Family Clashes Over Funeral Plans
What would more likely get your clients to make pre-need funeral plans: a real life tragedy or a light romantic comedy? Consider these two approaches.
The family of Josh Powell, the man who killed his two sons in an explosive house fire in Washington state, recently said he will not be buried in the same cemetery as the children.
Powell’s mother, wracked by grief, realized no one else was planning the disposition of Josh Powell’s remains. All the attention was focused on his two murdered children. She visited a funeral home and a few cemeteries and picked a gravesite.
It turns out the grave she selected was just up the hill from where the boys were buried. They were laid to rest on February 11 at Woodbine Cemetery, the municipal cemetery in Puyallup.
The idea that the murder suspect would be buried near his victims sparked outrage in the community. His family retreated and started looking for another cemetery in which to bury Powell. (read the MSNBC.com story)
Shopping around for a burial plot after a tragic murder is the last thing any family member wants to do. In this case, the mother’s clueless selection added insult to injury. Yet, it does raise some points for discussion.
Few people younger than retirement age buy burial plots. It’s something embraced by those who plan ahead. With so many people choosing cremation, why doesn’t this family look at that option and decide what to do with the remains later?
Heavy stuff. Perhaps a light romantic comedy would be more palatable. The film Elizabethtown (2005 – PG-13) offers an opening to discuss burial versus cremation.
In the film, Drew Baylor’s father unexpectedly dies of a heart attack while visiting his family in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. His mother sends Drew with dad’s favorite blue suit to have the body cremated and brought home to Oregon.
Drew is shown the Baylor family plot in Kentucky, which dates back 272 years. They don’t cotton well to the idea of cremation. His mom insists, and dad is cremated.
Drew’s mother is not well regarded by the Baylors. This being a comedy, she comes to the memorial service, where their old grudges are resolved. In reality, family funerals often extend or intensify disputes rather than bury them.
Then there’s The Blue Suit Compromise. Since the Kentucky Baylors wanted a burial, dad’s blue suit and other items were buried in the family plot. Drew takes his dad’s ashes on a road trip, stopping for scattering at significant spots along the way.
What should a family do about a final resting place? Is one even needed? Would they want burial or cremation? Are finances a factor in what the family wants done?
It’s better to raise these questions before there’s a death. It can reduce an enormous amount of stress at a time of grief. Are you the right person to help start that conversation?
Gail Rubin, “The Doyenne of Death,” is author of the award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She speaks to groups using clips from funny films to illustrate funeral planning issues and help start serious conversations. Her website is http://AGoodGoodbye.com.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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