Planning Your Funeral or Memorial Service

Roses in cemetery with people in the background. Funeral in cemetery; White roses in cemetery. Prayer at the tomb. Funeral ceremony. White roses at funeral near the grave.
Thinking about your funeral may not be fun, but planning your funeral or your memorial service in advance can be exceedingly helpful for your family. It both lets them know your wishes and assists them during a stressful time. The following are steps you can take to plan ahead.

Name who is in charge of planning your funeral.

The first step is to designate someone to make funeral arrangements for you. State law dictates how that appointment is made. In some states, an informal note is enough. Other states require you to designate someone in a formal document, such as a health care power of attorney. If you do not designate someone, your spouse or children are usually given the task.

In Florida, McCreary Law Office uses a Designation and Authorization for Distribution of Remains that follows the Florida statute related to who has that authority to make decisions. Often, a family situation makes it easy: a spouse or only child makes the decisions. But for those adults who are in a non marital relationship or estranged from family members, it is particularly important to make this designation in advance.

Texas allows a similar sort of designation, but in Texas, your agent must sign also to accept the role. This point spotlights the importance of talking to your agents in advance.

Write down your preferences.

Write out detailed funeral preferences as well as the requested disposition of your remains. Would you rather be buried or cremated? Do you want a funeral or a memorial service? Where should the funeral or memorial be held? If you want to be cremated, what do you want to happen to your cremains? (Maybe a national park?) The document can also include information about who should be invited, what you want to wear, who should speak, what music should be played, and who should be pallbearers, among other information.

A complete estate plan should include these preferences. The writing can be a separate document or part of a health care directive. It should not be included in your will because the will may not be opened until long after the funeral. McCreary Law Office provides clients with a structured worksheet to help them in this type of planning.

Shop around when planning your funeral.

It is possible to make arrangements with a funeral home ahead of time so your family does not have to scramble to set things up while they are grieving. Prices among funeral homes can vary greatly, so it is a good idea to check with a few different ones before settling on the one you want. The Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule requires all funeral homes to supply customers with a general price list that details prices for all possible goods or services. The rule also stipulates what kinds of misrepresentations are prohibited and explains what items consumers cannot be required to purchase, among other things.

Inform your family members.

Make sure you tell your family members about your wishes and let them know where you have written them down.

Figure out how to pay for it.

Funerals are expensive, so you need to think about how to pay for the one you want. You can pre-pay, but this could involve a risk as it is possible the funds could be mismanaged or the funeral home could go out of business. Instead of paying ahead, you can set up a payable-on-death account with your bank. Make the person who will be handling your funeral arrangements the beneficiary (and make sure they know your plans). You will maintain control of your money while you are alive, but when you die it is available immediately, without having to go through probate. Another option is to purchase a life insurance policy that is specifically for funeral arrangements.

Although McCreary Law Office helps many clients plan their estate to avoid probate, when that planning does not involve a trust but does involve more than one beneficiary, who will pay for services and final expenses will not always be clear. By preplanning or using an earmarked pay-on-death account, squabbles among family members in the midst of grief might be avoided.

Get started.

Taking the time to plan ahead will be a big help to your family and give you peace of mind.

For more information on planning your funeral from Kiplinger, click here.

Categories: Burial Plans, Trusts, Wills

Attorney Jana McCreary

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Houston Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney Jana R. McCreary has been an attorney for over seventeen years, a career move she made after working for over a decade with adults and children with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. Graduati… Read More

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