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No one wants to think about death. No one wants to talk about death. Yet, I am planning a ‘death party.’ I want to follow my families’ wishes, but to do that I have to know what they want. I can guess what they want, but I would rather they tell me. So, I am planning a death party. We’ll have some food, remember loved ones and talk about what we want to happen to our bodies after we’ve gone.
There are quite a few options beyond the traditional American funeral. You can be cremated and have your ashes stored in an urn or scattered in nature. You can donate your body to science; some medical schools will accept donations directly or there are more obscure options like donating your body to the body farm, where they do forensic research. While none of these options leave a grave to visit, you may choose to have a memorial bench at some cemeteries. This gives your loved ones a designated place to visit and remember you.
Preplanning and prepaying for your final arrangements may sound morbid, but it is a final act of kindness that will provide your family with comfort while they grieve. Death is expensive. Even the sparsest funeral will run several thousand dollars. Most families aren’t prepared for that. Even the solidly middle class can be thrown with an unexpected $10,000 bill.
Besides preplanning, you may benefit from prepaying for your funeral. Prepaid funeral costs are one of the few ‘spend down’ options approved for Medicaid coverage. This allows you to qualify for Medicaid coverage sooner while also sparing your family the stress of paying for your funeral expenses. If you choose to prepay, be cautious and read the fine print. There are quite a few scams built around prepaid funerals. You can get more information from www.aarp.org or from the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
If you choose to preplan or prepay your final plans, be sure to let your family know. This seems obvious, but funeral planning rarely comes up in conversation and even if you do talk about, it’s likely your loved ones may forget a passing conversation when the time comes to act on it. It might be a good idea to pass along copies of any contracts you have to a responsible family member and the executor of your will.
By prepaying funeral costs, you spare your family the added burden of paying a large unexpected bill while they are grieving. It’s hard losing someone you love. Even losing a friend you haven’t seen in years can cause ripples of loss that linger and wash over you out of the blue.
Funerals are for the living. The ritual gives us some closure and helps us say goodbye to people we love, people we will miss having be part of our lives. Preplanning and prepaying for your funeral is a final gift for the people who will miss you. It’s a tangible way for you to say goodbye. It’s not just for the old or the very ill as accidents and unexpected death happens every day. I’ve seen far too many young men die this past year and none were prepared. Most didn’t have a will and none had preplanned their funeral.
It may be morose and your family may not appreciate it when you bring it up, but death is part of living and we all must face it. Preplanning allows us to say goodbye as we wish. From a large New Orleans style jazz funeral to a quiet memorial service, there are options for everyone. Take a few minutes and think about it, what would you want? What would help bring the loved ones you leave behind some peace and closure?
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of a Kentucky business and serves on the board of the Kentucky RiverKeeper. Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.