A Day in the Life ScenariosEnd of life IssuesHuman Interest


When you get old, like most readers of DrGOpines.com, making critical life decisions is very important. Managing the end of your life is one of the biggest decisions we make. Do I want a funeral? Where will it be? Should I be buried or cremated? These are personal decisions that involve complex organizational and financial factors so, planning ahead is wise and helpful to your survivors. Preparing a record of your desires for the celebration or commemoration of your life takes a burdensome responsibility away from your children and leaves no doubt about your desires. Pre-planning your end of life activities gives you the control you lose if you die without a plan. It’s already decided, paid for, and only needs to be set in motion upon your death.

There are, then, a number of important decisions to be made. Your surviving family members will be aware of your wishes, embrace them, and implement them upon your death. Decisions such as do I even want a funeral, would I prefer a memorial service, a celebration of life, or a reception? Do I have it now, immediately after death, or at a later date? Where is it conducted—in a church, mortuary, meeting hall, country club? Is it a private service for only invitees or open to the public? Making these decisions in advance of death and sharing them with your survivors reduces family stress and conflict and ensures your wishes will be met.

Important personal decisions are made, too. The choice of a traditional burial or cremation is a major one. Traditional burial involves many additional decisions and higher costs including the choice of a casket and burial vault, the purchase of a burial plot or mausoleum, and deciding on a headstone or marker. The location of interment is another big decision. On the other hand, cremation options are few—do you want a wood, metal, or porcelain vessel to hold the ashes? Where will the ashes ultimately end up? Making these decisions in advance of your death allows everyone to know your wishes and participate in meaningful family discussions. Each person’s personal circumstances factor into these decisions and influence the final outcome.

Pre-planning funeral arrangements has become a popular concept and a big business. Google statistics say between 21%-25% of all funerals are pre-planned, which is a small percentage. However, Mortuaries, today, are actively seeking pre-planned business, so that percentage should increase over the next several years. A promotional advantage used by funeral directors is that planning now you are paying today’s prices for the procedures and items involved instead of the prices in effect when the person dies. With inflation as it has been, the savings could be in the thousands of dollars.

Another benefit of pre-planning is determining the format and order of the service. You have leeway to name an officiant, important personal speakers, hymns or popular songs sung or played, and how long the service lasts. Will there be a graveside service? You are able to decide these things in advance of your death so participants can be prepared. But you, the deceased, knows full well you will not be alive to enjoy the celebration. You can, however, take comfort in knowing your family will carry out your desires. 

Four years ago, representatives from a local mortuary spoke to our church SENIORS group about pre-planning, and last week we attended a seminar about Veteran’s Burial Benefits. It was presented by Dignity Memorial, a Phoenix funeral provider, and we met with their representative, later. Pre-planning our funerals is a direction we have decided to go. Military veterans are eligible for a few benefits not available to the public. These appealed to me so we have decided to lock in today’s prices and finalize arrangements. 

The interesting thing about pre-paying our funerals is that the payment buys an insurance policy. I found that unusual and confusing, but learned that an insurance product was required by law. Similar to cash value whole life insurance, the policy appreciates in value and guarantees the decedent’s survivors will pay no more than the amount paid at the time of planning and purchase. The Veterans’ approval process is a bit involved, but must be done to gain eligibility for benefits.

Dr. G’s Opinion: We have numerous friends who have already arranged and paid in full for their funerals. We’ve dragged our feet because of the cost, but after attending several presentations, it is time for us to make a move. Our circumstances have changed so delaying this decision has actually been a blessing. Had we made arrangements before, they would not be as we want them now. 

The two major benefits of pre-planning your funeral are one, guaranteeing your wishes after death are known and fulfilled, and two, the price you pay for the options you choose are set and cannot increase. These are factors people take seriously and thus relieve survivors of decisions they may be unprepared to make. 

We have delayed this decision for too long so now we are ready to move forward.

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