Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:50 pm

For some reason my husband decided it was time to meet with "our" funeral director about our future funerals :shock:

We already own the plots, near the rest of our family in a local cemetary. But whether to prepay for the cemetery costs and funeral services leaves us wondering. Our first instinct was to simply make sure we had sufficient funds immediately available in some type of easily accessible account so one of us, or our kids, could pay for the cemetery and services as needed. But the thought of placing the burden on them to make these difficult decisions at such an emotional time doesn't feel right. It seems that we would not be properly providing for what is a sure thing.

So we met with "our" funeral director about prepaid plans. Trust me, the experience was surreal.

It appears that funeral directors are merely a variant of life insurance salesman, only at the other end of the line. He laid out the two types of contracts. The cemetery contract: opening and closing grave, outer burial container (required by local law) and our choice of gray or pearl companion granite marker ("companion" means dear husband is still next to me, cemented together by granite). Cost= $4,000 each, ie. $8,000 for the two of us.

The funeral contract includes the funeral body stuff, hearse, the service and graveside proceedings, the "memorial package," the "everlasting moments guest book" :D - and then he opened the glossy brochure of caskets. Did we want a nice polished pine box, or one with beveling, or double beveling, and how about a domed cover - "the grandchildren appreciate the beveling and domed cover" - he actually said this, in hushed sincerity - or would we prefer oak, cherry or maple?

I was reminded of the funny scene in the old Walt Disney movie "Pollyanna" where the older lady was in her sick bed and the casket salesman came into her room with casket samples, extolling the beauty of different woods, finishes and linings, and the lady was unable to decide whether the yellow satin liner or the light blue brocade liner looked better with the finish of her casket :wink:

Our funeral service contract, with a nice casket and the yellow satin liner, was $10,500 each, ie. $21,000 for the two of us.

Thus, the price tag for our future funerals is $14,500 each, $29,000 for two - and it doesn't even include food for our guests!!

Q1 - is this nuts or is this standard pricing? (note - we live in a HCOL area and we're probably not moving out of state, the funeral home is long-established and well-respected, and cremation is not our option)

Q2 - is agreeing to a funeral prepayment plan a "bargaining tool" in negotiating these funeral expenses?

There is a prepayment plan for both contracts, with a down payment and monthly payments for 60 months. Payments are made to an insurance company which holds the funds; it's actually a type of insurance. If one of us passes before we finish paying, the insurance company pays what's left (I suppose a benefit of dying before you paid up).

Q3 - What is the financial wisdom of these prepaid cemetery and funeral service contracts? It does freeze the price at today's pricing, but how fast do funeral prices actually rise? Some of the costs would be refundable if not used, but other costs would not, so there is some risk there. It seems having everything done and paid for would be a great emotional relief to our mourning kids. As the funeral director solemnly said, all the surviving spouse or kids have to do is "make one phone call - and the funeral home takes care of everything" :beer

Are other Bogleheads financially planning for their funerals by using prepayment plans?

flyingbison
Posts: 1363
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:52 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby flyingbison » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:02 pm

Funerals are a lot like weddings, in that most people spend far more than is necessary.

I don't see much advantage in prepaying, unless you really want to ensure that you get specific products and services when you die. Your kids might not care about any of the stuff you are paying to have for your funeral, and you won't be there to experience it anyway.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:17 pm

You can shop for caskets at Costco. So that's one item you can comparison shop. In some states the law requires the funeral director to allow for third party caskets. You could buy some now and keep them in your basement. It's a nice water tight box you could use them to store whatever it is you would want to store in sealed casket in the basement. Don't forget to throw in a sack of silica gel.

Its more likely that rather than the kids not caring about stuff you prearrange, if you don't prearrange the kids will be paying for even more stuff they don't care about. When you're arranging a funeral you're usually in a state of shock and saying no often takes more effort than you can muster.
Last edited by Epsilon Delta on Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Toons
Posts: 11675
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:20 am
Location: Hills of Tennessee

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Toons » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:19 pm

Not even considering prepaying for my "cremation'.
:mrgreen:
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee

Swimmer
Posts: 149
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2015 4:24 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Swimmer » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:22 pm

My parents didn't know it, but they were quintessential bogleheads who always lived below their means.

In about 2000 they purchased prepaid cremation/burial arrangements for a whopping $975 each. My mother's family owned the cemetery plots. She always reminded me where "the papers" we're. I hated thinking about it.

But...When each passed, I made one phone call. The funeral director did everything else. No frills, for sure. But that's the way they wanted it. We knew we were following their wishes which was comforting.

