Funeral planning probably isn’t high on your clients’ lists of things to do. However, planning ahead has many benefits: reducing stress and family conflict; saving money; and giving the time to create a meaningful, memorable “good goodbye.”
These ten tips will help you and your clients get the conversation going with a light touch on a serious subject.
1. Lighten Up and Laugh!
Woody Allen, who has always had a visceral fear of death, said in a New York Times column, “I sometimes imagine that death might be more tolerable if I passed away in my sleep, although the reality is, no form of dying is acceptable to me with the possible exception of being kicked to death by a pair of scantily clad cocktail waitresses.” Have a sense of humor about making final arrangements. Planning in advance gives you the emotional room to laugh.
2. Face Facts
Humans have a 100% mortality rate. Ignoring the fact of our inevitable demise will not prevent death from happening. That’s why it’s important to create wills and trusts, advance directives and funeral plans before a family member dies.
3. Consider Costs
Funerals are expensive undertakings, when you add up all the elements. On average, a traditional funeral costs more than $10,000 these days. A traditional funeral includes the products and services of a funeral director, a cemetery plot, grave opening and closing costs, a memorial marker, obituaries, programs, flowers, and a reception after the service.
4. Decide Disposal
Consider the choices available in terms of the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire or Water.
- Earth = burial, with added costs of vaults or liners and a memorial marker.
- Air = donating your body to science, as it disappears into thin air and there’s no disposal cost to the family.
- Fire = cremation, which can cost a tenth of a traditional funeral and offers many options for the cremated remains.
- Water = whole body burial at sea is an option for veterans, and there are some private companies that will do the same for civilians. Alternatively, it represents alkaline hydrolysis, an increasingly available eco-friendly way to reduce the body to its basic building blocks while avoiding the carbon footprint of cremation.
5. Going Green?
Green burial avoids embalming, metal caskets and vaults. The body is allowed to return to the earth as naturally as possible. One way to get a green burial in a conventional cemetery is to ask for a Jewish or Muslim style burial. This means no embalming (body refrigerated), dressing the body in cotton or linen garments and casketing in a plain pine box.
6. Party Planning
Funerals are the parties no one wants to plan. Yet those who know you and love you will want to celebrate your life in some way. Why not make it memorable? Put some time and thought into your “good goodbye” before a medical emergency makes this a moot point.
7. Collect Contacts
When the time comes to alert family and friends, how will your loved ones find their contact information? Put together a written list of names, phone numbers, and emails that can be easily accessed.
8. Find Funding
Do you have a $10,000 credit card limit or money saved in the bank available at a moment’s notice? If not, start saving or check into final expense insurance or preneed insurance with a funeral home.
9. Good Grief
Unexpressed grief can cause physical and emotional illnesses. A memorial service, regardless of disposition method, helps loved ones express their grief and start the mourning process.
10. Talk Today!
As the classic Monty Python skit goes, “Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition!” And nobody expects to die. Yet death does happen unexpectedly. Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead. Think about these tips and start a conversation today.
Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®, brings a light touch to serious subjects, using humor and funny films to attract people to discuss mortality and funeral planning issues. She is Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement by the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A pioneering Death Café hostess, she is author of the award-winning book and host of the TV and radio shows A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Gail is an ongoing contributor to the AAEPA blog. Her website is http://agoodgoodbye.com/
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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