Here are six things you want to do to get you started:

1. Figure Out Whose Funerals Need Preparing For

Obviously, you’re going to want to prepare for future funeral expenses for yourself. That’s your responsibility. In fact, it’s probably the reason you landed on this article. However, once you’ve done that, you might want to think about other funerals that you’re likely to need to cover costs for when they occur. These include:

  • Spouse
  • Aging parents
  • In-laws
  • Grandparents
  • Any older family member or close friend who you might find yourself financially responsible for
  • Siblings (depending on your family situation)
  • Children (nobody wants to think about this but it’s something that some families choose to prepare for in advance)

2. Practice Talking About Money and Death Now

The way that you prepare for future funeral expenses may vary per person. Your own relationship with those people might also affect it. The fact that talking about money and death are among the most challenging subjects for people doesn’t help at all.

Say, for example, that you want to talk to your parents about their funerals. And yet, they refuse to broach the subject at all. In my own family, for example, the conversation is always met with a flippant, “oh just bury me in the backyard” and a change of subject.

The more that you and your family members learn to talk about both money and death now, the easier it will be to have conversations about funeral planning. It’s something that you can build up to, especially if death isn’t currently looming among you. So, start simple. Broach the topic in casual ways. Make it about those topics generally, not about “when you die.” Build up to harder conversations.

This is important even if the only funeral you’re planning for is yours. After all, someone in your life (a spouses. best friend, an adult child) probably needs to know what you’re planning. So, start talking.

3. Download a Funeral Planning Checklist

Before you can start to prepare for future funeral expenses, you really need to know all that’s involved in planning a funeral. Therefore, you should find, download, and print out a funeral planning checklist. Go through it carefully so that you thoroughly understand what decisions need to be made at and after the time of death.

4. Estimate Funeral Costs and Make Decisions

Using your funeral planning checklist, you can figure out what your options are for each step of the process, which decisions you would like to make, and what the estimated cost will be. For example, are you going to choose cremation or burial? If you choose cremation, what type of urn do you want? Some people choose to bury or entomb their urns; will you? Do you want the urn to say anything? Etc etc and that’s just one of many decisions.

Let’s say you definitely want cremation. Research your options for urns. Price them out. Get a good idea of the likely cost.

Do this for each step of the funeral and burial expenses.

5. Decide If You Want a Pre-Paid Burial Plan

If you’re truly ready to prepare for future funeral expenses, then you need to make a decision about whether or not to get a pre-paid burial plan. This is where you make all of the decisions now and work with a funeral home to pay for everything in advance. Make sure that you go over everything, such as the plot, the tombstone, etc. if you do decide to go this route. 

Should you prepay? There’s honestly a lot of debate about this. A 2007 AARP report indicates that paying in advance with a funeral home peaked in popularity in the 1990s and has been declining ever since. A 2021 AARP article on the topic recommends that you do not pay in advance.

They recommend that instead you plan everything in advance, then set aside that money in a payable-on-death bank account. You assign someone as a beneficiary to that account. You make all of your wishes known. You can keep adding to that bank account over time. Then, when you pass, they get access to that money and use it for your funeral. Of course, you have to choose someone that you trust to carry our your wishes, which goes back to the importance of communication.

6. Decide If You Want Funeral/ Burial Insurance

Instead of a payable-upon-death account (or in addition to one), perhaps you want to pay for insurance that will assist with funeral expenses. There are actually quite a few different options for similar end-of-life insurance. You can get funeral insurance, burial insurance, and final expense insurance. Of course, life insurance policies sometimes also have payouts that help with funeral expenses. Therefore, it’s important that you review all of your options carefully. You’ll find some crossover between these terms, as well, so the key thing is less the type of insurance and more that you read each contract so that you know exactly what you’re getting.

Have you had experiences dealing with the financial burden of a funeral? Share your stories in the comments so we can all better understand this important issue.

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