Planning For Funeral Expenses

A coin piggy-bank with “Funeral” written on it sitting on a pile of coins with a hand dropping a gold coin into the slot.

There are so many questions running through my head. One of those questions is what do I want 2021 to bring? Do I want to return to school? Do I want to establish a relationship? Are there people I want to tell to kiss my grits? Do I want to travel once COVID is lifted? If so, where? How many stories can I read in a year? Will I continue blogging over the upcoming year? (This is one a pretty solid yes, as long as I stay healthy.) How many people do I love that won’t make it past 2021? (This is a morbid question, but after the death of recent loved ones, I can’t help but wonder.) Am I making the right provisions for the future? What are my expectations throughout the upcoming year?

All of us have questions. Some of those questions are easily answered while others are trickier. Questions can be complex. Unless you are a fortune teller and have 100% accuracy on predictions (which I’ve never heard of, ) then, like everyone else, you are prone to wondering if you’ve covered the bases you need to or what steps you need to take to plan for a better future. One question that everyone needs to think about is how do I handle my end of life decisions? No. I don’t wish death on anyone. What I’ve found over the last few years is a failure to plan can leave devastating issues for your loved ones down the road.

How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it firsthand. Throughout my lifetime, most of the funeral expenses I’ve dealt with have been handled by people older than myself. When my father died I was fortunate. My parents made provisions as to how to handle their funerals. When my mom dies, her expenses should be taken care of. But what about me? That’s a harder question to deal with because I’m just now starting to plan for that juncture so that cousins and other people don’t have to handle those details.

I have a cousin who is now finding out how difficult it is to plan for a funeral. Her father recently passed and many decisions are falling on her shoulders. While my heart aches for her loss and her siblings, along with his brother, it hits home about making sure final provisions are crucial. I don’t know all the specifics, yet I’m acutely aware of the struggles she’s facing. Since COVID has affected so many of us, people are not attending funerals as they have in the past. She’s trying to live-stream the service, but the funeral home she’s using doesn’t offer this. She’s having to figure out how to cover a lot of bases and is stressed to the max.

How can you prevent some of this from happening? I’ve been doing quite a bit of research and asking a lot of questions. Some of the beneficial things I’ve found are as follows:

  1. Plan and pay ahead yourself – This ensures you can have the type of funeral/memorial that you want. Most of us find that funerals are expensive. Many people opt to be cremated but the danger in that idea is you never know where the ashes will end up. Since I work for a storage facility, I can attest to the fact people store ashes in those units. They aren’t supposed to but it happens. This can be a mess if the unit goes up for auction. The ashes could end up in someone’s hands that you didn’t want to have them in.
  2. Prepay at a funeral home – This is becoming a popular option. I like this idea because you get to choose which funeral home you want. There are a lot of different plans that you can fit into your budget. Asking questions is a great way to learn. Plus, there’s another reason. The cost of burial has dramatically increased over the past decades because of land shortages. Once you have pre-paid, you are protected against increases in funeral prices in the future. Check out the funeral agencies in your area and compare the price and the services that they feature.
  3. Funeral/burial insurance – Before buying funeral insurance, have an estimation of your final expenses first. You would need to figure out the cost of your end-of-life expenses. Aside from the cost of your funeral which is often the largest single costs, you should also consider your other final expenses – such as medical bills, living expenses, legal cost, credit card bills, etc.

Different types of insurance are marketed today – burial insurance, funeral insurance, or final expense insurance. Though these policies offer different features, one thing that they have in common is that the coverage typically ranges from $25,000 to $40,000.

4. Green burial – Also called a natural burial, a green burial is an environmentally friendly way of giving back to the earth. When you choose a green burial, you use biodegradable and non-toxic materials like caskets, urns, and shrouds. Green burials do have green caskets and clothing that are biodegradable. It’s a great option for those who are earth-friendly conscious.

In going green, not only you will be able to save money on your funeral expenses, but you can also leave with peace of mind knowing that your final departure did not bring harm to the environment.

5. Start a funeral fund – You can always start a funeral fund to help with expenses. Simply put, it’s a type of savings account that allows you to save for those final expenses.

You can open a savings account to any bank, but it is recommended that you prefer a Totten trust because of the interest that it accumulates. It’s just a regular bank account, but there is a designated “pay on death” inheritor. You name a relative or friend as your beneficiary when you open the account. Put your money in your funeral fund and collect the interest.

There are a lot of resources available to help you ask and answer difficult questions. The main thing is to start planning now. Make sure you communicate with your loved ones your wishes. You can’t control what happens when you die, but you can take steps to have things handled the way you wish. By taking the financial and legal control, your final expenses won’t be a headache to those left behind.

After the people that passed in my life were buried, one thing remained crystal clear. Those that planned well, did not have the headaches that those who didn’t plan or were caught off guard faced. We don’t know what the future holds for us. We may have a long life or a short time on Earth. But we get to decide how we choose to be buried. Some choose cremation. That’s a great option if you know that your ashes will be scattered. Many people have loved ones on a mantle, or in an awkward area. As far as our bodies on earth, we won’t be here to inhabit them. But I would hate to see those who have passed, thrown out in the garbage. I couldn’t believe my ears when I had an urn that was left in a storage unit, and I tried to track down the family. The funeral home didn’t have contact information for the family members. They told me to contact the local police department – which I did. The female officer I spoke to said there was nothing they could do and throw them away. Sorry. I’m superstitious. I am not throwing a person away. There is still DNA in bone fragments. We are all a part of this world. You matter. Your choices matter. Take the time to figure out how you want to have your burial handled. Not only will you help your loved ones in the process, but you will also find there is more to final expenses than you may have thought about. It’s only after loved ones are gone that we learn how much of a process is left behind.

I hope none of you have to deal with this topic anytime soon. If you do, I hope that you can have the peace of mind that comes with grieving. Planning for our final expenses is the ultimate gift of love that we can do for those we are leaving behind. There are many items that people don’t realize death brings to light. There are all kinds of legal issues and property issues that can be problems. Do the research and take control. You never know what the future holds but you can hold a little bit of control for the future.

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