I lost a close family member last month and was involved (for the first time in my life) in making the final plans. I have been to funerals, I have interviewed funeral directors, and I have heard funeral directors speak. I understand the process and what needs to happen, but that doesn’t make it any easier to be part of the process. The experience was a reminder that all of us need to make our plans now, and relieve our heirs of this burden. Here are some suggestions for what you can do.
1. Document where things are, and what you want. In 2007 I wrote a basic estate planning guide titled, “My Life Book.” It walks you through the basic estate planning decisions that all of us need to understand and make, and it is now available free on our company website, www.retirerelax.com. I recommend printing the pages and creating a binder so you can add statements, business cards, and anything else your heirs need to know about.
2. A few pages of the book deal with final expense planning. In the book I ask you to write down what you want, and what you don’t want regarding a funeral, burial or cremation. I would like you to take this a step further. Visit a local funeral home and ask for a pre-planning packet. Once the pages are filled out, place them in your binder. This information is important as it can be used to create your obituary, and will also act as a guide for any service/celebration that is held in your honor.
3. If you want to take it even further, ask the funeral staff for a pre-planning session. They will go over all of the options with you, and keep your plans on file for your heirs. The best part about this, to me, is that you will see how much things cost, and choose how much you want to spend. Then, you can either set aside money in an account to pay these expenses, or set up a pre-payment plan with the funeral home. By pre-paying you lock in today’s prices. The funeral home typically uses a life insurance policy to do this, which pays interest to keep up with inflation.
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We all know that making financial decisions when we are very emotional is not a good thing, but this is what typically happens when someone dies. We are immediately faced with decisions about caskets and vaults and flowers and on and on. Add the stress of trying to figure out what the deceased would have wanted, and you have a tough situation. Please take the time to do this for your family, then share your plans with them. They will be thankful in the future.
Sherri Goss is vice president of Rosenberg Financial Group, Inc., with offices in Macon and Warner Robins. You can reach her by calling 922-8100, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.