Most of us plan for major events in our lives: college educations, weddings, the births of children, retirement and our final estate. Yet, a study by the National Funeral Directors Association says although nearly two-thirds of consumers believe communicating their funeral wishes to family members is important, less than a fourth have done so.
Preplanning your funeral or memorial service allows you to choose the items, services and provider you prefer. It also lets you select people you want to be notified and individuals you would like to officiate, deliver eulogies, read prayers or poems, sing or serve as pallbearers.
Several websites can help you research options. You’ll find a wealth of articles on everything from choosing flowers to prepaying with a trust on everplans.com/funeral. Funerals.org offers a planning guide and tips for lowering costs. Parting.com lets you compare local funeral homes’ items and services. Funeraldecisions.com provides free instant quotes online and lets users sign up to receive direct estimates from funeral providers.
Once you’ve made your decisions, document your plan, share it with loved ones and create a legal document authorizing someone to handle your funeral arrangements. The best document to accomplish this is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOAHC) that includes a paragraph specifying who you want to make your funeral arrangements. The DPOAHC must be notarized to be legally binding. Give the person you’ve chosen to carry out your wishes copies of the DPOAHC and your plan. This is preferred to detailing your wishes in a will, which may not be read before the funeral, or leaving them in a safe deposit box since arrangements may need to be made on a weekend or holiday when the box won’t be available.
Many experts caution against prepaying for your funeral or buying an insurance policy through a home. Funeral homes can go out of business, change hands or lose their good reputation. There are several alternatives to prefund your final expenses. You can purchase burial insurance, create a trust or set up a Payable on Death account through your bank, which allows a beneficiary to receive the money to cover final expenses.