I keep wanting to set something up for DH and me. Very difficult to do. I must say my parents' prepaid was really a blessing/gift to our family. :happy

User avatar
siamond
Posts: 2976
Joined: Mon May 28, 2012 5:50 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby siamond » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:27 pm

Me think that hubby should go fishing, or whatever activity that will put him in a better mood... Come on, there has to be a better way to spend your retirement time than at a funeral home! :shock:

PS. this being said, maybe he's right, I have little doubts that the funeral home industry takes advantage of people in pain, more often than not. Selecting something modest and leaving a little more money to your children, instead of putting them in the position to choose, might be a good deed.

delamer
Posts: 2312
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby delamer » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:28 pm

As a point of reference, I just paid $12K for the about the same services you mentioned above for my mother in a medium cost-of-living area. The differences were the outer liner and marker had been paid for when my father died.

There was no problem getting my mother's estate to reimburse me for the costs. I also could have had the estate billed directly.

The cost doesn't seem onerous enough that I would worry about locking it in due to inflation concerns. On the other hand, it isn't that much money to tie up over the longer haul. I would consider doing it for the purpose of marital harmony if it is something that your husband thinks is important.

My husband and I are going to be cremated so this isn't something that has come up for us.

Church Lady
Posts: 248
Joined: Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:49 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Church Lady » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:30 pm

A relative passed away in 2013. Charge for the funeral with crypt interment was 22,000 and that didn't include food for the guests!

We were stunned by the 22,000 tab, as well as the parlor's demand that we pay in full up front.

The funeral home chosen by the executor was run by a public corporation; doubtless that inflated the price. I reckon they also can turn the screws because frankly, it is very hard to shop around when you have a corpse in your house to dispose of. You might want to shop different funeral homes looking for better pricing.

I have heard tell that in some states, you're not obligated to buy your casket from the funeral home; you can 'bring your own'. I never looked into this but maybe it is something you can look into.

Good luck!
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:8

User avatar
Sheepdog
Posts: 4650
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:05 pm
Location: Indiana, retired 1998 at age 65

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Sheepdog » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:36 pm

My mother prepaid her funeral. She specified everything exactly the way she wanted...nothing expensive...just enough. Since I lived many miles away it was a blessing for me to have everything pre-arranged.
My wife and I haven't done that, but we agree that after the first has passed, the survivor will pre-pay since our sons live so far away. It will be much easier for them that way.
Oh, we do have our cemetery plots purchased though.
However good or bad a situation is, it will change

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 38639
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby LadyGeek » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:43 pm

My parents prepaid for their funerals a very long time ago. When my father passed in 2014, it was a simple phone call* and the funeral company took it from there. Of course, they tried to upsell us when my siblings were in the office making the arrangements. Not interested, the standard casket is fine.

Yes, someone needs to handle the food.

One thing you didn't mention - be sure they include at least 10 copies of the death certificate for each person.

=========
* It's not so simple when things go awry. When the time comes, be sure there is a physician or someone present who can legally sign-off on the death. Why is this important? When your kids need to make the phone call, the first question asked is "Do you have a certification of the death?". If the answer is no, they will not accept the body. Really.

I'm bringing this up because this is what happened the day my father passed away. He was transported home for hospice care. The facility discharged him once he left the facility to go home. My Mom, sibling, and myself are home waiting for him. My Dad comes home and passes within an hour of his arrival. Unfortunately, the hospice nurse arrives just after his death. Technically, he wasn't under her care, so she wouldn't sign off on the death.

The funeral home won't accept the body. Long story short, we ended up calling the Philly fire company to dispatch EMTs. They in turn called Philly police because a death was involved. Longer story later, thanks to me having a doctor's letter in my possession that my Dad was terminally ill, the Philly medical examiner's office agreed to the sign-off. I literally had a police officer on the phone with the funeral home to confirm the death was "official".
To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

User avatar
climber2020
Posts: 770
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby climber2020 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:48 pm

Church Lady wrote:I have heard tell that in some states, you're not obligated to buy your casket from the funeral home; you can 'bring your own'.


Image

Selu Gadu
Posts: 77
Joined: Sun May 01, 2016 11:36 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Selu Gadu » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:55 pm

https://www.funerals.org - Link to Funeral Consumers Alliance. This type of organization used to be known as memorial societies which helped people determine what a funeral should cost and what sort of options were available to them.
De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est. Quantum Mechanics can't be all that tough, after all it isn't rocket science!

