I recently attended a social function with a group of old friends, all my age, which is over sixty. None of us had paid much attention to the background music until ‘time of my life’ from dirty dancing began to play. One of my friends leaned across the table to me and said “this is what I’m having played at my funeral”
Out of professional interest I asked him who knew that he wanted that played. He thought for a moment and then said, “well, only you now, I suppose”
That conversation sums up one of the reasons for planning your funeral. As we get older we all begin to consider how our passing will be marked by those we leave behind but few of us do anything about making our preferences known to our nearest and dearest, instead, leaving them to guess our choices when the time comes.
As a funeral director of many years standing I have frequently sat with families arranging the funeral of a close relative who have absolutely no idea at all about what they would have wanted.
For the thirty percent of the population who have made a will, the method of disposal of their mortal remains will, almost certainly, have been included. However, as wills are often not read until after a funeral has taken place, some pretty disastrous mistakes can be made if you haven’t had ‘that’ conversation. Imagine visiting the lawyers office the day after Grandpa’s burial and hearing the words, “It is my wish that my body is cremated and my ashes scattered around the eighteenth hole of my local golf club”
Writing instructions in your will is one thing, telling your family is another.
Funeral plans are now almost as common as life insurance policies in terms of end of life planning. There are many on the market and, as with all financial products, you absolutely must read the small print and find out what is covered in the plan because they are all different.
The cost of a funeral comes in two parts. First are the goods and services provided by the funeral director and will include items such as, collecting your body from the place of death, the hearse and following cars, labour charges and,of course, a coffin.
Some funeral plans will be purchased as a set fee which covers a range of services whilst others will allow you to pre-purchase only the items you want. Most plans will cover all of these services.
The second part of a funeral bill is for third party payments over which, neither the Funeral Director, nor the funeral planning company, have any controls. These will be payments to the crematorium, a minister or celebrant and newspapers for announcements. Some plans on the market will cover a set amount towards these costs but cannot guarantee the full payment if those costs rise above what might be a reasonable expectation. Beware though, some plans don’t cover the third party costs at all.
Finally some words of caution. Some over 50 plans are advertised to sound like funeral plans, they are not, and will only pay out a contribution towards funeral costs. Some plans tie you to a particular funeral group and will not allow you a choice of Funeral Director and others don’t allow you to cancel or move your plan if you move away.
If you are considering a plan, go to a reputable company, preferably one which is a member of a major trade association, like SAIF (www.saif.org.uk) and get good advice. At the end of the day you will have peace of mind that everything is in order and your family won’t have difficult choices to make when you’re no longer here.