Getting this topic out of the way, as it is a very sensitive topic that I would never thought I'd be talking about, and not one I want to talk about, but one that I should talk about. It will be one of the earliest posts on this website, I will talk about it before we even discuss saving money, retirement, and enjoying your life after work because in our everyday world, the reality is that anyone can die at any second. There are hundreds of thousands of ways to die. So the acceptance of your own death is inevitable.
Getting this out of the way is the best thing I can do for you and you could do for yourself. We cannot continue to pretend to be immortal and that we are going to live forever, like most of us do. The excuse that you're going to be dead and gone so you don't care is also not one you need to relay because those loved ones who are still alive will have to deal with the aftermath. So it is imperative that you stop being selfish and think about your family or the living when it comes to your death.
Straight to the point: if there are two things that are almost unavoidable in this world, they are taxes and death. Good luck getting out of your taxes and good luck escaping death. There are times where you may get lucky and the IRS may not catch a mistake here and there, but for the most part, it eventually catches up to you. The same thing goes for death: leaving your home increases your risk of death. There are times throughout the day where you may have avoided death and not even known it. And then there are others who may not be so lucky.
Before I talk about funeral preparations, I wanted to mention the moment that began to get me thinking about this and the unfortunate event that caused me to finally take action with preparations for my mother's funeral and my own.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone was in a state of believing it was real and trying to defunct the fact that it was also scare tactics by the government. In reality, the virus is as real as the flu and just as deadly, if not deadlier. I was in Malaysia and Hong Kong when I heard the announcements over the loud speakers, though in the United States, COVID-19 has not hit just yet. So once I returned home in late October 2019, I had only a few months to guess what was going to happen. It was not being taken seriously by many Americans or their leaders, and once it hit, it was already too late. The vaccine would not be available until almost a year later.
For those who did not have access to any vaccines in the early stages of COVID-19, death was certain, especially as COVID-19 made its way through nursing homes, where millions of the elderly died and unfortunately, many of their family members were not able to see them. Many of us share the same stories of our family or friends dying due to COVID-19. Nowadays, while it is still rampant and killing hundreds of thousands of people everyday, with the introduction of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, many people, especially senior citizens have been given a fighting chance.
In 2022, many of my family members began to get COVID-19, and many of them remained unvaccinated, and the most devastating event occurred that my family could have never imagined. My stepfather and mother went into the hospital. Only one of them came out. My stepfather, who was only 4 months away from retirement, passed away due to COVID-19.
While he and I were not very close, I grew up knowing he was always there and I loved and respected the man because he was so good to my mother. Luckily, his Will and Last Testament, along with a Health Directive had been put in place, though there were still many things to be done, as he had not set up a Trust, despite it being listed in his Will, among other things. It nearly tore the family apart, but with patience and understanding, I took the lead, and helped keep the family together.
In the process, I learned that my stepfather had written everything as if my mother would be the first one to go. It made sense as she is about 5 years older than him and has her own series of health conditions, including a stroke that left her partially paralyzed on her right side for the past 20+ years. During this time, I had to get my mother's affairs in order and now write them according to her living the remainder of her life. Fortunately, we got everything done, and there is no question as to what will happen in the event of my mother's passing.
And I realized I had to do the same for myself as well. Mine was more involved considering that the place where I want to be buried is next to my grandfather, in another state, so planning for my funeral is slightly more involved, as it is going to require the funeral home to ship my body back home. But I am not dead yet and have no plans to be dead anytime soon, though I hope I'm ready for everything, including my retirement.
Now lets talk about how you will begin preparing for your funeral.
The average cost of a funeral including the plot is around $10,000 to $15,000. As you add more tasks to your funeral, the price will go up. For example, the cheapest funeral is to forego the embalming process, have a closed or private family-only viewing, and skip the blessings of a Priest or Rabbi. There are also expenses for the plot of land, if you choose to be buried, for which you will be resting eternally. If you choose the cremation process along with a basic Urn, this will cost less.
The most basic funeral costs will cost anywhere between $5,000 to $8,000.
Preparing For Your Funeral
There are three ways to prepare for a funeral:
- Life Insurance
- Prepay for your funeral
- Do Nothing
Both are relatively easy to do, but you only need to do one or the other. As long as you have either one in place and designated a beneficiary or company to handle your affairs, you are already ahead of the game. Regardless of which one you have, you will need some other things:
- Living Will or Living Health Directive
- Last Will and Testament
The first will provide instructions should you collapse and medical care must know what to do with you.
The second will provide instructions to everyone who is living about what is to happen upon your death.
We will get into full details about #1 and #2 in another article.
The best time to get life insurance is right at infancy. If your parents get you a policy, it usually comes out to less than $10 per month and they will pay it for the rest of your life. As you become an adult, your parents may hand your own life insurance policy over to you for you to pay. They will either continue being the beneficiaries or you can designate a beneficiary, such as your partner (husband/wife/trusted love one).
The older you get, the more expensive life insurance will be. Most people who never had life insurance will almost certainly wait until their 30s, at which point, you can probably get a $15,000+ policy for around $25 - $35 per month and you will pay for it the rest of your life, similar to how health insurance is treated. You are paying a company to invest and put away your money every month.
