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How To Pre-Plan Your Funeral

Pre-planning your funeral arrangements can take some of the logistical and financial stresses off of your family after your death and ensure that you get the kind of funeral you want. That said, don’t feel pressured to plan it down to the last detail. While some have no problem planning their funeral, it’s understandable if you find it too difficult or overwhelming. However, you can still let your family know a few aspects to make it much smoother for everyone involved.

First and foremost:

  1. Let your family and loved ones know if you want to be buried or cremated.
  2. Just let someone know your definitive answer to avoid any unnecessary stress during an already emotional time.
  3. If you don’t care, let them know that too. If you choose burial, you need to purchase a burial plot or a spot in a mausoleum at a cemetery.

If you choose cremation, you can decide what you want to do with the cremated remains, including burial, scattering, or giving them to friends and family members to be stored in an urn. Or you can put it in your Will or a letter to your family. 

Engage the funeral home services you trust and like and work with their funeral director to plan your burial or cremation and funeral or memorial service. The funeral director can also help you purchase any goods and services you’ll need for the burial, cremation, funeral, or memorial service.

If you’re planning a funeral followed by burial, you will typically work with a funeral director at a funeral home. They will help you with all the arrangements, including working with a cemetery to purchase a plot and orchestrate the burial.

If you plan a funeral followed by burial, you will typically work with a funeral director at a funeral home. They will help you connect with a crematory to arrange the funeral. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

If you are planning a direct cremation followed by a memorial service or ash scattering, you may be able to work with the crematory directly—you don’t have to work with a funeral home.

6 Things You Should Do Now to Prepare for Your Funeral

Every mortician I know has a bevy of similar horror stories—but they’re probably not the stories you’re imagining. They are not stories about zombies. Our stories are much worse because they come true. We can recount in detail the terrifying tales of what goes wrong if you die unexpectedly and your family is unprepared to make your funeral arrangements. I know most of you don’t think you’re going to die, but I’m here with some rough news: Death is the appointment none of us can cancel. 

The reality of death is something I’m more intimately familiar with than most people. I spent six years working as a mortician before retiring early almost three years ago. “Mortician” is a word with a variety of meanings that change depending on the region. As a funeral director, an embalmer, and a crematory operator, I was someone who did it all. I met with families to arrange the nitty-gritty details of the service, I prepared bodies for viewing and burial, and I operated the crematory for families who opted for cremation as the final disposition of their loved one’s body. I worked many long, hard hours on the weekends and all major holidays, even leaving my phone’s ringer on loud so I could wake up in the middle of the night to help families navigate the confusion that inevitably comes after someone dies.

Death sucks. Full stop. Death sucks even in situations where everything goes exactly to plan and when you have as much control and warning as you can expect to have, and that’s not usually how it works out. As a mortician, I was privy to extremely intimate situations where death showed up unexpectedly, and families were left to pick up the pieces. Some of that was what you’d expect, like families struggling to decide on the type of funeral because it wasn’t a conversation they’d had during life. Some of it was more painful. I’ve seen secular humanists “celebrated” with intensely religious ceremonies that were in opposition to their life. My heart broke when a queer person’s partner was blocked from being involved in the funeral plans by the homophobic family or when an estranged family memorialized a trans person in the gender they were assigned at birth instead of the one they lived in day-to-day.

Here’s what I think every person should know and do to prepare for their passing and commemoration. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do now to make things easier on the people you love.

Do the paperwork to designate who will be in charge of decision making for your funeral.

First and foremost: paperwork! Without a legal document authorizing someone specific to handle your funeral arrangements, there’s an order of priority for people who are authorized to make these decisions for you. Your legal spouse comes first. If you don’t have a spouse, your adult children come next. After that are your parents and then your siblings. There’s a legal hierarchy that you can follow down to your second cousins if need be.

Luckily, paperwork is an easy way to supersede the next-of-kin list. You can specify exactly who you want to make your funeral arrangements and honour your wishes in a legal document. The most effective document to accomplish this is called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOAHC). This document also allows your designated agent to make medical decisions for you, making it different from a regular ol’ Durable Power of Attorney. You can have one drawn up with a lawyer, or you can simply get one online. Still, there needs to be an included paragraph that specifies you are also designating your agent the right to control your funeral arrangements.

