Why Pre-Plan Final Arrangements?
In the past, pre-planning final arrangements wasn’t as important as it is today. Final arrangements used to be nearly the same for every person in a family or community, from the schedule of events, to the funeral home, to the hymns, to the cemetery. For better or worse, things are a lot more complicated today. There are many choices, costs and personal expressions to choose from, and final arrangement planning has become important, not only for yourself, but for your family and friends as well.


But the one decision that most of us put off talking about is the one that has to do with the inevitable day when we’re not here to make those decisions together. The discussion of dying and the decisions that have to be made by the surviving partner and children are difficult ones, but they will have to be made. And most families that have gone through that process will tell everyone that it is far better to make those decisions far in advance of death when the mind is more clear and the emotions aren’t so overwhelming. That is what pre-planning final arrangements is about. It is for you to carry out your wishes and for your family not to be burdened of deciding what you wanted. Pre-planning is about love.

By pre-planning, you alleviate the stress that would otherwise be placed on your loved ones and family at the time of one of their worst life experiences. It can also establish a budget and even have a pre-funding plan included. We hope that this section will help you understand the importance of pre-planning and give you the information to make the proper choices for you and your family.

Why Pre-Plan Final Arrangements?
Depending upon their circumstances, people are motivated to pre-plan and pre-fund for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most compelling.

  1. Pre-arranging enables us to make our wishes known to our family, ensuring that those wishes can be carried out, even if unforeseen medical expenses deplete our savings.
  2. Pre-arranging allows for families to take the time they need to carefully consider their options without the scheduling pressure and emotional trauma that occurs following the death.
  3. Pre-arranging allows us to consider the thoughts and feelings of all family members, not just those who happen to be present at the time of death.
  4. As an essential component of budgeting and estate planning, pre-arranging allows families to create a memorial service and funeral that captures their wishes and allows families to anticipate the cost of funerals and plan for them.
  5. Purchasing final expense insurance policies, or pre-need funeral insurance, can give many families the chance to fund their final expenses over time through affordable insurance payments. These specialized insurance policies are designed for older adults who can gain peace of mind knowing that their funerals will be paid for, and that their families will be spared any financial burden.

The Continuum of Planning: A Three-Step Plan
Step One – The Conversation
An honest and open family conversation about death is the first and most important step in pre-planning. We need to share our thoughts, preferences and wishes about our final arrangements with those closest to us. Remember though, that this is a conversation and not a monologue. Our final arrangement choices have consequences for our survivors, and we must consider what they may want from the service to make it meaningful and meet their emotional needs. This conversation should address disposition choices such as burial or cremation, service choices such as viewing, visitation, religious focus, and the participation of family, friends, as well as Veteran and service organizations.

Step Two – The Funeral Director or Cemeterian
The next important step is meeting with your funeral director or cemeterian for a discussion about your wishes. Both will present options and offer suggestions to help you craft the service that meets your family’s needs. Your director or cemeterian can help you find ways to make meaningful choices while staying within your budget. Forms recording your biographic information, choices of venues, disposition, participants, music, scripture, and merchandise can be prepared and kept in the funeral home or the cemetery’s files.

Step Three – Pre-Funding
The third step in pre-arranging your final arrangements is pre-funding. Many people pre-fund as a part of their overall estate and family budget planning. Others look to pre-funding as a way to relieve their adult children of the financial burden that their eventual deaths will bring about. Some must quickly put funds away before they are lost when a loved one goes under medical assistance. Because each state has its own regulations on bank trusts, insurance trusts, and other forms of prepayment, your local funeral director or cemeterian is the one to ask about which options are available for you. Generally, the plan should be in a form that cannot be counted as an asset should you ever need to go under medical assistance due to an extended convalescence. It should minimize tax and relocation consequences. Depending upon your circumstances, one plan may be more appropriate for you than another. The more your final arrangement planning professional knows about your wishes and circumstances, the better they can help you. For example, if you are a frequent traveler, some policies can protect your family against the expenses involved in a death that occurs out of the state or out of the country.

Keep Your Plans Current and Accessible
Like all good estate planning, your final arrangement pre-arrangements should be revisited when major changes occur in your family, residence or wishes. Please discuss your arrangements with your family and let them know where to find important documents recoding your wishes. Keeping these documents in a lockbox or with your lawyer may prevent family from accessing them until after the service, so keep a copy at the funeral home or cemetery.

Death is a difficult subject to talk about, but avoiding the conversation just makes death more difficult to deal with when it comes. Final arrangement planning has changed a lot over the years and is no longer just for the dead and dying. We all need to share our thoughts and wishes about our funerals with those close to us. As we age, it becomes more and more important for us to formalize our plans and budget for the expenses. Your local final arrangement professional can help you to plan the service that is right for you and find the best prefunding option as well.

Decisions you can Make When you Pre-Plan

  • Burial, cremation or entombment (above ground)
  • Type of farewell – Family, Family and Friends and/or Community Gathering
  • Type of service (religious, non-sectarian, military, theme-based, etc.)
  • Location of service, ceremony, tribute, visitation, etc.
  • Casket type: metal, wood, orthodox, etc.
  • Burial/urn vault
  • Urns/keepsakes
  • Transportation needs
  • Music/Video/Photographs/Program
  • Flowers and/or charitable donations
  • Readings, favorite poems, literature or scriptures
  • Obituary/eulogy
  • Cemetery location and choices
  • Final Permanent Memorialization – A tribute to a life lived and a permanent record for future generations
  • Estate planning and documentation of all personal information (e.g. credit cards, insurance, investments, pensions etc.) that will need to be followed through with after death
  • Reception and catering arrangements

You have control over all of these details and the financial responsibility for your arrangements and can plan for these ahead of time!

Talking to Your Parents about Pre-Planning
If you are considering pre-planning for your parents, you may be wondering how to broach this delicate subject. The following may help you:

  • A parent asks you to be an executor or you already are the executor. This is an obvious opportunity to discuss the subject of final arrangements and to utilize the services of professionals to help you.
  • Your parent brings up the subject. This isn’t all that unusual, especially if there have been recent deaths of friends or loved ones. It is important that you listen carefully, taking note of their wishes and concerns so that you can integrate these into the Remembrance Preplanning Process℠
  • Your parent is seriously ill. Obviously, this is a very sensitive scenario and one that must not be approached on the basis of giving up hope for recovery. Rather, the emphasis is on making sure their last wishes and final goodbye are satisfied.
  • The subject comes up through an experience. Many times, attending a funeral or visiting a cemetery will provide an opportunity to ask your parent about his or her wishes.