5 Unexpected Ways Advance Funeral Planning Can Help Families

As a funeral professional, what do you say when someone asks why they should consider prearranging? It’s easy to explain the basic, practical benefits – anyone who has been involved in planning a funeral for a loved one has experienced the many decisions that need to be made, often in a short time and under stressful circumstances. With a prearranged funeral, most of those details have already been accounted for.

While it’s important to share the basic benefits of prearranging, it can be helpful to take a closer look and consider other – sometimes unexpected – ways advance funeral planning can be beneficial for both the client families and the funeral professionals who serve them. These may be among the many contributing factors which, as demonstrated in our recent research,* make preneed a highly valued service for policy owners and funeral professionals.

Reducing uncertainty

Planning a funeral for a loved one is a huge responsibility. Family members who are facing this task may find themselves unsure of which options will truly help them honor and remember their loved ones. When a funeral is planned in advance, the selections have already been made – often by the very person the service will honor.

Knowing these tasks are complete can take a tremendous emotional burden off the surviving family members. In fact, this is one of the most important reasons why people decide to make advance funeral plans. Most preneed policy owners we surveyed (91%) indicated that eliminating emotional burdens from their children was an “extremely important” factor in their decision to prearrange. In addition, 83% of respondents reported that eliminating the emotional burden from their spouse was an “extremely important” factor in their decision to prearrange.

The reduction in uncertainty can be beneficial for funeral directors as well, helping you to focus on ensuring a high-quality experience for the family. The results of our 2017 survey of Homesteaders funeral home customers reinforce this value. We requested that respondents compare the experience of making at-need arrangements when a prearrangement exists and when it doesn’t. Most funeral directors (88%) responded that the experience was at least somewhat better when a prearrangement exists.

Avoiding family conflicts

An unfortunate potential effect of uncertainty is that it can cause conflict among the family members. During this time, which may also be accompanied by emotional stress, family members may be prone to arguments about the details of the funeral plans.

Advance funeral planning can significantly reduce the potential for conflict among surviving family members regarding their loved one’s arrangements. When asked how families usually feel about the prearranged funeral selections chosen by their loved one, 89% of funeral directors we surveyed said the family usually “finds [the] arrangements completely acceptable.” Imagine how smoothly the services could go if instead of focusing on managing family members’ conflicting expectations, funeral professionals could spend their time on creating a meaningful experience.

Starting important conversations

It’s not enjoyable to think about one’s own death, or about the death of a loved one. But avoiding conversations about this topic can lead to stressful situations in the future – issues that could be prevented by having straightforward discussions about memorialization and end-of-life matters.

Prearranging can open up the door for those conversations by providing a concrete action plan for a person’s memorialization wishes. After the advance funeral plans are in place, an individual can share with their family members that they have already taken care of the funeral service arrangements. This can create opportunities to discuss other important topics that will help prepare families for what they can expect at the time of need. When asked how emotionally prepared families are to have the at-need arrangement conversation, 99% of funeral director respondents said families were at least “slightly” prepared, and most (78%) were “fairly well” prepared.

Making their own decisions

The most impactful funerals are customized to fit the life of the person they’re intended to honor. They tell a person’s story in a way that helps bring their loved ones together to remember all of the incredible memories they shared.

Advance funeral planning allows individuals to help arrange for this experience themselves, when they have time to consider all the elements they want to include. The policy owners we surveyed indicated this was a key factor in why they made funeral plans in advance: 83% responded that “choosing [the] arrangements I wanted” was an “extremely important” part of their decision to prearrange.

Achieving peace of mind

The death of a loved one is an emotional experience and sometimes brings up thoughts of one’s own mortality. According to our policy owner survey, one of the top reasons prearrangers decided to make advance funeral plans when they did was because of the recent death of a family member or friend. (This was also one of the top factors mentioned by funeral directors when they responded to a similar survey question about the reasons why people decide to prearrange when they do.)

Knowing that these plans have been taken care of can offer tremendous peace of mind for the people who prearrange, and may be one of many factors that contribute to the high levels of satisfaction that individuals report after their plans are in place. All of the policy owners we surveyed indicated some level of satisfaction with their decision to prearrange, with 96% responding that they are “very” or “completely” satisfied. Further reinforcing their satisfaction is their high likelihood to recommend prearranging to someone else: 96% of policy owners indicated they would at least consider recommending prearranging, and a further 42% had already recommended it.

The bottom line is that there are many factors that contribute to a person’s decision to prearrange, and to his or her satisfaction after the plans are in place. It’s important to share, discuss and consider all of these elements with families who can benefit from the advantages that advance funeral planning can provide for them, and that also allow you to offer the best possible experience with your firm.

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* Sources:
Survey responses from 1,095 Homesteaders policy owners who prearranged and prefunded during May 2017.
Survey responses from 161 funeral home customers whose firms had written at least one policy with Homesteaders between January and May of 2017.

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