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Why It’s Important to Plan Your Own Funeral

The worst time to plan a funeral is right before the funeral—which is exactly when most grieving family members are tasked with this stressful project. There’s so much to do in so little time, and so many difficult questions to grapple with. Would the deceased want the service to be reverent and quiet, or celebratory and spirited? What readings and songs would best honor their life? How can you balance your need to say a meaningful goodbye with your desire to give your loved one the sendoff they deserve?

The emotional challenges of funeral planning are intense, but the financial challenges can be truly devastating. Many people, already struggling with grief, are staggered to learn that even a simple funeral can cost upwards of $7,000. You can’t help your loved ones bypass the grieving process. No amount of advance preparation will lessen the pain they feel when you’re gone. But by shouldering some of the financial burden in advance, you can give them breathing room to focus on their grief instead of on crunching numbers. Though it may feel macabre at first, taking charge of planning your own funeral is a priceless, final gift you can give the people who matter most to you.

Prevent Additional Stress on Your Family

Job losses, cross-country moves, troubled kids, health crises—they’re just some of the life events that create emotional upheaval in a person’s life. But perhaps no single event has more potential to turn your world upside down than the death of a loved one. Losing a close family member triggers all kinds of dramatic changes in our lives. Adjusting to these changes during bereavement can be completely overwhelming and cause severe physical and emotional stress.

And yet, it falls to the people who were closest to the deceased, and therefore the most affected, to take care of several essential tasks  immediately following a death. Informing friends and family, locating the will of the deceased, notifying government agencies and credit card companies, and transferring assets are just some of the logistical duties that need to be completed quickly.

Being tasked with funeral planning on top of everything else is a significant source of stress following a death in the family. Funeral planning involves numerous tough decisions that family members often feel unprepared to make for the deceased. This uncertainty can cause feelings of confusion, guilt, and regret, especially if funds are tight. Planning a funeral while emotions are high can even cause disagreements and conflict that tear families apart, just when they need each other the most. Getting your funeral arrangements in order right now frees up your loved ones to process their loss and lean on each other in those first dark days, rather than jumping into making plans.

Ensure Your Wishes Are Followed

A great reason to plan your own funeral is to make sure that your wishes are carried out. There are all kinds of important decisions to make, like whether to be cremated or buried and where to hold the funeral service. You can also plan the smaller details of your funeral and burial, including the music, flowers, post-funeral reception plans and guest list, and who you would like to officiate, deliver eulogies, and make speeches at your service. It can be very comforting knowing that you have made these decisions for yourself and your loved ones won’t have to guess what you would have wanted. So much so that a small cultural tide has turned as a growing trend among younger people who are “curating their afterlives,” has emerged. More and more Millenials and even younger generations are discussing the topic of death in a more open and “death-positive” way. However you choose to approach your decisions, make your wishes known to family by writing them down in a document separate from your will. Ensure your family members know where to find this! 

Relieve the Financial Burden

Many families are unprepared to handle the heavy financial burden of funeral and burial planning. With funeral costs rising in the United States—by as much as 227 percent in 31 years—the financial toll on bereaved families is only going to worsen over time. By planning your funeral ahead of time, you can take on the financial responsibility and cover the costs yourself, preventing your loved ones from having to pay out-of-pocket for your send-off. Planning ahead will also give you plenty of time to shop around and look for the best rates on the products and services you want.

You have several funding options for covering your funeral costs. While funeral homes often sell prepaid plans, these are not recommended since funeral homes can go out of business. Your money is better spent on a life insurance or burial insurance policy. According to Lincoln Heritage, burial insurance will cover death-related costs like your memorial service, cemetery plot, casket, headstone and urn. Your beneficiary can also use your burial insurance funds to pay off existing debts or bills, such as medical bills or personal loans. You can also save up money in a bank account, such as a payable-on-death (POD) account or a basic savings account, and give someone access to it when you die.

While death is a natural and inevitable part of life, most people are completely unprepared for it. Planning your own funeral is a gift to your loved ones, but also a gift to yourself. Making these important decisions now will settle any concerns you may have about saddling your family with unexpected expenses or additional stress during an already difficult time.

At Sachetta & Callahan, we understand that nothing’s more important than protecting your loved ones. Contact us to discuss the many ways a death in the family may impact life’s road ahead. 

Guest post by Camille Johnson

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