Talking about death is often difficult. Yet a death in the family may create problems for survivors which can sometimes be alleviated by discussion and pre-planning. Funeral and burial arrangements are an important consideration and should be discussed openly and frankly. Pre-arranging and sometimes pre-financing a funeral is a method some people choose to assist their survivors after death occurs.
In many things which are pre-planned, there can be unforeseen developments between the time of planning and of putting the plans into effect. This is especially true in the pre-arranging of funerals, since there is no way of knowing beforehand exactly when, where, how and under what circumstances death will come. And these unknown factors could alter original plans substantially.
Careful counseling with an experienced funeral director can avoid unwise planning or even fraudulent schemes involving particularly the financing of funerals in advance of death.
There are many different reasons for prearranging a funeral. Some persons, especially those who are alone in the world, may want the assurance of a funeral and burial which meet their personal beliefs, standards or life-style. Others feel a responsibility to assist survivors by arranging approximate funeral and burial cost guidelines. Still others have moved to distant places, or maintain both summer and winter residences. They may want to make sure that certain recommendations are heeded as to where the funeral and burial or other final disposition will take place. Actually, there are almost as many explanations for pre-arranging funerals as there are people requesting them.
Advantages or disadvantages of funeral pre-arrangements depend upon the individual circumstances and cannot be generalized. What may be satisfying for some could be impractical for others. Pre-arranging a funeral is often a tentative plan contingent upon the belief that circumstances will remain relatively stable during the remaining lifetime of the pre-arranger and of those whom he or she involves in the arrangements. Before prescribing a definite kind of funeral or type of final disposition, it is always wise to consider and consult those survivors who will be most affected by the death. Grant them the opportunity to be active planning participants, not just passive spectators. This is prudent because when death comes it may have strong emotional impact upon the other members of the family. Permitting them to assist in making funeral and burial arrangements could serve as a healthy outlet for their grief and anxiety. Giving them the privilege of performing a last act of recognition, honor, and respect for the deceased will dramatize eloquently to all the reality that a life has been lived.
Aside from the specific personal reasons for discussing funeral arrangements in advance of need, there is an additional benefit. The subject of death is brought out in the open and the family is afforded an opportunity to mutually share their thoughts about its important considerations. Mental health is never sustained by the denial of death, but by the frank acknowledgment of this reality of life. Entering into a pre-arrangement agreement with a funeral director also provides an opportunity to indicate one's wishes in writing. It ought to be prefaced by a review and evaluation of current funeral costs, funeral ceremonies and alternate funeral and burial procedures. Thus counseling with a funeral director could well be a significant educational experience.
All funeral homes have access to a pre-arrangement form. Some have plans designed for their own use. Together, you and the funeral director can discuss all necessary details. Once the pre-arrangement is completed, the client should notify some responsible person or persons that such an agreement exists and where it may be found. If desired, the funeral director will supply additional copies for informational purposes
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In many instances persons who pre-arrange a funeral will also wish to take care of pre-financing at the same time, either for the entire amount or a portion thereof.
Various state regulatory agencies govern the control and mandate the requirements for pre-financing a funeral with a funeral home depending upon the state in which one resides. Your funeral director is well aware of the laws governing prefinancing funerals and is the most suited person to professionally guide you in this area.
There is a variety of investment products available in which one may place pre-financed monies. Passbook accounts. Certificates of Deposit, and trust accounts are among a banking institutions deposit possibilities. Today insurance and annuities have also played a significant part in the pre-need investment market.
Selecting one's funeral in advance, and actually making the financial commitment for payment, gives a person the peace of mind that all details at the time of death will be carried out as previously arranged.
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LEGAL ASPECTS OF DEATH
The earthly possessions, known as the estate of the deceased, must be distributed after his death. Any assets that are left must be used to pay any debts, and any balance left must be lawfully distributed after payment of estate or death taxes. If the deceased owned or operated a business, the business must be administered and maintained in an orderly manner or must be liquidated.
In order to accomplish this process of distribution, legal proceedings are necessary to decide how any property should be distributed and who is to be in charge of this distribution. Because of the technical nature of these proceedings and all the complications involved in settling the estate and distributing the assets, it is advisable that a lawyer be consulted.
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SELECTING A CEMETERY PLOT
In the brief period between death and burial, cemetery plots and graves are sometimes purchased by a family without careful thought and often without a personal visit to the cemetery and later found to be inadequate or undesirable. It is highly recommended that cemetery plots be purchased far ahead of need.
Quite often persons buying cemetery plots in haste will not buy enough graves, or they will purchase many more than the family will ever utilize in future years. To avoid mistakes and to meet the present and future needs of your family, the utmost consideration should be given this decision.
When purchasing a cemetery plot, one should ascertain whether the cemetery meets the requirements of the family's religion.
One should also determine just what restrictions, if any, the cemetery might enforce in regard to the kind of outside burial vault to be used and the type of monument or memorial to be erected.
Buying a cemetery plot for investment purposes is considered an unwise practice. The majority of all cemeteries retain the right to repurchase a plot at the original purchase price. For this reason, even though the lot may have increased in value, there is rarely a profit realized by the purchaser.
Perpetual care on a cemetery plot is more often than not included in the purchase price.
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PURCHASING A MONUMENT OR MEMORIAL
To give all cemetery plot owners general protection, most cemeteries retain the right to approve the type of memorial to be placed on a grave site. Some cemeteries have restrictions on size and design of memorials, while others require that only a flush-with-the ground bronze plaque be placed.
After determining if any cemetery restrictions prevail and deciding just what your individual needs and desires are, a reputable retail monument dealer should be contacted.
The quality, material, design, and craftsmanship of a memorial you are going to have erected permanently upon your cemetery plot deserves very careful consideration.
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Most everyone should have a will. It is the only way a person is relatively sure all of his assets and earthly possessions are distributed in accordance with his wishes.
One of the more important aspects of drawing up a will is the appointment of an executor. If this person is not the surviving spouse, he or she should be someone who you have the utmost confidence in and a person who will use good sound judgement in his decision making.
As times change and happenings take place in one's life, a will should periodically be reviewed to determine if your original desires still exist.
In many states if a husband or wife does not leave a will, the survivor receives one third of the estate and the children are entitled to two thirds.
If there is a will, the deceased is said to have died testate. The executor named in the will must file the will with the Probate or Surrogate court within the time prescribed by statute, and proceed with the distribution of the assets of the estate according to the provisions the deceased has prescribed.
If there is no will but there are assets, the deceased is said to have died intestate. This involves the appointment of an administrator by the Surrogate judge and the assets of the estate are distributed according to the State Statute of Descent.
In both situations it is recommended that the services of a competent attorney be used, as well as when an original will is drafted.
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