User avatar
saltycaper
Posts: 1941
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:47 pm
Location: The Tower

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby saltycaper » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:04 pm

I would not prepay unless all the sand in my hourglass had just about run through, as my wishes could change, as could my financial situation. I would communicate my wishes in writing and leave sufficient funds to carry them out. I have only gone through this once, but arranging this aspect of funeral was probably the least stressful part of the ordeal, especially if the plots are already taken care of. There just wasn't much that could have been handled in advance that was part of the contract. There also was something more personal about handling it ourselves in real time.
"I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said." --Alan Greenspan

adamthesmythe
Posts: 1444
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby adamthesmythe » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:05 pm

> Funerals are a lot like weddings,

I was thinking that too. It seems to be cultural, some cultures place substantial value on a big funeral or wedding.

As far as I am concerned, the only reason to prepay would be to make sure my survivors don't get the hard sell for a big production funeral.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:09 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
One thing you didn't mention - be sure they include at least 10 copies of the death certificate for each person.


I did not find 10 copies necessary. In retrospect all I really needed was one copy of the extended long form death certificate. The 10 copies of the long form death certificate were basically useless. A few more copies of the extended long form death certificate would have been useful if I had been able to deal with anybody by mail, but I can't recall a single entity that didn't want to see other papers such as a passport or wedding license. I did not have multiple copies of those so it was easier to track down local agents and show them the papers. They all asked if they could have my copies, they all meekly inspected my embossed copy and took a photocopies for their records when I said no.

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:12 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:You can shop for caskets at Costco. So that's one item you can comparison shop. In some states the law requires the funeral director to allow for third party caskets. You could buy some now and keep them in your basement. It's a nice water tight box you could use them to store whatever it is you would want to store in sealed casket in the basement. Don't forget to throw in a sack of silica gel.

Yes, I see in the funeral service contract, in very fine print at the bottom, it says the funeral home's caskets and outer burial containers are recommendations only and we are not required to purchase them. I guess I would have to check with friends and relatives as to whether the funeral home could refuse to accept a casket for some reason.

As for keeping our casket as a watertight container until needed - interesting idea, we don't have basements but we do have a garage and I suppose we could put the family jewels and papers in there to protect them from hurricanes :happy (hmm, might float away, do caskets float?)

However, I'm not sure this idea of buying a casket now for some future event, which we hope won't happen for 40 years, would pass my Konmarie decluttering :shock: If I buy a less expensive casket from the funeral home, at least it's cluttering up their space, not mine. :happy

scone
Posts: 1384
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby scone » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:14 pm

The late Duchess of Devonshire was buried in a wicker casket, made on the home farm. Rather chic.
"My bond allocation is the amount of money that I cannot afford to lose." -- Taylor Larimore

User avatar
whodidntante
Posts: 1830
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:11 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby whodidntante » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:16 pm

No, you should not prepay. Instruct your heirs to ask if there is Ralphs nearby.

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:17 pm

siamond wrote:Me think that hubby should go fishing, or whatever activity that will put him in a better mood... Come on, there has to be a better way to spend your retirement time than at a funeral home! :shock:

My husband - fishing??? :shock: :shock:
Actually, he thought he was being productive - until he learned the price of the funeral.

miles monroe
Posts: 1084
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:14 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby miles monroe » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:18 pm

29K! clark howard just had a heart attack.

clark advises preplan. do not prepay. makes sense to me.

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:28 pm

adamthesmythe wrote:As far as I am concerned, the only reason to prepay would be to make sure my survivors don't get the hard sell for a big production funeral.

This is a real concern. Considering the sell we got when we're hale and hearty, I can only imagine the heart-wringing sell for stuff and a nicer casket that would be lumped on the kids when the emotional paralysis of our demise takes over and they aren't thinking clearly (at least, that's how I imagine it :wink: .

delamer
Posts: 2312
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby delamer » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:32 pm

Miriam2 wrote:
adamthesmythe wrote:As far as I am concerned, the only reason to prepay would be to make sure my survivors don't get the hard sell for a big production funeral.

This is a real concern. Considering the sell we got when we're hale and hearty, I can only imagine the heart-wringing sell for stuff and a nicer casket that would be lumped on the kids when the emotional paralysis of our demise takes over and they aren't thinking clearly (at least, that's how I imagine it :wink: .


I did not get a hard sell at all from the funeral home that my mother had selected when I was making her arrangements. Since you did, I would consider talking with another place. Think of it like this - you found Morgan Stanley, but hopefully Vanguard is out there.

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:37 pm

LadyGeek wrote:I'm bringing this up because this is what happened the day my father passed away. He was transported home for hospice care. The facility discharged him once he left the facility to go home. My Mom, sibling, and myself are home waiting for him. My Dad comes home and passes within an hour of his arrival. Unfortunately, the hospice nurse arrives just after his death. Technically, he wasn't under her care, so she wouldn't sign off on the death.

