Pre-planning your Funeral

Dec 2018

As I was watching the funeral of Former President George H. W. Bush, I was thinking about the planning that must have been done ahead of time to make sure everything ran as smoothly as it did. Although you and I are not going to have funerals like President Bush, it is a reminder that we will all eventually leave this great earth, and how important it is to be prepared. I thought I would run through some issues  you should at least consider.

The first issue when it comes to planning for when we will no longer be around is to make sure we have an up-to-date estate plan. Whether it is a will or trust, it is important that you have one, and that it is current. We live in a world where everything changes at a rapid pace, and when family situations and dynamics change, it could affect your estate plan. Therefore, the first step in being prepared is to make sure that your current estate plan is up to date. If you don’t have an estate plan you either don’t want to think about your demise, you’re lazy, or you think that the State of Michigan is the best to determine how your affairs are to be handled at the time of your death. No matter what your reasoning is, I think you need to reconsider.

I wish I could tell you that doing an estate plan is painless, but in many situations it is not. After all, you have to face certain realities that you may not want to deal with. However, kicking the can down the road or doing nothing can potentially create significant issues for your loved ones. The bottom line: As adults, it is our duty to make sure our affairs are in order, so we can protect our loved ones.

Another issue that we need to consider is whether we should preplan our funeral. We all know that death always occurs at the wrong time, and it’s always emotional for our loved ones. I’m not sure the best time to plan a funeral is when the family is grieving. Therefore, in many situations it makes sense to do some planning for your funeral. It can be nothing more than choosing the funeral home you would like and also the casket. One thing I see quite frequently is that in the midst of grieving and not wanting to look cheap, many people overpay for a funeral. If you preplan your funeral and choose the type of casket and accessories you want in advance, you are removing that burden from your loved ones and probably saving your family a significant amount of money.

As a side note, many people are surprised to hear this, but you do not have to purchase your casket through a funeral home. In today’s world you can buy caskets from a number of different places, including online.

If you do decide to preplan your funeral, another issue to consider is whether if you decide you want to be buried – where; and if you choose to be cremated – what happens to your ashes. Other issues you can consider is the type of service you want, or if you want no service at all.

Don’t forget, if you do want to preplan your funeral you need to make sure you put it in writing and give it to your loved ones. Typically, funeral wishes are not put in the will and trust, but in a separate document.

One last note about preplanning funerals and that is whether you should prepay for the funeral. On the whole, I’m not a big fan of prepaying for a funeral. There are a variety of issues that you have to consider, such as what happens if the funeral home goes out of business, what if you no longer reside in the area, or what if you just change your mind. On the whole, I’m in favor of preplanning, not prepaying.

We all know the reality of life, and that is our days are eventually numbered, and there is nothing that we can do to prevent it. Therefore, by doing some preplanning you are making things as easy as you can for your loved ones, and isn’t that what it’s ultimately about?

Good luck!


Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at