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Plot Now

I’ve lost count the number of times someone has told me, “you can’t escape death or taxes”. What we’re not told is their cost. Every January, I painstakingly tally my income and expenses, emailing everything to my bookkeeper who prepares my paperwork for the IRS. It’s an annual event and even when I haven’t owed the government money, I still pay my bookkeeper. Death isn’t cheap either. Once we’re gone, there’s a price for those final services.

There’s another saying and this one concerns itself with paying now or paying more later, meaning today’s cost is far less both emotionally as well as financially. It pays to plan ahead. This applies to both life and death. According to statistics provided by the National Funeral Directors Association, the median price of a funeral in 2017 was $8,755. Cremation, roughly $1,000 less. Multiple sources quoted the average funeral cost today somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. Of course, you can buy a casket for more than $10,000. What I’m trying to say is that this is not a cost you want to impose upon your family. Better to “plot ahead” than burden them with additional grief after you’re gone.

How, you ask, do I spare my family this expense? Simple. You purchase insurance to cover the costs of your sendoff. It is often referred to as “burial insurance”, “funeral insurance” or “final expense insurance”. You may never hear these terms, but one way to obtain it is by purchasing a whole life policy. Not many companies have whole life policies for $20,000 or less, but a few do. “Whole life is commonly used as burial insurance because it lasts your entire life and is the simplest form of permanent life insurance.” Term life, on the other hand, is only for a fixed period of time. So, if you outlive the coverage period, there’s no guarantee those costs will get paid.

If all you purchase is a whole life policy, once the claim is filed and the money paid, there is no guarantee the beneficiaries will pay the funeral home. They may, instead, go on a nice vacation. You can, though, thwart their vacation by purchasing a “pre-need policy”, or a” pre-need trust”.  A third alternative is to fill out a form known as an Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains. This “allows you to appoint a person, known as your Agent, to be responsible for carrying out your burial or cremation wishes. You can limit the powers given to your Agent by including special instructions on the form”. Know that if you do choose the Appointment route, payment arrangements must still be made. It only sets forth how your remains will be handled and by whom.

For several paragraphs now, I’ve discussed the importance of pre-paying for your funeral, but I haven’t examined exactly what some of the costs are. Before I continue, let’s take a brief look at a few. Of course, there will be cost differences between burial or cremation and other services. As the buyer, though, you get to pick and choose what you wish. Here’s a brief list, in no particular order, of the services you might encounter and consider:

  • Obituary notice;
  • Casket;
  • Casket transport;
  • Burial;
  • Cremation;
  • Cemetery Plot;
  • Limo service;
  • Headstone;
  • Viewing;
  • Flowers;
  • Church service

There are, of course, other services. This is merely a partial list. If you choose an insurance company, an agent will help you decide what you want and then sell you the plan that best fits your needs. Often, they have already contracted with a funeral home, so you may not have a choice of funeral homes. Should you choose later to change it is, of course, an added expense.

Based solely on the research I did preparing for this article, there may be a better way to save some money and still get the sendoff you want. Depending on your comfort level, needs and desires, it could be easier to align yourself in the beginning with a funeral home and purchase from them a burial policy. Arguably, it could save you time, money and anxiety. Furthermore, you can be assured your final wishes will be fulfilled. The choice is yours.

In closing, let me state as a disclaimer that I am neither an insurance agent or funeral home director. I know people in both camps, and I am certainly not an expert in either. Just ask them. My goal was merely to paint with large brush strokes some of the more important facets involved in making a wise choice and saving friends or family any further grief or hardship. There are probably some inaccuracies and I apologize. Basically, all I have tried to do is to show some options in planning your funeral and spare some grief to get the service(s) you desire. For the sake of brevity, I have stayed away from details like medical exams and other factors. I only wanted to show you have choices. Hope I’ve succeeded.