The funeral home won't accept the body. Long story short, we ended up calling the Philly fire company to dispatch EMTs. They in turn called Philly police because a death was involved. Longer story later, thanks to me having a doctor's letter in my possession that my Dad was terminally ill, the Philly medical examiner's office agreed to the sign-off. I literally had a police officer on the phone with the funeral home to confirm the death was "official".

Thank goodness you weren't arrested for having a suspicious dead body in your home - but at least you would have had one phone call or email in jail so you could have pulled up bogleheads.org and sent out an SOS for bail :D

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:39 pm

Miriam2 wrote:As for keeping our casket as a watertight container until needed - interesting idea, we don't have basements but we do have a garage and I suppose we could put the family jewels and papers in there to protect them from hurricanes :happy (hmm, might float away, do caskets float?)

Yes a typical casket weighs perhaps 200 lb and will displace at least 1500 lb of water, probably closer to a ton. If you're family jewels include 4,000,000 carats of diamonds or $33,000,000 of gold that might work, with plenty of room left over for you papers.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:52 pm

Miriam2 wrote:
adamthesmythe wrote:As far as I am concerned, the only reason to prepay would be to make sure my survivors don't get the hard sell for a big production funeral.

This is a real concern. Considering the sell we got when we're hale and hearty, I can only imagine the heart-wringing sell for stuff and a nicer casket that would be lumped on the kids when the emotional paralysis of our demise takes over and they aren't thinking clearly (at least, that's how I imagine it :wink: .

It doesn't have to be a hard sell. A good salesman can use a soft sell when you're not thinking clearly. How many funerals have you bought? How many funerals has he sold? You've got to be at the top of your game to break even, so unless you've adopted Klingons ... .

User avatar
Watty
Posts: 10717
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Watty » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:57 pm

My parents had prepaid their arraignments at a local funeral home but by the time the second of them they died it had been bought out by a chain of funeral homes and it had relocated halfway across town, about ten or fifteen miles away, through some significant traffic. Some of their friends were pretty old by then and driving or getting rides to that part of town was challenging for some of them.

You need to be very clear about just what is really pre-paid. At least with their plan nothing was really prepaid it was basically a life insurance amount that might or might not cover what was planned so we still needed to go through the options and make decisions with the funeral director.

Many of the services like the cemetery and casket manufacture are run by different companies so locking in prices is not realistic so this makes sense. A specific model of casket and other things might not be available in twenty years either.

My mom outlived my dad when she died she had outlived the majority of her friends. Many of her surviving friends had moved away to live near kids or were in poor health and could not attend the funeral. There was a respectable but small turnout for her funeral but we kept it modest which is what she would have wanted since she was always pretty frugal.

One thing to do is to keep an updated list of friends and relatives that should be notified about your funeral. We ended up using an old phone list that they kept in the cupboard that had not been updated in years. Most of the people on it had moved or died long before so we worried about not letting all the right people know.

If being able to afford the funerals is not an issue then giving a list of suggestions and preferences is plenty especially if you have already bought the burial plot.

white_water
Posts: 169
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 1:16 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby white_water » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:04 pm

You might want to determine if contract you sign is transferable to another location or funeral service provider. My in-laws bought two contracts that were not. Luckily they died in their retirement community.

A few years before her demise my MIL was living 1800 miles away from the funeral operation that sold the contract. As MIL health failed DW discovered the shortcomings of their contract. MIL was relocated back "home" due to health care needs and she died in the same location the contract was originated in, quite by coincidence.

My opinion is prepaid funeral arrangements need the same due diligence any other expensive purchase requires. Boglehead DW and I have left instructions for inexpensive cremations.
Last edited by white_water on Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Fallible
Posts: 5948
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Fallible » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:08 pm

I've been reading Jonathan Clements's Money Guide 2016, which suggests readers check out funeral costs with the Funeral Consumers Alliance at funerals.org. May be of some help. He also says the median cost of a funeral with burial is $7,181, and for cremation $6,078.

Clements also recommends ordering 10 or more death certificates depending on the complexity of the deceased's estate, and ordering them from the funeral home where they'll be cheaper.
Bogleheads® wiki | Investing Advice Inspired by Jack Bogle

User avatar
blueblock
Posts: 779
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:06 pm
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby blueblock » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:14 pm

Miriam2 wrote:Are other Bogleheads financially planning for their funerals by using prepayment plans?


