While thinking about your own funeral may not be pleasant, making arrangements in advance yourself may be one of the most thoughtful acts you can do for your loved ones. When you include funeral planning as part of your estate plan, you can spare your grieving loved ones from having to make hasty arrangements during an already emotional and stressful time. A Remembrance and Services Memorandum will allow you to specify who should be notified of your death, provide personal information that should be mentioned in your service or obituary, indicate how your remains should be handled, and describe your wishes for your memorial service or funeral. You may also consider prepaying for your funeral expenses.
Why Does It Need to Be Written Down?
Many families avoid conversations about death. While your family may have a general idea about whether you want a funeral or memorial service, what kind of service you want, whether you want a burial or cremation, or other information related to your funeral, there is a good chance they do not know what your specific wishes are. In addition to creating an additional burden for your loved ones during a stressful time, the failure to leave written instructions may allow for conflict between grieving family members who may have differing points of view about your memorial service and the disposition of your remains.
Michigan allows you to appoint a Funeral Representative and to direct them to follow your expressed wishes, either written or oral, regarding your funeral and burial or cremation arrangements. Without the designation of a Funeral Representative, Michigan, and many other states, directs that decisions may be made on your behalf by certain family members who survive you. The order of who would be authorized is as follows:
- Other family as named in the laws of intestate succession
- Court-appointed public administrator
If you are estranged from the person designated by state law, or if you have children who disagree about how your service should be handled, or if some family members are located out of state, disputes could end up in court or logistics could be problematic, creating unnecessary problems after you pass away that can be avoided.
Also, even close family members may have values or religious convictions that are very different from your own. Executing a Funeral Representative Designation and providing a Remembrance and Services Memorandum can help ensure that your family members will not have to guess about what you want, avoiding this extra burden at a difficult time.
Why Shouldn’t I Just Include It in My Will or Trust?
Memorial or funeral services typically occur within a few days of a person’s passing. Your will or trust may not be accessed or read until some time after your death. Time sensitive matters of your funeral or memorial service and the disposition of your remains are better handled outside the will or trust. The Remembrance and Services Memorandum you prepare can be provided in advance to your attorney, the personal representative of your will, or the trustee of your trust, with additional copies provided to your family members. Confusion and disagreements between survivors can be avoided, preventing someone from alleging that you expressed other wishes elsewhere or verbally.
Should I Prepay for My Funeral?
Funerals and related arrangements can be shockingly expensive. Prepaying for your service is an option that you can consider to help your grieving loved ones avoid incurring significant debt. Also, if you prepay for your funeral arrangements, you can carefully compare options just as you would when making other large purchases, without any time constraints. If your loved ones are left to make these arrangements, they may be required to make rushed decsions without time to consider the cost or may make an emotion-based decision to spend a large amount of money as a means of honoring you. Prepaying allows you to pay for the arrangements at their current prices, which may represent a substantial savings if you pass away many years in the future. Planning in advance can also ensure that you can obtain a cemetery plot or mausoleum of your choice, rather than leaving family members to hurriedly select a site that they may not have time to visit in advance.
If you decide to prepay for your funeral and burial or cremation, be careful to deal with reputable providers. Check to see if the plan can be used in another state if you were to move. Look for plans that are backed by insurance in case your funeral provider were to close or mishandle your funds. Don’t prepay for arrangements if you are concerned about needing the funds you would use for your future living expenses or emergencies.
Note: The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule guarantees certain rights to consumers. For example, consumers have the right to choose only goods and services they want rather than a package, to be given written or verbal price lists for items and services offered by funeral providers, to be provided itemized statements showing what they are purchasing and the price of each item or service, and to have the right to use a casket or urn purchased from a vendor other than their funeral provider.
Give Us a Call
Making arrangements for the disposition of your remains and your memorial service in advance can provide peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. We can help you memorialize your wishes in writing or update any pre-existing arrangements. Contact us today to set up a meeting. We are available for both virtual and in-person meetings.