Too often families do not like to talk about issues surrounding death, dying and funerals. Why should they ask? Soon enough we all will have to deal with these issues. So, what’s wrong with waiting till the need arises?
Just like you need to know about health insurance, life insurance, social security benefits and living wills, knowing about funeral arrangements and cemetery property helps you make the financial and emotional decisions you will be comfortable with in years to come.
Over the years, the funeral and cemetery industry has changed. It makes sense for the consumer to pre-plan their arrangements, not only because there is incentive to do so, but even more, because there are also many emotional benefits to pre-arrangements.
ASK YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY TO CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
What’s really involved in a funeral arrangement? Most families, if asked this question will answer “They pick up the body and take it to the cemetery.” Nothing could be further from the truth! The funeral director will sit with your family and hear what your family members are saying. Do you all want the same kind of funeral? Do you all agree on the same casket? Are there “Feuding Members of the family” who will all want to be heard at the funeral? Who will speak? What type of clergy will be appropriate for your family? How will your loved one’s memory be reflected at the service? Will you have a service at all? And if not, will you regret that afterwards.
In addition to preparing many documents and obtaining appropriate signatures, arranging for the death certificate to be signed and notifying Social Security of the death, the funeral director is also a liaison between the family, clergy and the cemetery staff. If selected wisely, your funeral director will be your family’s advisor, helping them to feel comfortable and making sure your wishes are being honored. Funeral directors “work behind the scenes” from the moment they are contacted, insuring things are being done correctly and in a timely manner.
What is involved in purchasing cemetery property? Most cemeteries have many different properties that you may purchase. You may choose a niche (a space in a mausoleum to place the cremated remains), a grave in a section with a headstone or a grave in a section which only has flat markers, a crypt in a community mausoleum or a separate, private family mausoleum. There may be a requirement for an outer enclosure (sometimes called a vault) as well as labor fees for burial.
How important is the location? Is convenience for visiting, beauty of the cemetery or being in or near the family plot the greatest priority? If a cemetery is located in a residential neighborhood, how will you feel as the neighborhood changes? Is this your second marriage and which spouse would you like to be buried with? Do you want to purchase extra plots for unmarried siblings or children and their families? These are just a few of the questions you need to consider.
What are my family’s values about funerals and cemeteries? Often, people say things like “Just give me the cheapest funeral possible: I won’t be here to know the difference.” While this may make economic sense to you, it frequently leaves those behind without a sense of closure. Funerals are a time for people (whether it is 2 or 200) to come together to say good-bye and honor the deceased. It is important for your family to have a dialogue and have everyone’s feelings considered. In addition, not everyone in a family has the same religious beliefs. These feelings need to be considered also. Usually most everyone’s needs can be respected if discussed in advance.
Remember that pre-arrangements are a blueprint for your wishes. While funeral or cemetery pre-need counselors can help you with these decisions, they cannot anticipate all your family’s needs. Therefore, these arrangements are flexible and can be changed. At the time of death, your funeral director will meet with a spokesperson for the family and review all the arrangements to make sure the family information is correct and current. At that time, adjustments will be made if needed. Before you choose a funeral director and cemetery, you might want to take the time to visit the facility and meet the staff who will be working with you.
Consider whether or not you have talked with your family about this important topic. While many people feel that their family can take care of this at the time of their death, they do their surviving family no service by leaving it till then! Like any other major purchase, you would make, you should be an informed consumer and get the information in advance.
Information adapted from article by Jennifer Kay in the Caregiver Newsletter on Thursday, October 18, 2012 – Issue #610.
If you would like more information on “Let’s Not Talk About That Now….” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at [email protected].