Under the Influence – Planning for the Inevitable

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By Shawndi Purselley, CFP®, CDFA®

When I was a child, I remember my great-grandparents Lloyd and Henrietta removing a slip from a payment book every month to send money to Laurel Land Funeral Home for their burial plots.  I was a very nosy kid and it bothered me that they ACTUALLY PLANNED on dying someday!! I would always ask “will you still be here when I graduate high school?  What about when I get married?  What about when I have kids?”  It always worried me to think about them not being around. Henrietta would always say to me “time marches on little one and we won’t always be here.” Turns out Henrietta stuck around until my second child Savannah was 3 and she was 89 (Lloyd 91).  In addition to pre-paying for their burial plots, they purchased a pre-need burial and funeral arrangement contract through the funeral home.

The pre-need funeral arrangement allowed my grandparents to make all the decisions for their funeral ahead of time and took a significant burden off my family.  Henrietta was bossy and she had her own ideas of how things were to be done.  But more than for her sake, it allowed us to feel confident that her wishes were being fulfilled.  In addition, we didn’t have to spend unnecessary time at the funeral home listening to people that frankly I didn’t want to deal with.  Henrietta picked her casket, music, the type of service she wanted and the information she wanted printed on her handout as well as many other things that funeral homes ask you to consider.  I didn’t understand then but what Lloyd and Henrietta did for our family was a true selfless act of love.    The plan was a pre-paid plan as well so the burden of payment was covered.  As I have mentioned, we were not a family of means.  As a result, the pre-payment lifted a heavy weight off of the family. The idea of having to make arrangements for Henrietta seemed unbearable, so not having to do so was a blessing.   I know there are arguments about not pre-paying for these arrangements in favor of instead investing the money over the long term, but I can argue that for the reasons I stated above that it was the best option for our family.  When considering the emotional comfort it brought Lloyd and Henrietta and to our family in the end, I feel that we made the right decision.

As always, these plans do not cover everything so if you are looking into a plan like this one please be diligent about the things that are NOT covered and the organization you are considering working with.

The average cost of a traditional funeral in 2016 was around $7000-$10,000.  However, costs can far exceed this average.  The Funeral Rule, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, was designed to protect consumers.  This rule requires funeral providers to give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral goods and services you have selected when you are making the arrangements and disclose any legal cemetery or crematory requirements.  Each state has their own consumer protection laws surrounding licensing, Pre-Need Funeral and Burial Contracts.  You can also find information under your state’s Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) laws.  Be sure you fully understand your rights of refund upon cancellation of a contract as well as if your state has a Consumer Protection Fund.  In addition, be sure you fully understand what is included and not included in your plan.  For instance, funeral or cemetery services and merchandise like your casket and grave vault may be included, while  lots, markers, monuments, tombstones, and crypts may not be included.

Shawndi L Purselley

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