Funeral & Memorial Planning in Your Estate Plan

Not everyone has strong feelings about how their body should be handled after they are gone.  Many people say “I’ll be dead, I don’t care.”  But others feel very strongly about disposition and/or services.  They want their bodies handled in a certain manner and they want a very specific type of service or religious ceremony.  If you are interested in having your body and the service handled in a particular manner then you should incorporate a funeral planning component into your overall estate plan.  Here are some of the decisions that need to be made.  Making these decisions now, while you are alive, leaves very little guess work for your loved ones.

  • Disposition of the body — do you want to be buried or cremated? If you plan to be buried, embalming may be required. This can affect other decisions because most states have a time limit for burial for bodies that are not embalmed.
  • Location of Burial – what cemetery do you want to be buried at? Are other family members buried there? Have you considered buying a plot?  If you are cremated, do you want your ashes divided amongst loved ones or spread out over the ocean?  Have you thought about pre-paying for the boat ride out to sea?
  • Product choices — casket, outer burial container and/or urn must be selected.  For burials you will need to decide on a plot or a vault or mausoleum.
  • Open or closed casket – whatever you decide, clothing, jewelry and any other personal items that will be buried with you must be chosen.
  • Decisions about the service — Religious, military, fraternity, or a wake?   Do you want specific music played? Who will speak at the service? Music, flowers, a registry book, and prayer/memorial cards as well as scriptures, readings or poems must be selected. Photos or a video montage must be gathered. Some people want a Celebration-of-Life-type of party.
  • Choose an officiant – someone must be chosen to officiate the service.

You may have discussed your views on the specifics of your funeral and burial with loved ones, maybe your spouse and children understand your wishes.  The best way to ensure things are handled according to your wishes is to plan them yourself.  The reality is that your loved ones will be under a considerable amount of stress and probably won’t handle decision making well. There is also a very real possibility that loved ones will not agree on the plan for your funeral and burial, creating a conflict that could divide the family and could cause lots of fighting. 

In the event you have no plans at all, a mortuary will be waiting to hear from your next of kin on what to do and your body may sit on ice while they try to come to an agreement.  Who knows how long that could take.

If you wish to discuss memorial and funeral planning in your estate plan, please give our office a call at 818.887.9401