Not many people enjoy talking about death. So, it makes sense that it is not a popular topic of conversation. However, you can’t avoid it forever as it will eventually come for us all. For my father, this time is coming much sooner than expected. The grief of life without him can become paralyzing. But rather than waiting until it’s too late, here’s how my family is preparing for future funeral expenses to help bring him peace of mind.
Starting the Conversation about Funeral Arrangements
Although my husband and I have briefly discussed our wishes after death, it has become a more pressing conversation as we watch my father’s health decline. My dad was diagnosed with a chronic condition over 13 years ago. However, he has completely avoided all discussions about his long-term care and death.
And, I can’t blame him since I have done the same thing. I understand that he is afraid and doesn’t want to plan his own funeral. On the other hand, I’m viewing it from my mom’s perspective and the massive burden it places on her.
When he slipped into a coma, my mom started panicking. She felt overwhelmed and completely unprepared. Even though she asked several times to be included in the conversations, it never happened. So, we had no idea what his final wishes were. Furthermore, my mom had no clue how their finances were set up. It was at this point my mom took control of the situation and started preparing for both their long-term healthcare and future funeral expenses.
How Do You Start Preparing for Future Funeral Expenses?
As we were reeling through emotions and red tape, I took a moment to ground myself. We needed a tangible plan of action. So, we decided the best place to start was at the very beginning.
In my mind, the first step is making arrangements to prepare the body after death. But since he never told us, we had no idea how, or even where, my dad wants to be buried. And since he was in a coma, we couldn’t ask him either. We were left debating what we thought he would want. As you could probably guess, there were opposing opinions. Although, the one thing we all agreed on was the location.
So, our first stop was the cemetery to purchase burial plots. We soon discovered there are huge price differences depending on which location you choose, how you want to be interred, and the types of permits you need to obtain. When my mom learned that cremation is approximately half the cost of full internment (roughly $3,700 vs $6,300 per person), she easily made her decision.
Furthermore, they had plots only a few rows away from my grandparents. It seemed like the decision had already been made for us. But instead of paying on the spot, they allowed us to reserve the plots for two weeks without cost. This would give us time to see if he would come out of the coma and discuss our options.
When we left the cemetery, we were already feeling better knowing their final resting place. But, we still needed to get an estimate for funeral services. We visited the funeral home next to get a quote.
This was also an easy choice since we were already familiar with the business. Not only have they been around for 140 years, but they have also handled the arrangements for many other friends and relatives. When we planned my grandparents’ funerals, they had several package deals that made everything easy. They also offer flexible payment options that can be paid after the services.
When we arrived, the funeral director worked up two separate estimates for a side-by-side cost comparison. It included totals for both cremation and full-body internment, transportation, memorial services, headstones, and catering. With all the calculations, my mom opted again for the economic choices. The services with cremation would cost an additional $6,000 while full internment cost $9,000.
However, the funeral home did not require a down payment. So, we decided to start the files and take time to make a final decision.
The only thing my dad ever discussed was taking care of my mom. My dad’s greatest fear was that my mom would have no health insurance when he dies. After a quick call to the insurance company, we discovered she could pay to retain the same insurance for 36 months while you look for other plans. After that, we plan to use the government’s Health Care marketplace to compare plans and find an affordable option.
However, my biggest fear is that my mom will have huge medical bills after an extended in the hospital and multiple trips to the ICU. We reviewed his policy and keep records of all the explanations of benefits and medical bills. We will continue to review each one in case there are coding or other instances of them overcharging for services they should cover.
My dad has offered me some financial advice in the past. So, I had some idea of how he managed his accounts. I also knew he had named my mom as the beneficiary on everything. But it could take months or even years to access funds while the lawyers settle everything from the estate.
I wanted to do everything we could to avoid this, so my mom and I got a crash course in my dad’s investment strategy. First, we located all his accounts and verified whether he listed her on them as well. The good news was that some accounts already have her name. The bad news is that most of their assets are only in my dad’s name.
Even if we can’t change them now, at least we know what paperwork we will have to deal with post-mortem. Having a plan in place will make it easier later on, and allow us time to grieve.
Final Tallies for Funeral Expenses
Fortunately, my dad became responsive and came out of the coma. But, it was a wake-up call for everyone. We are all thinking and speaking more deeply on things since then. However, he still does not want to have this conversation. Instead, he decided to trust us with his arrangements and funeral expenses.
I think we all gained peace of mind after this experience. My mom feels secure in her future and knows that no matter what happens, she will be okay. My siblings and I don’t have to struggle with questions about his final wishes. And, my dad can rest easier knowing we will be here to support each other. There is no outrunning death. All we can do is reassure, comfort, and spend time with those who love him.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.