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Published: August 4, 2020

Talking with your parents about preplanning their funeral is important. Not only will it help them plan for the inevitable but it can also help the whole family by alleviating the stress of not leaving everything to the last minute, so to speak.

Start the conversation with your parents while they are still healthy. Let them know that you want to understand their wishes now so you can best plan for later.

Begin by asking questions.

Do they wish to be buried or cremated? Do they want a memorial service? A wood or metal casket?

Knowing the answers to these questions can eliminate the confusion that often occurs when there is no plan in place. It also puts your parents in control. They can discuss the type of services they want or don’t want so that there is no guessing for those they leave behind.

We offer a free, online funeral builder that can help guide you through the questions you will need to ask. The builder provides tool tips along with all of the questions, so you can educate yourself and your parents on the different funeral options.

Involve your entire family.

Be sure to include all of your siblings in the conversation. Having everyone understand your parents’ wishes ahead of time will avoid disagreements that could derail the planning later on. There is nothing more disconcerting than having an argument with your sisters about funeral options on the front steps of the funeral home.

If your parents prefer to put only one person in charge of their funeral arrangements, you should recommend meeting with an attorney to get that preference included in their will(s). Otherwise, the next-of-kin as outlined in New Jersey’s Right to Control Law (N.J.S.A. 45:27-22) will all have a say.

Discuss finances.

Preplanning a funeral also allows your parents the option to put money aside to cover the costs of the funeral. Prefunding a funeral, in whatever amount, will be crucial if the time comes when either of your parents has to apply for Medicaid or another form of public assistance. In New Jersey, moneys designated toward a prepaid funeral are considered an excludable resource for Medicaid and will not jeopardize eligibility.

Setting money aside can also help avoid a financial struggle at a time when you are grieving. It takes care of that burden in advance. Encourage your parents to meet with funeral homes nearby to discuss all the options available to them. Ask about things like prepaid funeral trusts that earn interest, life insurance assignments and funeral insurance to find the best planning options.

Address any concerns.

Your parents may be hesitant to preplan because they don’t know where they will be when one of them dies. They may have plans to retire in another state and think that a funeral prearrangement in New Jersey wouldn’t be beneficial.

When discussing your prefunding options with a funeral director, ask whether or not the moneys are revocable and portable to another state. For example, we use the New Jersey Prepaid Funeral Trust Fund which allows you to use trusted moneys to fund a funeral in any state. You can even make changes if you wish. You are not locked into anything.

Be Patient.

As difficult as it is for you to approach your parents about this topic, it’s even harder for them. No one wants to think about planning for the end of their life. Be prepared that your parents may not be receptive the first time you broach the subject. That’s normal. What’s important is that you keep trying, and that you handle the conversation with compassion. Let your parents know that making these decisions now will help you navigate their funeral later as well as provide comfort to them, knowing that the funeral that is right for the entire family is in place.  

Published with permission from FuneralMatters.com

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