Funeral Planning

Save Your Family Stress and Plan Your Funeral

Making your way through the process of the death of a family member is an extremely personal journey, as well as a very big business that can put a financial strain on the surviving family.

Rate.com’s recent article entitled “Plan Your Own Funeral, Cheaply, and Leave Behind a Happier Family”  notes that on an individual basis, it can be a significant cost for a family dealing with grief. The National Funeral Directors Association found that the median cost for a traditional funeral, with a basic casket that also includes a vault (the casket liner most cemeteries require) can cost more than $9,000. With the cost of a (single) plot and the services of the cemetery to take care of the burial and ongoing maintenance and other expenses, it can total more than $15,000.

Instead, if you opt for cremation and a simple service, it will run only $2,000 or less. That would save your estate or your family $13,000. Think of the amount of legacy that can grow from your last wishes.

Without your directions, your grieving family is an easy mark for a death care industry that’s run for profit. Even with federal disclosure rules, most states make it impossible to easily comparison shop among funeral service providers, and online price lists aren’t required. However, you can do the legwork to make it easier on your family, when you pass.

Funeral homes also aren’t usually forthright about costs that are required rather than optional. The median embalming cost is about $750. However, there’s no regulation requiring embalming. Likewise, a body need not be placed in a casket for cremation. The median cost for a cremation casket is $1,200 but an alternative “container” might cost less than $200.

The best thing you can do for your family is to write it down your wishes and plans and make it immediately discoverable.

It can be a great relief to tell your family everything you want (and don’t want). However, if that’s not feasible with your family dynamics, be certain that you detail of all your wishes in writing. You should also make sure that the document can be easily located by your executor.

This elementary step can be the start to helping their decision-making when you pass away, and potentially provide some extra money to help them reach their goals.

Reference: rate.com (June 21, 2020) “Plan Your Own Funeral, Cheaply, and Leave Behind a Happier Family”

Funeral Instructions in Michigan Get an Assist from New Law

Now you can direct your funeral from the great beyond, if you live in the Wolverine State.

Here’s a concept that is perfect for people who like to be in charge: about two years ago, Michigan enacted a law that lets you name a funeral representative, a person who is empowered by law to make decisions about your memorial and where your remains, cremated or not, will rest.

Irish-handsThe Detroit Free Press’ recent article, “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan,” suggests that a funeral representative can make sure there won’t be a disagreement among family members about funeral planning.

The issue arose recently when a Grosse Pointe Park funeral home attempted to return cremated remains left at Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit to families of the deceased. Some family members said they would’ve claimed them before, but they weren't next of kin. In that case, a funeral representative could have settled a family fight over where the person would be buried. The deceased, who remarried later in life, made plans to be buried next to his deceased first wife. However, his new spouse wanted him to be buried in another cemetery. Her wishes prevailed, creating hard feelings for his survivors.

Michigan’s law recognizes the deceased’s representative authority to make decisions about the funeral and resting place after death. This agent can solve any issues and ease the stress among surviving relatives.

When a person agrees to be a rep, they should understand that it's a significant responsibility which includes making certain the deceased's funeral expenses are paid. In addition, consider this valuable information about funeral representatives:

A funeral representative is an individual who, under state law, is "designated to have the right and power to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of a decedent’s body." This entails all decisions about cremation and "the right to possess cremated remains of the decedent." A representative signs an acknowledgement of duties and the authority is only effective after death and can’t be assigned to someone else. The order for someone having legal authority to make decisions is a person designated under federal law, usually if the person is serving in the military; your designated state funeral representative; a surviving spouse, adult children, adult grandchildren, parents, grandparents and then siblings.

A funeral representative can be designated in your will, health care power of attorney or a separate document that has two witnesses or is notarized. Funeral homes in the state should have a document that can be filled out designating a representative. Unless the person is a spouse or close relative, the law prohibits these individuals from being named a representative:

  • a licensed health professional;
  • an employee of a health or veterans’ facility that provided you care;
  • an officer or employee of a funeral home, crematory or cemetery providing you services; or
  • anyone charged with murdering you.

This authorization can be revoked with a written notice that is notarized or has two witnesses. The law automatically revokes the power to a named ex-spouse.

If you do not live in Michigan and you want to be sure that certain things happen with your memorial service, know where you wish to be buried or what you want to have happen with your remains if you want to be cremated, speak with an estate planning attorney to document your wishes. Speak with family members also, so they know what you want.

Reference: Detroit Free Press(November 2, 2018) “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan”

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