Discussing funeral plans is not a common family conversation, and thinking about your eventual passing is often an avoided subject. However, funeral planning early will result in less stress and burden for yourself and your loved ones.
You may ask, “So where do I start?” or “How do I encourage my loved ones to begin considering their own plans?” Keiro spoke with Fukui Mortuary’s Sarah Fukui, vice president of community relations, and Russell Takashi Martinez, preneed counselor, for insight on considerations for funeral planning.
Gradual Conversation Leads to Action
As a Preneed Counselor, Russell has experienced the full range of willingness to talk about funeral plans. Some families may be more open to expressing their wishes, while others are hesitant to begin. Russell uses different approaches to effectively start conversations about planning.
One method is to plan backwards: rather than starting with something like picking your casket, he suggests thinking about your final resting place. From there, you can begin asking further questions such as “Will you be buried next to grandma and grandpa? Will you be scattered somewhere special to you?” Russell said, “I find that talking about the final resting place is a little bit easier because it is a tangible thing in someone’s mind rather than deciding on a casket or urn.”
What Haven’t I Been Told About Funeral Planning?
Funeral planning is not an everyday task, so many people may think, “How was I supposed to know?” Here are common things about funeral planning that people may not be aware of:
1. Current prices are locked in.
Families who planned their funerals years ago save a significant amount because they are paying the price from the year they initially planned, not the industry’s current rate. From September 2007 to September 2017, the average cost for funeral expenses rose 72.3%. Additionally, the average cost of a burial casket, whether you do cremation or a burial, rose 115% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Additionally, most mortuaries or funeral homes offer funeral payment plans, and the price does not have to be paid in full up front.
2. Your plan can be changed or transferred.
You can make changes to your plan whenever you want, such as deciding to do a casket rather than cremation. Additionally, even though you may have planned your funeral at a certain mortuary or funeral home, it is possible to transfer those plans to another place in the United States. International transfers may be more difficult, but if, for example, you move to Japan or would like to have your services there, most plans in the United States are fully refundable if unused.
3. There are small decisions you may not think about.
There are smaller, yet important, decisions to make such as thank you cards, music, program booklets, etc. Regarding unexpected deaths or unplanned services, Sarah shared, “It can be overwhelming, and people may experience decision fatigue when having to make so many of those tiny decisions in such a short amount of time.” Pre-planning with a mortuary or funeral home can help reduce those decisions in the future.
Misconceptions vs. Reality
Due to the uncommon nature of talking about funeral planning, there are often some misconceptions of what the planning entails.
- Misconception: You only need to buy a cemetery plot.
- Reality: There’s more to do after buying a plot.
- Purchasing a cemetery plot does not mean that everything regarding your funeral is taken care of. It is just one step of the whole process. Separate from space itself, you need to coordinate picking up the body, finalizing death certificates, the cremation, etc.
- Misconception: You have to plan your service according to a specific format.
- Reality: You can customize your wishes unique to your own preferences and desires.
- When imagining a “typical” funeral service, the first image that pops into your head may be somewhat somber. However, celebratory, casual, and lively services have recently become more common. It is completely up to the person to decide what kind of service they would like to have to honor their wishes.
- Misconception: Funeral planning is only for the end of life.
- Reality: Funeral planning is for all ages.
- Whether because of procrastination or simply not wanting to think about your death, people typically start planning their funerals when they’re older. However, you can plan your funeral at any age. “We see a lot of younger people coming in nowadays. A lot of them are more open to it because they’ve had experiences where it was tough planning and making those decisions for their loved ones when nothing was set up,” Sarah said.
Do It For Your Loved Ones More Than for Yourself
Planning your funeral ahead of time can yield a number of benefits for yourself, but your loved ones executing your wishes once you are gone will see the most benefit. “If you have your plans set up ahead of time, it leaves answers and not questions for the family,” Russell emphasized.
Pre-planning spares your family the burden of making those decisions alone when they are already grieving, but it also allows for you to make sure your wishes are honored on how you want your life to be remembered. Although planning an entire funeral may be a daunting task, many have commented how it was much more simpler than they anticipated.
Ultimately, if you haven’t planned your funeral yet, ask yourself the question: “What is stopping me?”
Thank you to Fukui Mortuary’s Sarah Fukui and Russell Takashi Martinez for providing insight and information for this article.