Make a Resolution to Complete Estate and Funeral Planning
A resolution you can keep
While your friends resolve to make 2002 the year they finally lose weight, get fit and kick those unhealthy habits, why not do yourself and your loved ones a favor and complete your estate and funeral planning? It's certainly easier than dropping those last 10 pounds, and making your wishes known now will give you and your family peace of mind.
A nation faces the inevitable
Why plan ahead?
Estate planning can:
Funeral planning can:
Planning your estate
Keep in mind that wills, even those prepared by attorneys, go through court (probate). Probate can be time consuming, stressful for your family and costly to your estate. Consider consulting an estate planner about alternatives to wills. Some options avoid probate and certain taxes.
Wills only go into effect upon your death, so they're no help if you become incapacitated. If that happens, your case will go through living probate and the court will appoint someone to handle your affairs. If you die without a will (intestate), the state will decide who gets your money, your valuables, even your children.
Planning your own funeral
Barry Zimmer, a Cincinnati area lawyer and founding member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, includes an estate planning letter among the documents he uses to create living trusts for his clients. The letter is for special distribution of personal property, burial and funeral instructions, and may include messages for family. Zimmer says in his experience, he's never known written funeral wishes to be disregarded.
Consider paying for your funeral now
Doug Bowman of Whipple-O'Guinn Family Funeral Home in Clio, Michigan, says working directly with a funeral home is the only way to lock in today's costs for merchandise and services. According to Bowman, most funeral homes guarantee the cost of goods and services on a preneed plan and will not charge your family more than you have paid, even if costs go up. Be aware, notes Bowman, that third-party services for which funeral homes often advance cash are not typically covered in preneed plans. Cash advances include services such as grave opening and closing, minister fees and newspaper fees. Your family may receive a bill if the funeral home fronts any of those costs upon your death.
Are preneed plans safe?
Robert Jones of The Outlook Group in Franklin, Ohio, works with funeral homes on preneed plans. He says each state determines where funeral homes can place your money. It's often with an FDIC insured trust or an insurance company, so Jones says most plans are very safe. The Outlook Group works with insurance companies, such as Homesteaders Life, to offer consumers tax-free growth. "If you just set aside money in an account, the government will tax interest as income," says Jones.
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has issued consumer protection guidelines for preneed contracts, consumer tips on prepaying your funeral and a consumer bill of rights. You may want to review them at www.nfda.org before you sign on the dotted line.
What about the "what ifs?"
You might also consider involving your family or loved ones in the preparation of your funeral arrangements. After all, the funeral service is really for the living. Consult with family about what type of arrangements they would like to remember you. For example, you may desire a direct cremation, but your spouse may prefer going through a more traditional funeral program. There are a multitude of choices to accomodate both desires. Your funeral director will be able to help with these choices when pre-planning.
Don't put it off any longer