Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late: Making Your Final Arrangements Before You Need Them

Americans don’t like thinking about the end.

A 2010 survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association found that only 25 percent of adults have made arrangements for their own funeral. However, 66 percent of adults indicated that they would choose to arrange their own funeral service.

It’s a subject many are quick to avoid. According to, one of the top reasons why people avoid the topic of preplanning their own arrangements is because we find it unsettling to think about our own mortality, and it can make us think about all that we haven’t accomplished. Some also believe that it may be traumatizing to our loved ones.

But the sudden death of a loved one, accompanied by the need to make difficult decisions about funeral and cemetery arrangements, can be even more traumatic. Planning your final arrangements in advance allows you to make informed choices, compare prices and options, and discuss your preferences with your family, thus ensuring that your final wishes are carried out, and sparing your family the burden of making choices at a difficult time.

To avoid burdening family members with these decisions, you’ll need a preneed plan. A preneed plan can be as simple as a written list of instructions that consists of your final wishes, but many funeral homes and cemeteries offer prearrangement guides that you can fill out and share with your family. You may also want to consult with an attorney about including your preneed information in your will. Your preneed plan can include options ranging from traditional funeral services to direct cremation or a new process called alkaline hydrolysis which uses water, heat, applied pressure, and alkaline chemical compounds to break down remains. You may also consider organ and tissue donation, or donating your body to medical science.

The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau advocates consumer protection and licensee compliance through proactive education and consistent interpretation and application of the laws governing the death care industry.

The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau licenses all funeral establishments, funeral directors, private cemeteries, crematories, and many of the individuals working in those facilities. Always check the license of the business at the bureau’s website and make sure it is in good standing before paying for services or signing contracts.

You also have the option of paying for your arrangements in advance, which will spare your survivors the burden of arranging payment. Prepayment methods include final expense insurance policies, which can be purchased from your life insurance company, funeral trusts, and special savings accounts set up specifically for this purpose.

Keep in mind that cemetery merchandise and services are customarily separate and apart from funeral merchandise and services. Be sure you understand all the costs associated with each facility.

The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau has resources available on its website to help you navigate the process of creating your preneed plan. You can download a copy of the Preneed Q&A brochure, and the Consumer’s Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases. By asking the right questions, comparing prices and services, and making informed decisions, you can make arrangements that are meaningful to your family and control the costs for you and your survivors.

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