What you include in your funeral plan is entirely up to you. Some people will include every detail. Some, who put together a plan at their local funeral home, have not yet decided if they wish to be buried or cremated - much less know what songs they would like to have performed at their service. As one considers planning, it is good to know that you don’t have to have everything decided. If you are not yet sure about some of the choices or you change your mind down the road, you can always adjust your plan.
A good place to begin is to think about those closest to you. What do you want for them? What will bring them comfort? What memories will warm their heart? Are there religious or spiritual rituals that will console them? When you imagine your family without you, what guidance will they need? How can you help them? This is really why we plan a funeral in advance. You may include in your advance funeral plan as much or as little detail as you wish. For most people, an advance funeral plan will include choice of final disposition, plans for the service, selection of the funeral products that will support disposition and service, and funding of the plan.
The first question that usually comes to mind when we learn that someone has died is did the deceased want to be buried or cremated? Final disposition of the body, the actual end of it all, is usually top of mind. So, if you know what you want, the first phase of your funeral plan simply states if you wish to be buried and, if so, where. Or, alternatively, if you wish to be cremated and if you wish your cremated remains or ashes to be buried, retained, or scattered. If you have ever been the one making arrangements when there is no plan in place, you know what a gift for your family this clear instruction will be.
Service: Religious, Spiritual, Life Celebration
Next you will work with your advance planning professional to define the tone and direction of your funeral service. For those with a strong faith base, leaving instruction to contact your church may be all that is needed. Depending on how your church addresses reflections on the individual’s life, some may want to arrange for activities that will center around your life, your family, your work, your interests, and your talents - all that made you, you. The focus of your funeral service can be balanced equally between the religious/spiritual and life celebration, or it can be all of one and none of the other or anything in between. It’s about you, and for your family. Your funeral planning professional will help you make choices or help you leave direction for your family to make the choices. Some people go into great detail. Others prefer to leave general directions and have their family complete the details. There is no right or wrong. Planning ahead lets you decide what will be best for your family.
Choosing Funeral Products
Based on the disposition you choose, there will be certain products that will be needed to support your choice. Cemeteries usually require that bodies be casketed and enclosed in a vault or outer burial container for burial. Those who wish to retain cremated remains may want containers, jewelry, or other keepsake items to hold the cremated remains. Scattering can be facilitated with specially designed urns for the purpose. These items can all be included in your funeral plan.
Funeral plans can be pre-funded or retained as “wishes on file.” Most people opt to fund their plan. There are many sound financial reasons for choosing this option. The funeral professional you work with at your funeral home will be able to answer your questions about funding and explain how the different options work. In most cases, you will be able to choose between paying in one single payment or in more affordable increments over time. For those who are not able to, or who choose not to fund their plan, the funeral home will keep your expressed wishes on file.
A completed funeral plan is a thoughtful gift for those you leave behind. It leaves no doubt for mourners concerning what to do. There is no need to build consensus among family members about what should be done because instructions have been provided. A funded funeral plan relieves the financial responsibility for family members. There is no need to cover cost while the estate is settled. Their big question, what would you want them to do, has been answered.