Making your own funeral plans will help your survivors make decisions and control costs when you die. Grieving families without plans are ill prepared to select funeral goods and services or make sound decisions about funeral or memorial ceremonies. Pressed for decisions, they often buy more costly and elaborate funerals than they would if plans were in place and family discussions had determined what was and was not wanted.

Below is an overview of things to be considered, planned for, documented and shared with your family.

Arrangements desired

  • Cremation?
  • Burial?
  • Anatomical donation: body or body parts to a medical organization?
  • Ceremony before final disposition, or later, or not at all?
  • What sort of ceremony? Religious, secular, joyful celebration of a life?

Funeral services and goods desired

  • Simple arrangements, or with optional extras?
  • Funeral home to be involved in ceremony, or not?
  • Burial plot?
  • Natural burial or conventional burial?
  • Type of casket or container
  • Burial accessories (outer receptacle, urn, etc.)
  • Monument?

Acceptable price range

  • Median cost of a funeral that involves burial in the USA is over $8,000 plus any cemetery expenses. The total is often more than $11,000, but most expenses can be minimized or avoided.
  • Getting price data. Prices vary from one funeral business to another. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Finger Lakes has price data. You can also get data by visiting funeral homes and obtaining their general price lists.

Is your family informed of your plan and comfortable with it?

  • Have you spoken with them in person?
  • Have you informed them where to find important records?

Set aside funds to pay funeral expenses.

  • Pay-on-death account in a bank  can be any amount, but it is available to creditors or Medicaid.
  • Burial fund in a bank – up to $1,500 is not available to creditors or Medicaid.
  • Irrevocable trust that can only be used for funeral expenses  can be any amount, and is not available to creditors or Medicaid.
  • Life insurance – pay for a policy that will be owned by the person who will pay your funeral bill.
  • Agreement with family that one of them will pay for the funeral and recoup expenses from the estate.

Should you pre-pay a funeral home?

Prepayment makes sense in circumstances where:

  • a person expects to reside in the same area permanently.
  • a person expects to qualify for Medicaid.
  • a person has no relative or friend who will be responsible for the funeral arrangements.

Money prepaid to a funeral home in New York State is protected under state laws and regulations, but the arrangement may be troublesome if:

  • the person moves to another city or state.
  • the person dies in another state or country.
  • the funds do not fully cover the expenses.
  • the funeral home goes out of business.