When you’re The Doyenne of Death®, you get asked some strange questions. At a recent public presentation I gave called “Laughing in the Face of Death: Funny Films for Funeral Planning,” members of the audience asked a wide range of questions – and the first one involved estate planning.
Q: “Is it true that a will is no longer valid after five years?”
A: A will remains valid indefinitely until changed. However, you’ll probably have life changes that will impact the details of the will over the course of five years. AAEPA estate planning attorneys recommend a review of estate plans every three years.
Q: “Can you donate your organs and still donate your body to science to get a free cremation?”
A: It depends on where you plan to donate your body. Medical schools want intact bodies for students to dissect. You can still donate your corneas and have your body accepted for anatomical study. Some national body donation services like MedCure, Science Care and the Life Legacy Foundation may accept a body that has had organs removed. You need to do your research before you make a commitment.
Q: “Can you get a free cremation just by donating your organs?”
A: No. While the recipients of your organs and their families will be eternally grateful for the gift of life you provide, there is no program that pays for a cremation after you donate your organs. Your estate is still responsible for funeral expenses.
Q: After telling the audience the National Funeral Directors Association survey of funeral costs in 2014 indicated the national median average for a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,181, adding a vault brought the total to $8,508, and a funeral with cremation was $6,078: “What do you actually get for that amount of money?”
A: The breakdown of items included: non-declinable services fee (for handling paperwork and arrangements), removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, use of facilities and staff for the viewing and funeral service, hearse, service car/van, basic memorial printing package and a metal casket.
Many eyes widened and jaws dropped when I said this did not include the costs for a cemetery plot, opening and closing of the grave, monument or marker costs, flowers or an obituary. They were amazed to hear the full costs can run $10,000 or more and that these costs have increased by 28% over the past ten years.
I also sketched out the differences between pre-need funeral insurance and final expense insurance. You can read about the pros and cons of both in this article at my website: http://agoodgoodbye.com/celebrant-services/funeral-insurance/.
Gail Rubin, CT, is a death educator Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement. She “knocked ‘em dead” with her TEDxABQ speech in September, on mortality, end-of-life, and funeral planning issues. Author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, she co-authored the free eBook, Celebrating Life: How to Create Meaningful Memorial Services, with Templates and Tips. She is a regular contributor to the AAEPA blog. Download a free planning form from her website, http://www.AGoodGoodbye.com.
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