Upon the event of your death, the beneficiary is the one who will contact the life insurance company, who will, in turn, likely ask for proof, or a phone number of the handlers to verify that you are deceased. The beneficiary will handle going to the funeral home and handing over your insurance policy which will cover your funeral expenses and anything that is left over will go to the beneficiary, and rightfully so, as they are handling the events of your death.
The person handling your death will have to choose a location for where you wish to be buried, cremated or any other option you may think of, for which there are alternative options for what you want to be done with your body. Consider consulting with a lawyer about writing your Health Directive and Last Will and Testament, which will run you about $250 - $500.
There are also websites that exist to help you write those and make them official and all you have to really do is get it notarized at your local bank or UPS for about $10. Even if its not notarized, it can still be considered an official document, though the notary or lawyer will remove all doubt from any legal system in place.
Life insurance is a great option if you aren't ready wanting to preplan your funeral and have a trusted person or two in place to handle the events of your death. If you don't already have it and are still under 30 years old, consider purchasing a policy of at least $10,000 to $15,000 and ensuring you have a beneficiary who you can trust and knows your wishes.
Do not assume your beneficiary or family knows anything about you. Assume they don't and leave as much information as possible about what happens to you upon your death.
Preplanning Your Funeral
This is a much easier process and if you preplan your funeral, you do not need life insurance. Call your your local funeral home and let the Funeral Director know that you want to schedule an appointment to prepay for your funeral. They will open up an account which usually requires a $100 to $500 minimum deposit and can be paid into monthly. Depending on what you owe and your age, you will want to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 or more a month. Any remaining balance will be paid by your family. Any interest accrued, if applicable, will be paid out to your family or beneficiaries. The funeral expenses account often gets a better interest rate than most banks or CDs.
Prepaying for a funeral is often the best way to "spend down" when Medicaid and Medicare are involved.
There are two types of funeral homes: those who only handle the funeral and those who handle the funeral and the cemetery preparations. It is highly recommended that you find a funeral home that does both so you don't have to communicate with two different companies about the events of your death. It makes it a whole lot easier to just worry about where you are being buried and how you are being handled for burial at the same time.
Choosing Your Funeral Service
There are two main choices:
- Being buried in the ground
- Being cremated in the crematorium
You will be dead for both so don't worry about how either will feel too much. You must be declared dead before either of those two options even become available to you. There are also alternative burial options, but they will require a another party to handle the funeral service.
If you choose to be buried, you must choose a plot of land that you will cost a one-time fee, usually around $4,000 to $6,000. You may walk around the cemetery and choose the spot. The Funeral Director will likely lead the way and show you your resting place. You may outlive this Funeral Director, but most funeral homes are a family run business, so someone will be handling you. It is the paperwork that is most important.
If you choose to have an open casket where people can come see you and pay their final respects, you must be embalmed or frozen with dry ice to prevent any disease from your blood from spreading. This is mandatory requirement in the United States.
If you choose to be cremated, you will have to choose an urn, and you may still choose a plot or designate a beneficiary or loved one to scatter your ashes wherever you wish. However, do remember though that it is not legal to scatter your ashes in many places, without a permit. Many state parks may or may not allow it, pending the permit. It is also very frowned upon to take someone to the beach and scatter their ashes in front of a hundred people, so you and a loved one will want to discuss and understand the legalities of spreading your ashes.
You will also be able to choose your casket, with many ranging from around $1,800 to $4,000+. Some people like style, but most do not care, as they will be dead anyway, so going with the most affordable option is probably best.
You can also choose to have your Last Rites read to you by a Priest or blessings said by a Rabbi.
There are some funeral homes that allow you to choose music and flowers as well, though sometimes, it is your living loved ones who will do this for you.
There are several signatures to sign and the whole process may take up to an hour. It is highly recommended that you have a loved one with you, such as siblings or your spouse, or those who and going to handle your affairs when you are gone.
This is the LEAST RECOMMENDED option. As I said earlier, this option is for those who think they aren't going to die, and it just happens that millions of people think this way. These are the people who do absolutely nothing, do not believe they are going to die, and leave it to their family to handle all of their affairs. Much of their affairs, particularly when it comes to bank accounts and social media, they go unattended because the family has no idea what exists or does not know the passwords. A death certificate may help but not always.
You can find an endless flow of GoFundMe campaigns for many unexpected and unplanned deaths in which the family had no money and is desperate to figure out how to pay for their loved ones funeral. It is a horrible feeling to know that everyone was left unprepared and is already dealing with the pain of loss and grief of your death.
The best thing you can do is option 1 (get life insurance) or option 2 (prepay for your funeral).
Doing these things will save everyone a lot of time and angst and it will also allow you to have your final wishes met, even if you aren't here to see them.
Get this done as soon as possible. The younger you are, the better, and the easier it will be to pay for it.
Doing nothing is not really an option. Accept that you will die is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
So do not hesitate once you are done reading this, get started on your end-of-life affairs!