When someone passes away, their executor – usually their surviving spouse or child – must make funeral arrangements. This includes decisions around transporting the body, choosing a funeral home, arranging for a casket or cremation, and choosing a burial site. Importantly, they need to pay for each of these services along the way. This can be time consuming and stressful – all at a point when loved ones are already overwhelmed with grief.

Prepaid funerals, if purchased correctly, can help mitigate this burden. You pay up front, either in a lump sum or through a payment plan. Upon your passing, your family can contact the funeral company, who will take care of next steps.

Not all prepaid funeral arrangements are the same. Some options that seem to be good end up being bad decisions. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating prepaid funeral options.

  • How long has the funeral company been in business? What’s their financial condition? You don’t want to put money into a company that may not be around when you need it. Some companies may let you see their financials.
  • Will the funeral company refund all or part of your payment if you change your mind? If so, what period do you have to make this change? Life changes, so knowing whether you can get all or part of your money back is important.
  • What services does it include? If you want the funeral company to make all arrangements regarding your body and the funeral, make sure they cover these services.
  • What are they doing with your payment? Are they buying life insurance? Similar to asking about their finances, it’s important to know how the funeral company handles their resources. This often impacts their costs.
  • Will you be moving to a new location, or are you simply uncertain about prepaying for a funeral? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then a prepaid funeral might not be the best option for you.

After completing your estate plan, such as your last will and testament, you should write a letter of final instruction for your executor to ensure that your estate planning documents can be found. This letter helps ensure your last wishes are fulfilled to the letter. You should also write a last wishes letter to accompany the letter of final instruction to specifically address funeral preferences and other final arrangements.

Here are some important things to consider and outline in a last wishes letter to your loved ones.

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated? Depending on the answer, let them know if you’ve selected a burial plot in a cemetery or a place you want to be cremated. Also, let them know if you want anything specific on your headstone.
  • Do you want a funeral or a memorial? If you have a preference, especially around where you’d like to have these services, make sure to provide details.

What’s important is that regardless of what you decide to do, communicating your plans to your loved ones is key to fulfilling your wishes and to lessening the burden on them after you pass.