Then make sure the documents are legal and kept where everyone can find them.

Once you have the DPOAHC filled out, you have to take care of a few tasks. First, make sure that your designated agent is aware of and willing to undertake their responsibilities. The last thing you want is to saddle your funeral on someone who doesn’t want the task. Secondly, make sure the document is signed and notarized. A notary public will certify that a DPOAHC is a legally binding document, which means the funeral home can trust it when allowing your agent to arrange your funeral. (A quick Google search will give you notaries in your area; you may have access to one through your bank or at your local courthouse, and some stores may also offer notary services, like a UPS or a pharmacy.)

Consider your funeral options now—so your loved ones don’t have to do it later.

One of the things people don’t realize about dying is that your death means your family will be left with a gaping hole where you used to be, and the loss of a loved one leaves everyone functioning at sub-optimal levels. I took to calling it grief brain, and it feels like when you walk into a room intending to do something, but you promptly forget what the heck that something was. A grief brain turns your memory into a sieve. It leaves you lying in bed at the end of the day, knowing you went through the motions of existing but unable to remember where you went, who you talked to, or what you chatted about. Grief brain is an exhausting experience, and it’s in the throes of grief brain when your family is expected to make complicated, expensive decisions about your funeral arrangements. Making sure your designated agent has a plan for your funeral before you die will make their life easier when the time comes to put that plan into action.

At its most basic level, the decision needs to answer one major question: What do you want to happen to your body after you die? There are three major choices: burial, cremation, or donation. Within those choices, there are a lot of individual options. You can easily get deep into the nitty-gritty, but covering the basics, to begin with, is the important part.

Sit down with your loved ones to tell them what your funeral wishes are.

Having this conversation with your family can be hard because nobody likes talking about mortality—their own or that of someone they love. However, making sure you have the conversation before you die is so incredibly important. If you think it’s uncomfortable to discuss death, consider how much more difficult it will be for your family to have the conversation with a funeral director, a stranger.

The most important part of this conversation involves how you want the disposition of your body handled. If you’re dead-set on funeral, your family needs to know that burial isn’t your preference. If you want to be embalmed and buried, your family needs to know that. You can include your preferences on your DPOAHC (mine states, “No burial!”) to help with the process. Your family needs to know whether you want memorial or funeral services held. They need to know whether you want those services to be religious. They even need to know if you have someone you’d like to give your eulogy. Every single bit of detail you decide before your death means one less decision your grieving family has to make after the fact. If decisions haven’t been made—especially if your family has different opinions about the funeral plans—it can take hours, days, or even weeks to figure everything out. I once served a family who took more than six weeks to figure out their loved one’s funeral arrangements because none of the next of kin could agree. Not only is that emotionally exhausting, but it becomes expensive: a body must legally be refrigerated before disposition, which eventually comes with a cost.

You can start saving for your funeral now.

As if planning a funeral wasn’t stressful enough, you have to talk about money. Direct cremations can start at $1,000 or less, depending on where you are and what options you choose. Burials can run more than $20,000. Fortunately, your family doesn’t necessarily have to run a panicked GoFundMe to pay for your final wishes. There are easy things you can do now to relieve the financial burden later.

For one thing, you could simply start a savings account now; $20 here and there could go a long way toward funding a funeral, as long as your designated agent has access to the account.

If that’s not your preference, you can buy funeral insurance from your local funeral home. This insurance operates similarly to the car or house insurance. You make monthly payments on a policy that pays out when you die; I’ve seen monthly payments as low as $25. When buying the policy, you’ll usually sit down with a funeral director and decide the actual details of your services. At the time of death, your family may owe a small portion out of pocket due to inflation, but generally speaking, the higher costs are covered. Many of these policies can be transferred if you move from one place to another. I regularly saw these “pre-need” policies used successfully to cover the entire cost of the funeral, even a funeral that entailed burial and full services.

Remember that death is natural, and there’s nothing morbid about discussing yours—this is about making life easier for those you leave behind.

