Planning Your Final Wishes
help your loved ones during this difficult decision making process.
Here is a list of very important pieces of information for you to have ready for
your loved ones in their time of need. It is extremely important that at least one
family member or responsible person is aware of your choices and can execute
such wishes. These choices may be difficult but are very necessary
* Be sure to include birth date and social security number
People to Notify
* The group of people and or organizations to contact first in the event of
something happening to you.
* The executor of your estate or primary beneficiary.
* Church or place of worship.
* Pastor or other religious contact.
* Some one to care for your home and pets, if any.
* If services are preplanned, that information.
* If unplanned, funeral home preferred.
* Final resting place.
* Any memorials wishes and where they should be sent.
* Preferences of burial clothing, jewelry, or special items.
* Musical preferences, if any.
Funeral Service Requests
* People selected as pall bearers
* Special acknowledgment of family members and friends at service
* Floral preference
* Reading for the service
* Special requests or prayers
Import Paperwork Locations
* Durable Power of Attorney
* Checking and/or Saving account info
* Retirement accounts
* Bank statements, property deeds and other financial records
* Marriage certificates
* Military discharge papers
* Insurance policies
* Tax returns
* Charge accounts
* Other current bills
* Automobile title and registration
* Several certified copies of Death Certificate
A Guide to Planning Your Funeral
To plan your funeral is sensible, economical, and considerate. It will be your
funeral. Your family or your estate will have to pay for it. When you plan the kind
of arrangements you and your family want, you save needless expense, secure
peace of mind, and smooth the way for those you leave behind.
• Sharing plans with loved ones often brings families closer and makes grief easier
to deal with.
• Planning ahead is satisfying for people who like to make their own decisions and
do things for themselves. It gives them a feeling of responsibility for themselves,
and for others.
• Knowing arrangements are made eases some worries about dying or burdening
others with unfinished business.
• People can explore alternatives and make choices that suit their personal choices,
religious beliefs, and finances.
• Planning gives people an important opportunity to help others with anatomical
donations or memorial gifts to a favorite charity. It also saves families all of the
difficulty and pain that can arise over making these decisions during the time of
• Planning ahead does not mean paying ahead but it can save money. It also
protects loved ones from emotional mistakes and expensive decisions when death
When a person dies, there are two tasks at hand: one is the timely disposition of
the body, the other is commemorating the life that was lived. When you can
separate those two events, there will be more possibility for saving money. How
much you choose to spend may influence your decisions.
Before people can make funeral plans they need to be aware of the choices
available. To make informed choices, they need to know all the options, costs, and
For many people, a funeral is one of the largest expenses they will face. Today,
funerals often cost $7,000 or more. Most will make funeral arrangements having
little knowledge of their rights or alternatives. Decisions are made at a time when
people are most vulnerable and their judgment is clouded by grief and
bereavement. They may feel that monetary amount spent on final arrangements
measures how much they loved you.
Costs depend on the casket selected, the services provided by the mortician, and
the charges made by the cemetery (the grave site, the vault or liner, opening and
closing the grave, the marker or monument, and perpetual care), Costs could range
from $800 to well over $5,000.
(usually cement slabs) are not legally required but are mandated by many
cemeteries to keep the ground from settling. Coffin vaults, which serve the same
purpose as grave liners, cost nearly twice as much, if not more.
If you, or someone close to you, own land outside the village or city limits, home
burial may be an economical and preferred option in some states.
Except in special cases, embalming is not required. Embalming is rarely used in
other countries. Refrigeration or dried ice may be used to preserve a body when
there will be a delay in cremation.
Cremation is increasingly popular. It accomplishes in a few hours what nature takes
years to complete. A modest container, rather than an expensive casket is generally
used, and total costs range from about $200 to well over $1,000. Many
crematories will work directly with a family for substantial savings, but all permits
must be in order, accompanied by a death certificate.
Cremated remains (cremains) may be scattered, buried, or stored in an urn. They
can be easily transported or inexpensively shipped. Their disposition can be
handled by the next of kin or a designee. Although some denominations oppose
cremation, the majority accepts it.
Bequeathing your body to a medical school is another option. Many medical
schools value a body for teaching or research purposes and may pay for
transportation and final disposition, usually cremation. If requested, some medical
colleges will return the cremains to the family for disposition.
It is important to have a written agreement with a medical school, and it is essential
to have alternative plans. The circumstances of your death may render your body
unacceptable for teaching purposes. Autopsies are valuable for medical science,
and organ transplants give priceless benefits to recipients. Most medical schools
do not accept a body on which an autopsy has been performed or from which
organs (other than corneas) have been removed.
Aside from the disposition of your body, there is the question of the kind of service
you prefer. Should it be formal or informal? Public or private? A funeral or a
A funeral service is one with the body present. Therefore, it is held soon after
death occurs, generally in a religious setting or mortuary. There is also the option,
as in days past, to have a funeral at your own or family home.
A memorial service is held without the body present and does not require
extensive services or the expense of a mortician. It can be scheduled several days,
weeks, or even months after death occurs. This allows time for far-away family or
friends to gather. It also allows those who loved you to choose the most
appropriate way to celebrate your life and what you meant to them, separate from
the initial grief, when they have had time to reflect and grieve.
A committal service may be held at the graveside immediately before burial or
in a crematory chapel before cremation.
Many people prefer to dispense with a committal service. Others dispense with
services altogether. But generally some sort of observance—public or private, in a
religious or familiar setting, with or without ritual, is helpful for promoting your
loved ones acceptance of death, and start of the grieving process.
Discuss your preferences with family members, your minister, priest, or
rabbi. Discussion will help you decide on the kind of services most suitable for you
and your family. If your funeral is a topic that is difficult to bring up, sharing
printed information may be a way to begin. Your local Funeral Consumers Alliance
has this online information in attractive brochures, as a benefit of membership.
Decades ago memorial and funeral-planning societies were formed to provide
consumers with the information needed for informed planning. In many cities,
members have already done the research and pricing needed to arrange an
economical, yet dignified funeral. Members choosing the simplest of options often
spend around $1,000.
When you make a will or purchase insurance, you are planning for your death and
the lives of your survivors. By planning your final arrangements you are doing
precisely the same thing: smoothing the way for your survivors.
The time around someone’s death can be very
confusing, as well as stressful and emotional.
Many of the tough decisions need to be made
in a short period of time. Your choices here can
help give some clarity in a time of confusion.
People often feel uncomfortable talking about
their last wishes, but if the time arises, these
decisions can relieve a great deal of stress, and
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