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African American woman sits on bed looking out window with her arms around her daughter.When an individual passes away without a funeral plan, responsibility for arranging the funeral often falls on the deceased’s close family members, such as surviving spouses and children. Planning your own funeral arrangements can assist your loved ones in an emotionally challenging time, while also protecting them from incurring extraneous costs.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2021, the average cost of a full-service burial was $7,848, and the average cost of full-service cremation was $6,971. When an individual dies without having outlined a funeral plan, surviving family members may be unsure of their loved one’s wishes. As a result, they may choose more expensive funeral options or feel pressure to overspend to demonstrate their love. Yet you can shield your family from these costs by prearranging the funeral and, in some cases, prepaying for funeral arrangements. (Always do your research before prepaying.)

Without a plan in place, grieving family members often face time constraints in making decisions. For instance, they may not have time to visit multiple funeral homes and compare their values after their loved one’s death. Often, they choose the first funeral home they see rather than exploring various options to find the best fit and value.

When individuals prearrange their funerals, they have time to research funeral homes and carefully decide the details of their end-of-life arrangements, ensuring that the services will follow their wishes.

Beyond choosing the funeral home, planning such arrangements ahead of time can include:

  • Deciding what happens to the remains, including burial or cremation
  • Determining the burial location, such as next to a loved one
  • Letting loved ones know where to spread or keep ashes
  • Deciding whether to donate organs or remains to scientific research
  • Selecting the type of funeral or memorial service (For instance, a traditional funeral ceremony may be held in a religious institution and include viewing and burial, whereas direct burials happen soon after death and do not include a viewing)

How to plan your funeral arrangements

Often, planning funeral arrangements entails writing down your wishes in detail. You may wish to give your family members copies of your written wishes. Additionally, people with a reasonable idea of where they will pass away can prepay a funeral home for services, ensuring family members do not need to take on the cost.

Advance directives can document your desires regarding end-of-life care and what happens to your remains after death. You can choose a person to act as your healthcare agent and help you with healthcare decisions. Although your agent’s authority often terminates upon your death, you may provide your agent with your funeral wishes, along with the power to oversee the arrangements.

Wills may contain sections describing desired funeral arrangements. However, wills are not the best place for funeral arrangements, as family members often read wills after the funeral. Instead, a separate document, such as a prepaid funeral or burial contract, can describe funeral arrangements and end-of-life wishes.

Deciding funeral arrangements in advance and providing instructions to your loved ones makes your wishes clear, avoiding arguments within your family and giving them more peace of mind after you pass away.

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