Preplanning Your Funeral Delivers Peace of Mind and More
Kelly Townsend, of Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory, enjoys sharing stories about how preplanning can help personalize funeral services.
There’s the story about the elderly lady who gave the funeral home a copy of her secret, never-before-shared recipe as part of her prearrangement activity. She requested it be kept in a sealed envelope and only opened at the time of her death. Then she wanted it printed and distributed to everyone at the service.
And, there’s the story of the gentleman who was known for feeding birds. He requested that instead of a prayer card, guests receive a packet of birdseed so they could feed the birds in his memory.
These stories probably would not have happened without the benefits of preplanning, says Townsend, one of two fulltime preplanning specialists at Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory, which has several locations in Lancaster County.
“We get to know our customers through the preplanning process,” she points out. “We learn about their background, their interests, and many of the milestones in their lives. This way, we can help with the personalization.
“Through preplanning, your family will know exactly what your wishes are and not guess if what they planned at the time is what you would have wanted. Preplanning provides peace of mind.”
In addition to personalization, individuals consider many facets when prearranging a funeral. Among them are:
• Traditional burial or cremation
• What type of visitation (viewing, wake, or reception)
• Where services will be held (funeral home, place of worship, cemetery)
• Religious/spiritual ceremony vs. secular gathering
• Specific music
• Specific scripture/spiritual readings
• Flower preference, donation requests in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions
Once all the prearrangements have been made, copies of all the decisions are kept on file, according to Townsend.
Another major reason to preplan a funeral is to protect family members and loved ones from having to make difficult decisions during an emotional time.
“Preplanning reduces a lot of stress and anxiety,” she says. “When decisions have been made ahead of time, you can eliminate family bickering and differences of opinion. It can save plenty of heartache.”
Townsend says some relatives consider preplanning a gift from the deceased.
“It’s a huge relief for many people. They appreciate not having to make decisions during a time of grief and stress,” said Townsend.
One of the key advantages of preplanning a funeral is that when you prepay, you are, in theory, guaranteed tomorrow’s products and services at today’s prices.
“While we can’t control external costs, like flowers and newspaper notices, preplanning assures that all of the primary funeral and burial costs, such as casts, vaults, urns, services, and transportation, will be covered. And that means your family members won’t feel the pressure of unexpected costs at an already very emotional time,” comments Townsend.
“But the guarantee goes further. We arrange for the funds covering your funeral to be administered by Physicians Mutual Insurance Company, so even in the unlikely event that our funeral home closes, your preplanned funeral is still paid for and will be carried out by another funeral home, if you or a loved one chooses.”
However, you don’t want to leave an unexpected bill behind when you were attentive enough to preplan. Make sure you’re guaranteed the services you bought; some contracts call for additional payments for “final-expense funding.”
Check with your preplanning adviser to see if they have policies in place designed specifically for funding funerals. There are many similar companies that funeral homes use for this purpose.
Other things to consider when preplanning: What happens if you move? Can your plan be transferred to another funeral home? What if the funeral home is purchased by another company? Do they have to honor the agreement? Know ahead of time when payment is due for the services provided.
Townsend says more people are preplanning their funeral. A 2010 survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association, however, reveals that while 66 percent of adults would choose to arrange their own funeral service, only 25 percent have already done so.
So, what’s the best time to preplan a funeral?
“There is no wrong time to preplan a funeral,” says Townsend. “People, however, are starting to plan earlier, and most of them have a plan in place at the time of retirement or shortly after.”
Townsend suggests couples preplan a funeral together. Other family members, such as children, grandchildren, or siblings, who you want to have input, also should attend.
A funeral can be as big or as small as the individual desires.
“There is no typical funeral,” she offers. “It really depends on the individual’s preferences.”
When asked about common mistakes people make during preplanning, Townsend says the only mistake is that they don’t decide to preplan their funeral.
What should you look for in a funeral home? Townsend suggests a funeral home that has a good reputation and is active in the community. Owners and staff should take the time to answer your questions, openly show you the facilities, provide pricing information freely, and go the extra mile to take care of your family.
Townsend says red flags should go up if a funeral home pressures you into making decisions or asks you to make out the prepayment check to them rather than the insurance company.
“Preplanning can sometimes be a difficult step to take, but it is so worth it to give the peace of mind to your family in the future,” says Townsend. BW