How To Pre-Plan a Funeral

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Every year, two million Americans are tasked with planning a funeral for a family member or friend. They face this challenge during a time of grief and stress. Preplanning allows consumers to protect their loved ones, while simultaneously creating a funeral that meets their distinctive needs.

*Plan Today*
In recent years, there has been a dramatic upsurge in the number of consumers who choose to preplan their funerals. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) explains this growth by looking to the aging baby boomer population, who are “known for their desire to control all aspects of their life and for developing their own ideas.”

Many seniors and younger individuals have joined the forward-thinking boomers in revising how funeral preplanning is perceived. This new breed of consumer fully recognizes the benefits of planning ahead. In addition to removing the burden of planning their funeral from their loved ones, preplanning ensures that specific desires for the ceremony and the type of burial are honored.

*Become an Informed Consumer*
Before beginning to shop for a provider, consumers should be aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which requires that funeral directors provide itemized prices. The Rule also states that consumers have the right to buy individual goods and services, not just complete “packages.” Consumers must be informed if they are required to purchase an item they do not specifically request. An explanation, stating why an applicable item is required and who requires it, must be in writing on the consumer contract.

For more detailed decision-making advice, consumers can turn to The Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program (FSCAP). The non-profit program offers free information, helpful resources, and recommendations. For more information, contact FSCAP at 1-800-228-6332.

*Shop and Decide*
Once consumers are aware of their rights, they should begin to consider their personal needs and desires. First and foremost, individuals must decide what type of funeral they want. Funeral service providers offer many types of ceremonies and events, from traditional funerals to alternative events such as catered receptions.

Providers are increasingly offering unique options that vary widely from the traditional funeral. Today, funeral directors and funeral homes can offer a nearly limitless range of options. For those looking for an event that is painstakingly crafted, full-service funeral planners are also available. These professionals work in conjunction with funeral directors to create services specially catered to individuals.

*Choose a Provider*
Choosing a funeral provider is the next step in the planning process. Individuals need to compare providers in order to find one they feel comfortable with in a price range that is within their budget. Funeral providers are generally selected based on a combination of the services they offer, the facilities they use, and the expertise and professionalism that they demonstrate.

*Understand Payment Options*
The final choice that individuals must make while preplanning a funeral is whether or not to pay for funeral arrangements in advance. Pre-funding is not a requirement for preplanning; however, there are some advantages to pre-funding.

Pre-funding allows individuals to allocate money for goods and services that will be provided in the future and guarantee price at current rates. The average cost of a funeral today is $6,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission. When the price of flowers, limousines, vaults, and other items are added to the base cost, the total cost can be as much as $10,000-or more. By pre-funding, individuals are able to stretch their available dollars further to meet all of their needs and desires.

According to NFDA, methods for pre-funding include a trust established by a funeral director, a life insurance policy equal to the value of the funeral, or a savings account that is “payable on death” to the funeral home. While choosing the appropriate pre-funding option, there are several important considerations, including: taxes on the account, interest from the account, refund options, transferability in case of a move, and the option to change the funeral home designated to provide the service.

*Take Action*
Preplanning, whether or not it involves pre-funding, serves the needs and desires of consumers and their loved ones. As more intelligent consumers are making the decision to plan ahead, their families are reaping the benefit of their foresight and enjoying a service that truly reflects their loved one.

Life has always involved planning, and those who plan ahead have always benefited: a less chaotic wedding, a seamless move, or a well funded retirement are all remarkable accomplishments. A well planned funeral is just as important. A funeral service that reflects an individual’s personal taste and style and does not unnecessarily burden their family members is the logical capstone to a life well planned and well lived.

For more information, visit the National Funeral Directors Association at www.nfda.org.

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