By Michelle O’Hara
It’s hard to think about your own death and even harder to talk about it. In my experience, though, once the conversation begins it brings great satisfaction and sometimes even great joy.
As a funeral planning educator at the Sullivan Funeral Home in Utica I advise people in all elements of pre-planning. Here are some of the reasons people should plan their funeral and final disposition in advance.
Telling your story
We spend a lot of time planning life’s ceremonies: birthdays, baptisms, graduations and weddings. Our funeral or memorial planning may be the most relevant ceremony of all because we have full knowledge of the life we’ve lived and the things that are important to us. I worked with a woman who said, “I want my funeral to be a celebration. I’m an artist and I want my art work included.”
Some people will write their own obituary, pick out a wardrobe and choose songs or even a menu for a luncheon.
Over the years one woman I met with would bring yellow, big, smiley faced balloons to family events. For her funeral she wanted all 12 grand kids to get balloons and release them after the service.
For so many of us these are the details that only we know and only we can plan for.
Easing the burden on others
Some people only have to go through one loved one’s funeral to say, “I won’t let that happen to me.” It’s the number one reason folks choose to preplan. It may be a widow or widower who’s just gone through it or parents who don’t want to leave a burden on their children.
We want people to have a well-rounded plan that the family can review, so they don’t have to start from scratch at the time of need. A simple task like remembering the names of the grandchildren can be overwhelming.
When you pre-pay for a funeral you’re actually buying a form of life insurance. Sullivan partners with the Homesteaders Life Company which by law holds hold all the funds. There is no danger of you losing your payment. When you pre-pay you are locking in the price of the services and merchandise you choose. You’ll never pay more even though those prices increase an average 4.5% a year nationwide. If you or your family choose another funeral home the policy travels with you.
In addition to the funeral home’s good and services you can use your fund to pay for things like a grave and the opening and closing. You can set aside money for third party items like an obituary, flowers, clergy honorariums and musician honorarium, although you can’t lock those prices in. You can also pay for the death benefits for some other family members in the policy.
If you need to qualify for Medicaid, your funeral policy is considered an exempt asset.
Giving authority to the best person
Michigan law changed a few years ago to allow people to designate a funeral representative other than their legal next of kin to make funeral arrangements. As long as you’re living you can choose anyone aged 18 and over and of sound mind to carry out your wishes. This solves so many problems with contentious family members, or legal next of kin that may not want this task or know what you want. It benefits people with no close family and those who are not married to their life partners. It also resolves a legal requirement that the majority of the next of kin have to approve of a cremation.
Explore all the possibilities
Cremation, burial, green burials, church funerals, memorial services at the funeral home, golf course or the beach: Today the options are limitless.
Embalming, a three-day visitation and traditional burial were once standard. Today a large percent of families choose cremation, though they usually have a traditional funeral service. Environmentally-conscious people may choose green burial. In this scenario the body is not embalmed. It is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud and placed in the earth without a vault at a green cemetery.
If you’re choosing a traditional burial, we can advise on how to choose a cemetery and what costs to expect.
With your military records we can contact the VA after your death to secure your benefits. Veterans and their families are eligible for final rest at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly or any other National Cemetery throughout the country.
With so many options and different ideas planning ahead with an experienced funeral planner makes the time when you need us so much easier.
You have the gift of time
Once you’ve made the decision to plan your funeral and other arrangements, you’ve given yourself the gift of time. Time that your family will not have the benefit of without preplanning. You can write an obituary, listen to music selections you may want, look through old photos and choose those to be displayed at your service. It may inspire you to reconnect with old friends, make amends – or even travel the country in an RV. The point is with such a time crunch at the time of death without preplanning this burden can be eased.
Tell your family
I often visit with families in their homes even evenings and weekends. I encourage next of kin to be there for that, especially if they’re affected by the decisions. I’ve had a mother wanting her son to keep her cremated remains and the son say, “No.” I’ve had another child say, “No I’m not going to scatter your ashes.” Communication, informing your family of your wishes will make it so much easier on them too.
Contact me, Michelle O’Hara at our Utica funeral home 586-731-2411 or [email protected]