June 19, 2010

Tip of the day

Funerals are not fun things to talk about for anyone.  I learned this week just how expensive they are, even when you try and save money.  Here are a few things I learned from the process:

  • Plan ahead.  When you plan your own funeral or help a loved one to plan their own BEFORE death is imminent or has already taken place, you are much more likely to think logically rather than emotionally. 
  • Many funeral homes will prearrange funerals and guarantee the cost at the time of plan.  If their services cost $5000, the casket costs $3000, and the vault costs $1500 today, if they guarantee the pricing it will be that 5 years from now. 
  • Vaults, the linings to tombs that helps to prevent soil and moisture from coming into the tomb, is not required by law in many states.  However, the cemetery of your choice might require one.  Ask before you select the cemetery if you prefer no vault.
  • If you plan ahead you will be less likely to put up with a smarmy funeral salesperson.  The experience that I had this week was wonderful.  The gentleman with whom we worked was professional, respectful, and didn’t push more expensive options.  I know from working with others, though, that this is not always the case.  Ask friends, clergy, and relatives for recommendations for good funeral homes.  If you aren’t treated well and it starts to feel like a used car lot instead of a respectful experience, leave.
  • Weigh the options of cremation vs burial.  I’ve heard it said time and again, “Funerals are for the living.”  Consider the wishes of family in that decision.
  • If you prefer a more natural option for a casket, as the funeral director about a Jewish Orthodox or “Green” casket. 
  • Many who are reading this are as young or younger than I am.  For us, it might not make as much sense to prearrange/prebuy a funeral package.  Who knows if the funeral home will even be open in another X amount of years.  We still have a few things.  You can talk to an elder or estate lawyer about setting up a fund for money to be used in this manner later.  We can talk with insurance people and financial advisors about ways to plan ahead for this expense.  We can also take the time to write out our wishes for the actual funeral.  What verses, poems, or excerpts would you like read?  What songs would you like sung, if any?  Anything you don’t want included?  Place this paper with your will and other important documents and tell your loved ones about its existence.   Revisit your list every so often to see if anything has changed.  What you want in your 20s might change in your 50s or 80s. 
  • If you opt for a cremation, having some sort of service might help your loved ones.  Some who opt for cremation opt out of ceremonies.  Like I quoted earlier, funerals are for the living.  Sometimes these ceremonies help to give “closure” to loved ones.  I put closure in quotes because it is a term that is used loosely and anyone who has lost someone close knows that complete closure doesn’t really exist.
  • I know it is difficult, I know that it is a hard subject, but try to talk with your loved ones about their wishes for their funerals.  My dad has talked to me about what he doesn’t want but it has been harder to get him to talk about what he does want.  My sister has told me her wishes, and I’ve told her mine.  My husband and I have talked about this with each other. 

I know that this isn’t a fun tip of the day, but I really hope it helps someone out there. 

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