What Families Need to Know About Planning a Funeral in Advance


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People often feel nervous and hesitant when others bring up death and dying, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings about death care. While it is important to offer pre-need at your funeral home to better serve your client families, those same families may not always understand some of the topics you’re planning to discuss. Here are a few ways that you can explain some common misconceptions about planning a funeral in advance.

There Are So Many Options

To many client families, funerals are black and white. In their minds, they have a funeral or they are cremated – a mutually exclusive choice that limits the way a loved one is remembered. It’s your job to give your client families all of their options as they consider planning a funeral in advance. Yes, they can be cremated, but even if the final disposition is cremation, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a viewing, visitation or service. It’s up to the funeral professionals to help families make the service meaningful.

“When you ask a family how their grandma’s service went, and they say it was ‘okay’ – that’s not a good thing,” says Adam Strahan, owner of Lumberton Family Funeral Home in Lumberton, TX. “People only have one mother, one father. Most people only ever have one spouse. Our job as funeral professionals is to create an experience for people where they look back and think that we took care of them like they were part of our family.”

Many people who decide to pre-plan their funeral have experienced a loss of their own. In fact, 23% of respondents to a Homesteaders policy owner survey said that the recent death of a friend or family member was a primary motivator for prearranging, according to findings published in Homesteaders’ Pre-need Motivators. Traditional funerals can seem very similar, so families may not realize how many decisions there are to make when someone passes away. Giving examples of all types of funerals you have arranged, from the elaborate to the conservative, will allow your client families to be open minded and creative with their personal funeral plans.

“What we’re seeing more and more in funeral service is that what’s meaningful to everyone is not the same,” says Jason Chambers, president and co-owner of Smith Life and Legacy in Maryville, TN. “What I get pride from is being able to capture a family’s feelings in a short amount of time and then create something for them that exceeds their expectations. We’ve done it all – I’ve had funerals where the decedent’s remains are sitting in their boat, inside the pavilion, with a bonfire burning nearby. It’s all about what will be meaningful for the family.”

It Is Less Stressful – For Everyone

When my grandparents moved back to Iowa from Florida, they, along with my dad, prearranged their funerals to take the burden off their children. My grandpa was a World War Two Veteran, and passed away at the age of 95. It was incredibly important to my dad that he had military honors at his funeral, and that was something that was included in his funeral plan.

When the time arrived for his burial, soldiers from Camp Dodge drove an hour and a half to the cemetery and took care of everything. Even the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post was enlisted to perform the 21-gun salute. The only thing my dad did that day was bring an American flag to the cemetery, which he chose to do himself. The funeral home took care of everything for my family regarding my grandpa’s visitation, burial and military honors, which took an enormous stressor off my dad’s shoulders.

Like my grandparents, many people decide to prearrange their funerals to eliminate emotional and financial burdens from their children. According to the policy owner survey results published in Homesteaders’ Pre-need Motivators, 91% of respondents listed eliminating emotional burdens as “extremely important,” while 89% said eliminating financial burdens was “extremely important.” The day that my grandpa died was terribly stressful and emotional for my entire family, but the prearrangements eliminated the need for any additional stress. Plus, our family was able to grieve instead of dealing with arrangements and payment.

Funds They Set Aside are Not a Funeral Plan

Many people have some funds set aside to help their loved ones cope financially after their death. Most often, these funds are intended to cover everyday expenses, mortgage payments or dependent care. They are generally for living expenses, not funeral expenses. If loved ones are counting on those funds to meet their daily needs, it could be detrimental to any surviving family members if they are used instead for end-of-life expenses. Plus, depending on the type of funds, it could take months for families to see any kind of payment or reimbursement, leaving them temporarily responsible for the cost of funeral services.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial in 2014 was $7,181. That is money that your client families may have to pay out-of-pocket unexpectedly. Pre-planning a funeral can allow client families to fund their arrangements today instead of waiting for the future.

Talking About Death Is Hard, and that’s Okay

Difficulty talking about death could be one of the reasons people choose not to prearrange their funeral. The subject of death and dying can make people uncomfortable, and that’s a societal view that won’t easily be shifted. It may be more effective to approach the subject in a roundabout way. Consider framing your conversation as a celebration of life instead of a discussion about death. Ask your client families what aspects of their lives they don’t want others to forget, or how they would like to be remembered by family members generations from now.

Even if your client family is focusing on the practical aspects of planning a funeral, it may not prevent them from feeling a little sad during the meeting. It’s natural to have a grieving process after preplanning your own funeral. Death is a heavy subject, and some clients will internalize it more than others, especially if they have recently lost a loved one. Homesteaders offers aftercare products that are specific to clients who have prearranged their funeral. You can learn more about these resources by contacting your account executive.

For many people, funeral planning can be a mysterious and uncomfortable topic. But, when you’re able to draw a client family out of their shell, they will find that it’s much easier to talk about and plan. The purpose of prearranged funerals is to benefit client families in the long run. Learn more about how you can start providing pre-need at your funeral home today.

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