How to Plan Your Own Funeral

| 5 min read Financial Assistance

Death is never an easy subject to think about, especially your own death. But sometimes confronting an uncomfortable topic ahead of time can be a great gift to your family and friends. This post will cover how to plan your own funeral and make your wishes known in case of something unforeseen. We hope it helps give you and your loved ones peace of mind.

Why plan your own funeral

In 2017, the NFDA’s annual Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study revealed that 62.5% of consumers felt it was very important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to family members prior to their own death, yet only 21.4% had done so.

Planning your own funeral might be the last thing you want to contemplate, but there are many logistical and business issues that need to be addressed when we die. Doing a some legwork in advance can ease some of the burden for your loved ones. First and foremost is cost.

“One of the most overlooked parts of funeral planning is how much it can cost, and how your loved ones will be able to pay for services that can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars,” explains Gail Rubin, a death educator and author of the book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She emphasizes that it’s important to “be an informed consumer.”

What to get in order

Rubin advises people to make sure they organize all of their important papers and give the information to a trusted family member.

“If you suddenly dropped off the face of the planet, your family will need to be able to contact your executor, lawyer, financial advisor, insurance agent, banker, other professional advisors, as well as family and friends. A master list with those names and numbers will save loved ones a lot of stress,” she says.

Make your wishes known

Rubin advises putting some thought into what you would like to plan for your own funeral, which can save your family the stress of having to guess and make decisions at a time when they need to focus on grieving.

“Your loved ones need a sense of what you might want for your ‘good goodbye,’” Rubin says. “Would you want burial, cremation, donating your body to science? If cremation, what happens to your remains? What about some kind of gathering so people can start the process of learning to live without you? Funerals are now ‘celebrations of life.’”

Kenneth A. Cahall, President of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), adds, “When  families don’t have these  important discussions, family  members who are left behind may  feel overwhelmed and not be prepared  to make these important decisions when their loved one dies.”

How crowdfunding can help

One of the major benefits of funeral pre-planning is that you can start putting money aside to help ease any future burden on your loved ones. But what if there’s an unexpected death in the family and you need to pay for a funeral right away?

Crowdfunding can be an important financial tool in the event of a sudden loss. GoFundMe offers fundraising that can help your family through one of life’s most difficult times.

Include your online presence in your funeral pre-planning

When a person dies, their online life continues—and this can be an invitation to fraud, warns Rubin. Among your important papers, be sure to include all your usernames and passwords for social media and other online accounts.

“You need to know the extent of a person’s online life to avoid hacking and identity theft of the dead. About a third of today’s deceased persons are victims of ID theft. It’s vital to shut down social media accounts and other online accounts, and avoid putting too much detail in obituaries,” says Rubin, adding that she keeps an up-to-date printed spreadsheet of sites, user names, passwords, and notes about automatic account billing.

Take the time to plan ahead

Funeral planning is one of those rites of passage in life that most of us go through. If you’ve already been through the process of planning one for someone else, especially if you weren’t sure about their wishes, then you can understand the value of planning your own funeral.

Even if it’s difficult, have conversations with loved ones about your final wishes, and be sure to share copies of important documents and passwords. While you’re at it, make sure you have your family members’ information and an understanding of their final wishes. Above all, remember that there is no one right formula for these conversations or your planning.

For more information, see our posts Coping With Death: Tips From Professionals, The Cost of Funeral Services, and How to Get Help With Burial Expenses.

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