Prearranging 2/22/2017

For The Eventual Tomorrow  
Important Facts About the Prearranging and Pre-financing of a Funeral and Other Post-Death Activities

Introduction
In today’s society, many people recognize the importance of estate planning. Wills and life insurance help ensure the financial and emotional well-being of survivors in the event of our death.  

    Through funeral planning in advance of need, and often pre-financing, many questions about death and funerals can be answered, and some of the problems associated with death can be minimized. For some people, planning in advance gives assurance of a funeral that will represent their personal beliefs or lifestyle. For others, it is a way to help their families deal knowledgeably with their death.

    The following information will assist you in identifying the advantages of planning a funeral in advance of need for you, your family and friends.

The Value of Planning in Advance
Death is a challenging subject to discuss with one’s family. Yet, talking about it openly can be of great benefit to those who must ultimately face its reality.

    Funeral and final disposition arrangements should be discussed in a frank and honest manner and personal wishes should be made known. In addition, information about available alternatives, options, anticipated costs, and other financial aspects should be sought from a knowledgeable, experienced source so that some decisions can be made before the crisis occurs. When appropriate, advance planning ranging from basic prerecording of personal information to specific arrangements for funeral services and payment for these services can be spelled out as guidelines for survivors.

    The experience and assistance of a funeral service practitioner will be helpful, if not required, in the planning of a funeral in advance of need. A personally chosen practitioner can provide important information about available services, facilities and merchandise, costs and possible financial benefits for survivors. Responsible suggestions based on professional training and experience help survivors cope with the death and grief crises.

    Even if no formal arrangements are made in advance, the process of seeking information can benefit those who must make important decisions immediately following the death of a family member or friend. Most decisions made at the time of need are irreversible when carried out. The inexperienced and untrained should not be relied upon for information and advice.

How To Begin
The first step in planning funeral arrangements is to seek facts from a funeral service practitioner concerning all the possible alternatives. Then set aside a time for an open discussion with the members of your family. It Should be an informal yet purposeful discussion that attempts to take into consideration everyone’s feelings about death and the activities which immediately follow it.

    Talk frankly about the kind of arrangements you feel would be appropriate and listen carefully to the ideas of the others.  If it is your funeral being arranged, take their feelings into consideration, for although the funeral will be caused by your death, it will be for them, and it is they who must deal with the practical and emotional problems which will arise following your death.

    During the discussion, make a list of questions you wish to be answered prior to making specific arrangements.

    It is prudent to select a funeral director. You should seek one who will be straightforward with you, sensitive to family expressions, and responsive to your requests. Satisfying your needs is his/her greatest reason for fulfilling your trust.

     It may be beneficial to have a conference with members of your family and the funeral director.  Also, you may want to visit the funeral home to ascertain procedures, costs and professional philosophy. Potential survivors will be helped if they already have developed a rapport with the funeral director. During this visit, you and your family can record personal information and begin to put your wishes into writing.

    Funeral establishments will provide you with a written memorandum of the decisions that you make.  This serves as a guideline both for survivors and for the funeral director who carries out the arrangements at the time of death.

    Generally, it is recommended that your decisions be sufficiently broad and flexible to give your survivors options in the event of unforeseen circumstances. One of the primary reasons for making prearrangements is to assist your survivors, not to bind them to overly-rigid procedures which might deny them the opportunity to meet their wants and needs.

   Changing circumstances can significantly alter family needs and desires. Also, you are making plans for an occasion that may not take place for years to come. The effects of inflation should be considered too.

    Upon completion of the prearrangement form, the funeral service practitioner will keep a copy in the funeral home’s permanent confidential files and will provide copies for your family. It is the funeral director’s responsibility to have these easily accessible to those family members who will have the responsibility for carrying out the funeral arrangements at the time of death.

    Just as your will and life insurance coverage should be examined and updated periodically, so should your funeral prearrangements be reviewed and modified to reflect changing circumstances. But be sure that changes are made on all copies, including the one held by the funeral home.  

    In some instances it may be best to make prearrangements that do not legally obligate your survivors to execute your wishes nor bind them to any specific financial expenditures. This procedure is a recording of personal information and a statement of your wishes to serve as a guideline for your survivors in making final funeral decisions.

Pre-financing of Funerals
Including provisions for pre-financing your funeral prearrangements can be helpful to survivors, assuring them that funds will be available when needed to offset or completely cover funeral expenses. 

     In determining total expenditures, remember to consider the cost of cemetery, mausoleum, or columbarium space, and/or memorialization in the form of a monument, marker, crypt, or vase plus flowers, honoraria for clergyperson, musicians and taxes.  Such expenses generally are in addition to funeral home charges.

    Financial assistance for funeral and burial expenses come from a variety of sources. These include personal savings, estate funds, relatives, union or fraternal organization benefits, life insurance policies, and when applicable government benefits such as Social Security, Old Age Assistance, Welfare, Veterans, and Workmen’s Compensation.  During the consultation with the funeral director the benefits for which you qualify as well as their current dollar values can be determined.

    There are two common ways to pre-finance services, facilities and merchandise desired following death. First there is a trust agreement with a funeral  home. Funds are deposited in a trust account in a financial institution. The person making the deposit usually maintains beneficial if not legal control of the account and retains the right to terminate the contract at any time.

    Funeral home trust agreements may simply provide funds to be app/led to the cost of funeral arrangements, or they may specify the exact sum available for specific services and merchandise.  Special provisions should be included in the agreement in case you move from the area or may wish to terminate the agreement. Laws governing trust agreements with funeral homes vary from state to state. To assure that your investment is protected adequately, you should seek the following information.

  1. What state agency controls, regulates, or has responsibility for overseeing funeral home trust agreements?
  2. What funeral merchandise, facilities and services are covered by such agreement?
  3. Is a permit required for the firm making the pre-financing agreement, and does the funeral home hold such a permit?
  4. How much of the total amount paid must be placed in the trust account?
  5. How much of the income derived from the funds is to remain as part of the trust?
  6. How much of the trust can be withdrawn on demand?
  7. Are the prices in the pre-financing agreement firm/guaranteed?
  8. To what extent, if at all, is the agreement/ contract portable? Can it be used if death occurs and the funeral is to be held other than at the facility of the funeral director who is a party to the contract?

    The second common way to pre-finance immediate post-death services, facilities and merchandise is through specially designed funeral or life insurance policies which provide cash to be used for funeral and burial expenses. These are life insurance policies. You should be certain to select an insurance program which is under the control of your state’s insurance regulatory agency and which is underwritten by a reputable company.

    Your own specific needs and desires will help determine which of these options to select. Your state’s law, in most cases, will be specific about what procedures are permitted. In any case, no money should be paid without having a written agreement that specifically states the terms of the pre-financing procedure. A key to a successful and beneficial pre-financing program is careful counseling with an experienced and trusted funeral director. It can prevent involvement in fraudulent pre-financing schemes, and it can be a big step toward feeling secure about what will happen concerning funeral arrangements after death occurs.

Some Final Thoughts
Prearrangement and/or pre-financing of funeral plans is an important consideration for any family. It can help alleviate some of the burden placed on the survivors by the death of a family member.  

    This can be accomplished best through frank discussions with family members and by consultation with a funeral director.

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