Planning Ahead for Final Arrangements

By , Caring.com Senior Editor
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Planning for a funeral or memorial

Ironically, final arrangements commonly associated with death -- including obituary notices, services, burial or interment, and more -- are among life's most expensive purchases, running an average of $6,000 for basics and well over $10,000 when flowers and limos are added to the total. Surviving family members' guilt and grief, combined with greed on the part of some unscrupulous industry providers, often complicate the picture. There are, however, ways to plan in advance for final arrangements.

Get wishes in writing

Ideally, you and the person you're caring for should discuss and plan for these needs during his lifetime -- ensuring that any final ceremonies and goods such as caskets or urns are in keeping with his tastes and wishes. To remove doubt, it's best to get his specific directions in writing. You might be surprised to find out that most people, particularly older adults, have quite specific ideas about what they envision happening after their deaths -- and most of them are relieved to express them.

Such written directives won't be legally binding on anyone, but they usually speak loudly and clearly to family members who might want to second-guess or contradict those wishes. And a record of desires for final arrangements made with a funeral or memorial society can act as a legal contract.

Many people in our death-averse society simply avoid having this conversation for as long as they can. But without advance written instructions, it can be difficult to decide on the best fit in terms of preferences, beliefs, and budget when it comes to matters as deeply personal as funeral or memorial arrangements. And during the vulnerable time after a death, surviving family members are often ill-equipped to ask the right questions and do the comparison shopping that's required to make wise choices.

The role of funeral homes and mortuaries

Fortunately, most funeral homes and mortuaries are equipped to handle many of the details related to disposing of a person's remains. These include:

  • Collecting the body from the place of death
  • Storing the body until it's buried or cremated
  • Making burial arrangements with a cemetery
  • Preparing the body for burial
  • Arranging to have the body transported for burial

By looking into arrangements ahead of time, you can -- and should -- compare the services and costs that local establishments offer.