We just updated our wills and are thinking of preplanning our funeral arrangements. What factors should we consider as we start the process?
Preplanning funeral arrangements is a great idea, and when the time comes, your relatives will be glad you thought ahead. When people make their own funeral arrangements, it relieves family members of the burden of making difficult decisions during a particularly emotional time.
Planning can range from outlining just your basic wishes on the type of service you'd like, including favorite readings and music, to very detailed information about all aspects of arrangements, including which funeral home to use and exactly what services you want.
Such detailed planning can be a valuable use of your time: According to AARP, the average cost of a funeral in the United States is $6,000, and it's not unusual for costs to rise to $10,000 or more. By preplanning, you have time to compare costs and think about what's important to you.
To help consumers, the Federal Trade Commission has established the "Funeral Rule," which offers several protections, including requiring providers to offer an a la carte written price list of its goods and services. The rule makes it easier to compare costs, whether you're planning ahead or making arrangements for a loved one at the time of death. For example, the rule requires funeral homes to include the fee for a less costly "immediate burial," without any service or frills. It also forbids any fees or added costs if you purchase a casket from someplace else. For detailed information or to download or request a free pamphlet, see the FTC web site at http://www.ftc.gov/funerals/.
Additional information is available from the National Funeral Directors Association (http://www.nfda.org) and the International Cemetery and Funeral Association (http://www.icfa.org). Both have guidance for consumers interested in preplanning.
Another valuable resource to investigate is the Funeral Consumers Alliance (http://www.funerals.org), a nonprofit, educational organization affiliated with the Funeral and Memorial Society of America. The group offers 26 pamphlets on funeral planning and consumer rights. Local chapters often arrange discounts with participating funeral homes for their members.
Some people prefer to actually prepay for their funerals, but authorities urge caution if you do so. Drawbacks include the possibility of the funeral home going out of business before you need its services or mismanagement of the funds you've provided in advance. Or, your circumstances might change: What happens if you move? If you decide to prepay, review tips from the FTC and other consumer organizations and take their precautions seriously to make sure your preplanning efforts pay off.
Family Fundamentals is a monthly column on family issues. It is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Subscriber: This column was reviewed by Chris Olinsky, family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension in Montgomery County.