With the cost of an average funeral topping $7,000, it is important to address both the expense and service preferences while preparing an estate plan. It is best to do this within a letter to your loved ones that can be easily located upon your passing, as wills are not often located nor read until after the burial. Discuss these plans and the location of the letter with your loved ones and estate executor. Within the letter, make sure to address:
- Your wishes involving cremation or burial;
- The location of the service;
- The type and size of service;
- Casket preferences (open vs. closed);
- Music preferences;
- Flowers or donations requests.
Some choose to even write their own obituary or provide details that they would like included, even the photograph they would like used.
Providing these details will ensure that your wishes are carried out, as well as save your family from having to make these difficult decisions during a time of grief. While these letters are not typically legally binding documents, they do provide guidance and clarify your wishes to your loved ones.
As for planning for your funeral expense, many incorrectly assume that social security benefits cover the cost of burials. Social security provides only a one-time payment of $255 paid to a surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits at that time. Obviously, this benefit will not fully cover the cost, so additional financial planning is needed.
Many choose to set aside the cost of a funeral in a ‘payable upon death’ account, also known as a totten trust. Others choose to prepay their funeral expenses, which is not recommended – consider the consequences should you choose to relocate or the company goes out of business. There is also a newer tool called the Funeral Trust, which allows you to set aside money to be used for burial and funeral expenses, but the money can be used to pay expenses with any company rather than being tied to one specific mortuary or funeral home.
Taking the time now to document your wishes and plan for the expense of a funeral or other memorial service can both ensure that your wishes are carried out and provide tremendous relief for your loved ones. It is just one more reason to have a comprehensive estate plan to ease the burden of your passing.