I'm reminded of that ancient Elaine May and Mike Nichols comedy sketch where the $10 funeral option included a pine box that would be picked up and nobody knew what happened after that.

My partner and I are united in the desire for minimal fuss and expense for end-of-life stuff. Cremate me and throw my ashes to the wind, as you celebrate the great life we had together.

So, to answer your question, no.

white_water
Posts: 169
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 1:16 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby white_water » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:19 pm

By way of comparison, my father's simple cremation, no viewing, no casket, no burial, no urn, cost $1750 18 months ago in the mid-west. In the PNW a local provider advertises $975, though I don't know the details.

User avatar
CAsage
Posts: 481
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 6:25 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby CAsage » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:21 pm

Wow. I want, right now, to thank my dear departed Mom, for insisting we not spend one more red cent on her 'final' expenses than we had to. She wanted her money to go for college for her grandchildren. I spend $741 on a local cremation service, which included four death certificates (only had a very few accounts to close) and absolutely no frills.

We did the emotionally traumatic funeral/casket etc for my Dad, and spend over $10k years ago..... He was buried (fortunately) in a Veterans' grave which cut expenses, but I don't think anyone ever went by to visit.

But to be more responsive to the original question - pre-shopping makes sense, to see what the range of choices are. Put all your plans in place so your kids will know what you want and not get up-sold in their grief, shock, and the pressure to make all those decisions in a big rush. Funeral service people are incredibly supportive, kind, and can be very subtly aggressive sales people. Don't prepay unless you can be absolutely sure circumstances (people, money) won't change.
Last edited by CAsage on Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

Doom&Gloom
Posts: 1261
Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Doom&Gloom » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:43 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Miriam2 wrote:
adamthesmythe wrote:As far as I am concerned, the only reason to prepay would be to make sure my survivors don't get the hard sell for a big production funeral.

This is a real concern. Considering the sell we got when we're hale and hearty, I can only imagine the heart-wringing sell for stuff and a nicer casket that would be lumped on the kids when the emotional paralysis of our demise takes over and they aren't thinking clearly (at least, that's how I imagine it :wink: .

It doesn't have to be a hard sell. A good salesman can use a soft sell when you're not thinking clearly. How many funerals have you bought? How many funerals has he sold? You've got to be at the top of your game to break even, so unless you've adopted Klingons ... .


This.

I was involved in both of my parents' funerals and still vividly remember how the "nice and concerned" funeral directors played on grieving relatives' possible guilt to upsell everything possible very subtly and without pushing anything at all. I am still disgusted by their behavior. I totally agree with whoever posted above that pre-planning is of great benefit to the surviving relatives but that pre-paying seems unnecessary.

On a lighter note, my MIL pre-paid her funeral arrangements at the same time she was making arrangements for her husband who had just died. She recently attended a funeral at the same funeral home (20 years later) and spotted the same funeral director she had made the pre-paid arrangements with. She approached him and asked him if he remembered her and them making arrangements for her funeral. When he told her that he did and actually called her by name, she asked him, "Tell me again exactly what it is that I need to do when I die."

User avatar
Kenkat
Posts: 3613
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:18 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Kenkat » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:09 pm

Having just helped settling my father-in-law's final affairs, we did not need anywhere near 10 copies of the death certificate. Almost all entities accepted a photocopy instead of an original. Only two required originals - Civil Service Insurance program and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

One consideration on pre-paying funeral expenses. If you think there is some possibility that you may someday exhaust your savings due to long term care and need to fall back on Medicaid, it would have been to your heirs' benefit to have either pre-paid your funeral or be sure enough money was set aside in a designated account to pay for your funeral. Otherwise, it will fall upon your heirs to make up the difference between the "bare bones" funeral that Medicaid will cover and what is desired by your family.

Gnirk
Posts: 625
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 3:11 am
Location: Western Washington

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Gnirk » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:13 pm

I'm aware funeral customs vary by generation, religion, and family beliefs. Some feel it necessary to have a fancy casket, some are pressured to have the fancy casket by the funeral directors (salesmen) while others prefer simple cremation and a scattering of ashes. My parents purchased a family plot (4 plots) with time payments for 10 years from 1947 to 1957. My dad was cremated in 1989, and his urn (ashes) buried in one of the plots. My mom's wish was to also be cremated, have her urn (ashes) buried in the same plot as dad, with a matching bronze marker. They didn't believe in expensive funerals! When mom became ill, I prepaid (a little over $1,000) a local funeral home/cremation service for direct cremation, an in-ground urn, and 15 death certificates (see list below). By prepaying, we had a guaranteed cost.

