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Let's Not Talk About That Now...
By Jennifer Kay
Too often families do not like to
talk about issues surrounding death, dying and funerals.
Why should they ask? Soon enough we all will have to
deal with these issues. So what’s wrong with waiting
till the need arises?
Just like you need to know about health insurance, life
insurance, social security benefits and living wills,
knowing about funeral arrangements and cemetery property
helps you make the financial and emotional decisions you
will be comfortable with in years to come.
Over the years, the funeral and cemetery industry has
changed. It makes sense for the consumer to pre-plan
their arrangements, not only because there is incentive
to do so, but even more, because there are also many
emotional benefits to pre-arrangements.
ASK YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
TO CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING
What’s really involved in a funeral arrangement?
families, if asked this question will answer “They pick
up the body and take it to the cemetery.” Nothing could
be further from the truth! A good funeral director will
sit with your family and hear what your family members
are saying. Do you all want the same kind of funeral? Do
you all agree on the same casket? Are there “Feuding
Members of the family” who will all want to be heard at
the funeral? Who will speak? What type of clergy will be
appropriate for your family? How will your loved one’s
memory be reflected at the service? Will you have a
service at all? And if not, will you regret that
In addition to preparing many documents and obtaining
appropriate signatures, arranging for the death
certificate to be signed and notifying Social Security
of the death, the funeral director is also a liaison
between the family, clergy and the cemetery staff. If
selected wisely, your funeral director will be your
family’s advisor, helping them to feel comfortable and
making sure your wishes are being honored. Funeral
directors “work behind the scenes” from the moment they
are contacted, insuring things are being done correctly
and in a timely manner.
What is involved in purchasing cemetery property?
cemeteries have many different properties that you may
purchase. You may choose a niche (A space in a mausoleum
to place the cremated remains), a grave in a section
with a headstone or a grave in a section which only has
flat markers, a crypt in a community mausoleum or a
separate, private family mausoleum. There may be a
requirement for an outer enclosure (sometimes called a
vault) as well as labor fees for burial.
How important is the location? Is
convenience for visiting, beauty of the cemetery or
being in or near the family plot the greatest priority?
If a cemetery is located in a residential neighborhood,
how will you feel as the neighborhood changes? Is this
your second marriage and which spouse would you like to
be buried with? Do you want to purchase extra plots for
unmarried siblings or children and their families? These
re just a few of the questions you need to consider.
What are my family’s values about
funerals and cemeteries?
Often, I hear people saying things like
“Just give me the cheapest funeral possible: I wont be
here to know the difference.” While this may make
economic sense to you, it frequently leaves those behind
without a sense of closure. Funerals are a time for
people (whether it is 2 or 200) to come together too say
good-bye and honor the deceased. It is important for
your family to have a dialogue and have everyone’s
feelings considered. In addition, not everyone in a
family has the same religious beliefs. These feelings
need to be considered also. Usually most everyone’s
needs can be respected if discussed in advance.
Remember that pre-arrangements are a
blueprint for your wishes. While funeral or cemetery
pre-need counselors can help you with these decisions
they cannot anticipate all your family’s needs.
Therefore these arrangements are flexible and can be
changed. At the time of death, your funeral director
will meet with a spokesperson for the family and review
all the arrangements to make sure the family information
is correct and current. At that time, adjustments will
be made if needed. Before you choose a funeral director
and cemetery, you might want to take the time to visit
the facility and meet the staff who will be working with
Consider whether or not you have talked
with your family about this important topic. While many
people feel that their family can take care of this at
the time of their death, they do their surviving family
no service by leaving it till then! Like any other major
purchase you would make, you should be an informed
consumer and get the information in advance.