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
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!
A good 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
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
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 re just a few of the questions you need to consider.
What are my family’s values about funerals and
Often, I hear people saying things like “Just give
me the cheapest funeral possible: I wont 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 too 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.
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