The cemetery, in another city and with much more expensive rates, charged nearly $500 for the opening and closing of the grave, and placing the urn in the ground. Mom would have considered the $500 charge by the cemetery to bury her urn in her already-owned plot "highway robbery"! The bronze marker on granite was an additional $600. So a total of $2,100.

Death certificates:
U.S. Treasury -paper EE bonds (as part of probate estate, no POD designation)
Vanguard
Credit Union (took copy)
Bank 1(took copy)
Bank 2
Chase IRA
State retirement (spousal)
City retirement
Stock 1
Stock 2
One each to 5 beneficiaries who were POD on EE paper savings bonds.
Last edited by Gnirk on Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 38639
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby LadyGeek » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:14 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:
One thing you didn't mention - be sure they include at least 10 copies of the death certificate for each person.


I did not find 10 copies necessary. In retrospect all I really needed was one copy of the extended long form death certificate. The 10 copies of the long form death certificate were basically useless. A few more copies of the extended long form death certificate would have been useful if I had been able to deal with anybody by mail, but I can't recall a single entity that didn't want to see other papers such as a passport or wedding license. I did not have multiple copies of those so it was easier to track down local agents and show them the papers. They all asked if they could have my copies, they all meekly inspected my embossed copy and took a photocopies for their records when I said no.

Original certificates were needed for:

- Vanguard - Inheriting an IRA
- Electric utility - account to her name only
- Water utility - account to her name only
- Bank - to access safe deposit box and transfer accounts
- Sale of home - transfer of title (held as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship)
- Social Security - notification of death (or maybe the funeral home notifies them? I don't remember), file for survivor benefits (don't forget the $225 death benefit)

Those wishing to go into more detail should read the "Further reading" threads in this wiki article: Estate planning
To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:52 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
Epsilon Delta wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:
One thing you didn't mention - be sure they include at least 10 copies of the death certificate for each person.


I did not find 10 copies necessary. In retrospect all I really needed was one copy of the extended long form death certificate. The 10 copies of the long form death certificate were basically useless. A few more copies of the extended long form death certificate would have been useful if I had been able to deal with anybody by mail, but I can't recall a single entity that didn't want to see other papers such as a passport or wedding license. I did not have multiple copies of those so it was easier to track down local agents and show them the papers. They all asked if they could have my copies, they all meekly inspected my embossed copy and took a photocopies for their records when I said no.

Original certificates were needed for:

- Vanguard - Inheriting an IRA
- Electric utility - account to her name only
- Water utility - account to her name only
- Bank - to access safe deposit box and transfer accounts
- Sale of home - transfer of title (held as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship)
- Social Security - notification of death (or maybe the funeral home notifies them? I don't remember), file for survivor benefits (don't forget the $225 death benefit)

Those wishing to go into more detail should read the "Further reading" threads in this wiki article: Estate planning


Yes, they all needed to see an original. None of them needed to keep it. Vanguard would be the only one that was not local. A second copy would be needed if I had to deal with them by mail. But dealing with any of them by mail would be a pain because they also demanded MY ID. I need all my ID, I can't afford to mail it around the country for a few weeks.

There is a second point I should emphasize.
I was offered a choice of short form "certificate of death", "long form death certificate" and "extended long form death certificate". The funeral director ordered ten long form death certificates. Nobody would accept these, a complete waste of $100. They all required the extended long form certificate, which I had ordered one of because I knew it was needed for an insurance policy. I suspect I actually violated local law by using the extended long form certificate, I had to sign an affidavit saying what I intended to use it for, and it was quite clear that showing it to all and sundry was not a permissible use.

Anyway if your offered a choice get the extended long form death certificate with ruffles and flourishes, some jobsworthy will require it. IIRC the president had a similar experience with a short form birth certificate.

Anyway in my experience most of the articles on how to settle an estate turned out to be completely wrong.

Fallible
Posts: 5948
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Fallible » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:17 pm

blueblock wrote:...
I'm reminded of that ancient Elaine May and Mike Nichols comedy sketch where the $10 funeral option included a pine box that would be picked up and nobody knew what happened after that....


How about where, after accepting his check, she asks him if he'd like to include a casket... That may have been their greatest sketch.
Bogleheads® wiki | Investing Advice Inspired by Jack Bogle

TMCD75
Posts: 235
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 4:36 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby TMCD75 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:42 pm

Funeral costs are absurd and can be greatly slashed if you choose cremation instead of the 8k casket. Cremation is becoming more popular than ever before because of the savings involved.

