When my wife's mother, "Grandma G," died, she left us many gifts and intangibles. She also left us something very tangible, that in the immediate hour of need, was her most thoughtful gift. She had prearranged and paid for her funeral in exacting detail. This single act, greatly lowered the magnitude of stress that her death had caused.
When the 10:16 a.m. call came in to tell us of Grandma's death, our schedule and lives changed abruptly. Immediately, hundreds of questions crowded our heads. Sadness and strong emotions disabled us for several minutes. Within an hour of the call, my wife and I were on our way from Tallahassee to St. Petersburg, Florida. We made a list as we drove. What would we need to handle when we arrived? My wife was an only child. So, all the details were now our responsibility.
We knew Grandma had prearranged her funeral prior to her death. She had given us a small laminated card that said, "Simplicity Plan, at the time of my death call..." That small card soon became a major blessing.
For most of us, thinking about death, let alone our death, isn't a high priority. Grandma's thoughtfulness and foresight changed my opinion quickly. Now, I hope to change yours. Prepaid, pre-need arrangements should be a part of everyone's estate planning. You can start yours today!
The day following Grandma's death, we met with Tom, a funeral director from the home and cemetery she had worked with. He had the original paper work signed 9 years prior. It contained all of her selections and instructions, enough for us to know precisely what Grandma wanted. In her case, she wanted cremation, with placement in a niche, using a bronze urn, and no service, all prepaid. That sounds easy. Why bother to do that in advance? Choices, paperwork and cost are three excellent reasons.
Even with all her wishes known, it still took two hours to fill out and sign the required (by law) paperwork for an only child. Imagine having several immediate family members together under duress trying to decide:
- Burial or cremation?
- What would she have wanted?
- What casket or what urn to use?
- Which plot, crypt, or niche is right?
- What clothing, a service or no service, music or no music, which songs?
- Should you have a viewing, or no viewing? What should you say in the obituary?
- Will you place a picture in the obituary or not?
- If you do include a picture, which picture will you use?
This confusion is the most common occurrence according to funeral directors. Pre-plan and prearrange with pre-need and you eliminate it.
The two hours we spent with Tom at the funeral home was only half of the ordeal. The next day, we went to the cemetery and, working with Jack, the cemetery's representative, it took four minutes short of two hours to finish all the paperwork for Grandma's niche. Again, this was with all decisions made in advance. While we sat in a private room, the weeping and cries of disbelief of another family pierced the door. They had not made prearrangements, and they found all the decisions overwhelming. Even at a calm time, with a clear head, it would still be a challenge.
Talking about money at the time of a loved one's death might first appear tasteless. However, should a family under duress incur expenses they can't easily afford? Isn't it easy to see, because of grief, guilt, or sibling pressure, how survivors could spend more money than necessary? Grandma prepaid for her arrangements 9 years before her death. The funeral home and cemetery honored the details and the pricing of the contract. There was no pressure, no questioning, no hints or insinuations about changing anything. One last point about money and prearrangements, since Grandma made and paid for her selections, the costs for the same products and services had more than doubled. So Grandma's foresight also saved a significant sum of money for her estate.
Florida law requires funeral homes and cemeteries to place the funds from prearranged services (pre-need in the vernacular) in escrow. Many other states have similar laws. The Funeral Homes or Cemeteries cannot withdraw the funds until the time of use (at need). The money gains interest for the Funeral Home/Cemetery, which helps them keep up with inflation. There are also various provisions for canceling contracts and for transferring them to other funeral homes or cemeteries. And, on Grandma's plan, had we buried her without knowing of the prepaid plan, upon discovery of it, the funeral home would have refunded what she'd paid.
There will be variations between States and Funeral Homes on the plans offered and their costs. So, investigate and ask questions. Fully understand what you want before you buy a pre-need plan. Grandma's plan was "The Simplicity Plan," offered by Stewart Enterprises Inc. There are other plans available. Simply ask your chosen local Funeral Home and they will help you devise a pre-need plan that reflects you, your wishes and your budget.
Based on our experience, there was nothing more thoughtful that Grandma could have done. In the hour of humanity's greatest stress, Grandma had already lessened the trauma of dealing with funeral arrangements. And realistically, who better to make all the choices than her?
Once you have completed the details and signed up for your pre-need services, give a copy of the plan with the contact information to your personal representative, a close family member or one of your adult children. It is a thoughtful gift for your survivors.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/2405443