We live in a death-denying society, and our loved ones often find it “morbid” or “disturbing” to talk about it. The reality is that talking about your inevitable death and the funeral arrangements that will follow is terrifying for everyone. It’s not a conversation about sunshine and puppy dogs. It’s hard, but taking small steps now means everything will be much easier for the people you love later. As a mortician, I remember best the stolid comfort of families who knew what they were doing was what their loved ones wanted, families who could make decisions without second-guessing themselves and wondering if they were doing the right thing. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

7 Ways To Save On Funeral Costs

These days, a funeral can cost upwards of $27,000, reports the National Funeral Directors Association. But even the least expensive funerals, hovering around $2,000, can be more than some families can afford. But there are ways to cut the bill.

Roughly 6,700 people die in this country every day, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many leave behind grieving loved ones who may be unprepared to face the substantial price tag attached to most deaths. While the median cost of an adult funeral surpassed $7,000 in 2012, according to the most recent data by the National Funeral Directors Association, that’s an inflation-adjusted increase of only about 2% since 2000. And every detail can add to the bill — from choosing the flowers to deciding on a plot.

Here are seven ways to save on funeral expenses:

Comparison shop online

There are several websites dedicated to helping consumers find low-cost funeral services in their area. FuneralDecisions.com, for one, offers free instant quotes online and lets users sign up to have funeral providers email them estimates directly. (Think online car insurance quotes.) The Funeral Consumers Alliance also provides tips, plus a state-by-state directory to organizations that help consumers save money on funeral arrangements in their area.

Skip embalming

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The median cost of embalming is about $700, but no state law requires it for most funerals. So if you’re having a one-day funeral, ask the funeral home if refrigeration is an option. It can mean significant savings, as some funeral homes charge only $50 a day for refrigeration.

Decline the “gasketed casket.”

In their grief, some people are drawn to products based on how comforting they sound: A “protective” casket, for instance, might seem like a better way to care for the deceased. These caskets are equipped with a rubber gasket marketed to protect the body from the elements once it’s in the ground. While these special gaskets only cost the funeral home $8, reports Funeral Consumers Alliance, it could raise the price of a casket by $800 since it’s marketed as a “protective” addition. And a “sealed” casket isn’t a necessity anyway, critics say since there’s nothing wrong with natural decomposition. Plus, it doesn’t preserve the body.

Opt for wood if it’s a direct cremation

If you’ve decided on a direct cremation, without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present, you don’t have to purchase a casket. Instead, you are allowed to go with an inexpensive unfinished wood box or an alternative container, like pressboard, cardboard or canvas. No law requires a casket for direct cremations, or burials, for that matter.

Buy a casket or urn elsewhere.

There are hundreds of options available when it comes to buying a casket or urn. Most states don’t require that it be purchased from a funeral home or mortician, and by law, funeral homes can’t charge you a “handling fee” to use one you’ve purchased elsewhere.

Warehouse clubs are one place to look for bargains. For $950 online (shipping included), Costco Wholesale has an 18-gauge steel casket finished in “Neapolitan blue” with silver shading, and the inside head panel is inscribed “In God’s Care.” (A similar-looking, 18-gauge metal casket was priced at more than $2,400 at a funeral home in Niles, Mich.) Costco also sells a “mystic blue adult urn,” made of brass and includes a velvet pouch for $90 (shipping included). (The Michigan funeral home offers urns from $155 to $5,600.)

Consider a home funeral.

In most states, it’s legal to say final goodbyes at home — from start to finish. You can complete a death certificate (with a doctor’s or medical examiner’s certification), file it, care for the body at home, and take it to its final resting place yourself. Most families did exactly that until the turn of the 20th century when funeral services became more widely available.

Donate to a medical school

There are normally no costs for the family if the deceased is donated to a medical school — this includes transportation of the body and the handling of the remains. While donation typically occurs directly after death (meaning the body wouldn’t be present for immediate funeral service), some medical schools, such as those affiliated with the Associated Medical Schools of New York, coordinate memorial services for the families later. Generally, cremated remains are returned to the family after the medical school’s study, which lasts one to two years. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

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