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Planning A Funeral For Yourself Or A Loved One

By Keith Rawlinson
Volunteer Budget Counselor

The death of a loved one is one of the most emotionally devastating things that happen in life.  As a result, you end up trying to make very big financial decisions while dealing with the depression and loss associated with a death in the family.  Funerals can be very expensive, and a lot of choices have to be made.  Trying to make such decisions while dealing with overwhelming grief can lead to making some bad choices and some very expensive mistakes.  Unfortunately, funeral homes know this and many will try to take advantage of it by talking you into unnecessary expenses.  I have seen cases where the funeral director actually tried to make a family feel guilty for wanting to buy the least expensive casket.  

Some things to think about

Of course, you want to try to honor the wishes of your departed loved one; but, that doesn't usually mean buying the best and most expensive of everything involved in a funeral.  So ask yourself:  

What about a prepaid funeral?

A prepaid funeral is when you make your selections and pay your money up front, before you die.  You get to lock in today's prices for a future funeral, and the funeral home gets money up front and locks in your business.  I don't specifically have anything against prepaid funeral arrangements, but I don't recommend them.  The main reason I don't recommend them is that, many times, the funeral is paid for but never collected on.  Sometimes, the person dies so far in the future, that the family forgets there even is a prepaid funeral.  Other times, the person moves away and it isn't practical to ship the body just to take advantage of a prepaid funeral.  There is also potential for a big financial mess created by a funeral home going out of business.  If you really like the idea of a prepaid funeral as a way to take the pressure off of friends and family, then put your funeral wishes in writing, then take what the prepaid funeral would cost and put it into a nice Money Market mutual fund.  The money will grow to significantly offset, if not cover, the cost of the future funeral, and if the funeral arrangements change for whatever reason, the money is still yours.

Along these same lines, I very, very strongly recommend that everyone have a last will and testament.  If you shop around, you can generally get one fairly inexpensively.  Just make sure that whatever will you get is state-specific.  In other words, make certain that it meets the legal requirements of the state in which you live.  A great place to start is US Legal forms.com.  Their wills are state-specific and very reasonably priced.  Without a will, every family member and business associate you're aware of, and a few you aren't, can come out of the woodwork and attempt to get a piece of the estate.  I have seen families torn apart fighting over the estate of someone who died without a will.  At the time of this writing, about 75% of Americans die without a will.  Dying without a will is an unbelievably stupid and irresponsible thing to do.  Don't be driven by superstition; estate planning does NOT jinks you and make you die sooner.  If you love your family, then make sure you have a will for their sake.

While I'm on the subject of wills, I also strongly recommend that everyone have a Living Will.  A Living Will makes known your wishes in the event you become irreversibly brain dead, comatose, or otherwise unable to make decisions for yourself..  Unless you want to put your family thorough a lot of horror, and possibly live on a life-support machine for the rest of your life, PLEASE have a Living Will drawn up.  Again, a good place to start is US Legal forms.com.

Final thoughts

Before making any decisions about funerals, either in advance or after the fact, you absolutely must be aware of your legal rights and the funeral home's legal obligations.  Do that by reading these two informative documents from The Federal Trade Commission.

Funeral Planning: Your rights when buying funeral goods and services.

Funerals: A consumer guide.

I have a will.  I have a Living Will.  I have life insurance.  I have done my best to take as much pressure as possible off of my family in the event of my death.  I have made it known that I wish to be cremated (which costs next to nothing) and have my ashes spread onto the water of one of my favorite lakes.  I have done all I can think of to make sure I am ready for death emotionally, financially, and spiritually.  PLEASE care enough about your family and friends to do the same.

This article copyright 2009 by Keith C. Rawlinson (Eclecticsite.com).  All rights reserved.
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Please know that all of the thoughts, information, suggestions and techniques given on this site are nothing more than the author's opinion on the matter being addressed.  Do further research before making any decisions.

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