My parent's funerals would've been 7-8k higher if they had been buried in a casket, it just doesn't make good sense.

delamer
Posts: 2312
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby delamer » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:36 pm

TMCD75 wrote:Funeral costs are absurd and can be greatly slashed if you choose cremation instead of the 8k casket. Cremation is becoming more popular than ever before because of the savings involved.

My parent's funerals would've been 7-8k higher if they had been buried in a casket, it just doesn't make good sense.


I guess it depends in the area, but there were caskets available through the funeral home that my mother chose for as little as $1500 (and as much as $15,000).

EvelynM
Posts: 90
Joined: Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:57 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby EvelynM » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:25 am

Thanks for this thread! I love your sense of humor. My mom pre-paid everything before her death, and I found a long note written to me that she put in her funeral folder, insisting that I make sure the funeral home didn't try to rip me off or change her agreements with them. And, boy, did they try. The entire experience with the funeral home in Dallas was awful. But she left us with great flair: she had chosen a lime green casket. I'm not sure if it was because it was the cheapest one she could buy or because she wanted to surprise us. But it's a great memory and always makes me smile. I have two kids and I'm extremely frugal. I've set aside funds for them to handle my cremation. Maybe I'll get a lime green urn and surprise them. :D

User avatar
Abe
Posts: 1576
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:24 pm
Location: Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Abe » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:02 am

I strongly urge you NOT to buy a prepaid burial insurance plan. The first thing I recommend you do is go to Funeral Consumers Alliance site and read this: "Should you prepay for your funeral"
https://www.funerals.org/?consumers=sho ... ur-funeral

This is my experience with prepaid insurance plans. My family, my father, my mother and myself, had 3 prepaid plans that were fully paid for through a local funeral home in a nearby city. These plans covered the full cost of a funeral, even itemizing each item covered separately. When my father died in 1962, they did cover almost the full cost of his funeral, not all but most. Later the funeral home sold out to another funeral home. Several years later, when my mother died, they told me they could not pay the full cost of the funeral as they had done in the past. I was told they would only pay $250. I won't go in to all the details, but long story short, I only got $250.

A funeral home in a nearby city had been in business for many years and had a good reputation. This funeral home was bought out by a someone from another state. He stole most of the money that was set aside specifically for all the prepaid burial plans held by the funeral home. All of the people who had burial plans that they thought were paid up lost all their money. They didn't have anything. I'm not saying any of this will happen to you, but it does happen a lot in the funeral business.

Funeral Consumers Alliance is a national consumer organization that monitors the funeral industry, keeping a close eye on industry trends and advocating for fair practices on the behalf of consumers. Go there if you want to know the truth about funeral homes. There are a lot of thing the funeral home industry does not want you to know.
Last edited by Abe on Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Slow and steady wins the race.

User avatar
Kenkat
Posts: 3613
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:18 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Kenkat » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:11 am

It is interesting who required original death certificates above. My experience - accepted copy (including in person - i.e., did not need to view original):

Fidelity Life Insurance (annuity)
Fidelity Investments
5/3 Bank
5/3 Securities
Key Bank
MetLife
VA Life Insurance
CompuServe (shareholder for DRIP stock holdings in P&G and MetLife)

The funeral home notified social security.

We requested 3 certified copies of the death certificate. I thought I would need more but I still have one left of the three.

itstoomuch
Posts: 4179
Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:17 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby itstoomuch » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:45 am

When we got prepaid for parents', It was whole life Ins. A variation on the theme is a deferred fixed SPIA. Which got me to thinking on SPIA vs Whole Life (another discussion). The last death we used a prepaid crematory service which was a third of the cost of prepaid funeral service even if used for cremation of remains.
4 buckets: SS+pension;dfr'd GLWB VA & FI anntys, by time & $$ laddered; Discretionary; Rental. Do OK any 2 bkts. LTCi. Own, not asset. Tax 25%. Early SS. FundingRatio (FR) >1.1 Age 67/70

User avatar
IFRider
Posts: 106
Joined: Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:40 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby IFRider » Sat Jul 30, 2016 11:03 am

Fallible wrote:
blueblock wrote:...
I'm reminded of that ancient Elaine May and Mike Nichols comedy sketch where the $10 funeral option included a pine box that would be picked up and nobody knew what happened after that....


How about where, after accepting his check, she asks him if he'd like to include a casket... That may have been their greatest sketch.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLkuNnnp89g

Hilarious.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 38639
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby LadyGeek » Sat Jul 30, 2016 11:56 am

^^^ :D

Miriam2 wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:I'm bringing this up because this is what happened the day my father passed away. He was transported home for hospice care. The facility discharged him once he left the facility to go home. My Mom, sibling, and myself are home waiting for him. My Dad comes home and passes within an hour of his arrival. Unfortunately, the hospice nurse arrives just after his death. Technically, he wasn't under her care, so she wouldn't sign off on the death.

The funeral home won't accept the body. Long story short, we ended up calling the Philly fire company to dispatch EMTs. They in turn called Philly police because a death was involved. Longer story later, thanks to me having a doctor's letter in my possession that my Dad was terminally ill, the Philly medical examiner's office agreed to the sign-off. I literally had a police officer on the phone with the funeral home to confirm the death was "official".

Thank goodness you weren't arrested for having a suspicious dead body in your home - but at least you would have had one phone call or email in jail so you could have pulled up bogleheads.org and sent out an SOS for bail :D

Only if bail doesn't impact my credit score. :D
To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:02 pm

EvelynM wrote: My mom pre-paid everything before her death, and . . . left us with great flair: she had chosen a lime green casket. I'm not sure if it was because it was the cheapest one she could buy or because she wanted to surprise us. But it's a great memory and always makes me smile. I have two kids and I'm extremely frugal. I've set aside funds for them to handle my cremation. Maybe I'll get a lime green urn and surprise them. :D

A lime green casket or urn could become a cherished family tradition! 8-)

Miriam2
Posts: 1594
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:51 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Miriam2 » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:55 pm

The financial aspects of these prepaid plans was discussed in another thread where Abe wrote about setting up a POD bank account instead:
Abe wrote:. . . You can set up a POD account at your bank and have your beneficiary use the money to pay for a funeral or you can buy an insurance policy. There is no way I would buy a prepaid funeral policy. Read this. http://money.usnews.com/money/retiremen ... l-expenses

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=118761

The US News Money article "Should You Prepay Your Own Funeral Expenses" says this about Totten trusts:
Consider saving on your own. Instead of prepaying money to a funeral home you can set up a "pay on
death" account, also known as a Totten trust. At the time of death your designated beneficiary is able to use
that account for funeral expenses immediately. These accounts are portable and can be used at any
funeral home, and you get to accrue the interest instead of the funeral home. You should also put your
preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place.
But don't designate your preferences in your will, as a will is often not found or read until after the funeral,
and avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box that could be difficult for relatives
to get to.

Does anyone have any experience going this route, POD accounts or Totten trusts, rather than the prepaid plans? Or are they really different animals?

User avatar
Taylor Larimore
Advisory Board
Posts: 25694
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:09 pm
Location: Miami FL

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Taylor Larimore » Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:14 pm

Mariam2:

I have made arrangements to donate my remains to the University of Miami for medical research.

This should also make it easier and more lucrative my for heirs (no casket, no funeral, no cost).

Best wishes.
Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle

donall
Posts: 668
Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:45 am

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby donall » Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:19 pm

Costs can add up fast. In addition to funeral costs, there can be monument costs, foundation for monument, inscription on monument, grave digging costs, etc. A donation can be expected in religious establishments just to offset the expenses of using the space.

If someone was a vet, the VA has cemeteries for burials. Free marker or headstones are available for vets buries in private cemeteries. The bronze marker is very handsome.

Most don't know that you can often have more than one full burial or burial of cremains in one plot. This varies by cemetery and is often described as interment rights. Cremains can be scattered in many places, but I think is not allowed on federal property.

I think having explicit instructions from the deceased is best. Decisions are written out for you and there is much less stress at a very stressful time.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 6458
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Preparing financially for our funerals - prepay or not?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:50 pm

Miriam2 wrote:Does anyone have any experience going this route, POD accounts or Totten trusts, rather than the prepaid plans? Or are they really different animals?


Different animals that solve different problems. POD would not solve the medicare asset problem for example.

More importantly for some, the POD does not include funeral instruction (which could be passed separately) and it still leaves the survivors organizing a funeral.

In my experience funerals are put on a credit card of a relative (often the executor, sometimes an heir) which is paid off using the emergency fund and eventually reimbursed by the estate. A POD makes settling (at least part of) the estate faster, so it would help if the funeral expense would embarrass the efund or the credit card limits -- very useful for some. It does require that the beneficiary be willing to pay for the funeral. The POD funds become the assets of the beneficiary, you'd need a custom trust to dedicate them to funeral expenses. If the POD was the only asset of the deceased it can be clawed back for obligations of the deceased, possibly including reasonable funeral expenses, but that's a place you don't want to go.


Return to “Personal Consumer Issues”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Abe, bwaldron, Dickerson, Kenkat, midareff, prudent, queso, reddityeah, Swimmer, TropikThunder and 82 guests