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Handbook for Mortals : Questions About Funerals

What is the value of advance planning?

The family will need to make decisions quickly about caskets, location of burial, services, announcements, and so on. Many have pointed out that the period just after a death is not a good time to be negotiating costly items. It is all too easy to spend more than is really warranted by family or patient preferences. There are now federal and state regulations which generally require that funeral home directors give customers notice about the costs of services, about which services are actually legally required, and about the full range of casket prices. Finding a funeral home director who is both reasonable and kind is well worth some time, as that person can make the first week or two after death so much easier on the survivors. Some people will have joined a memorial society, a private association which helps members with low-cost funerals and memorials. Also, remember that Social Security, veterans' benefits, and other benefits may be available to help with funeral costs.

So many families are overwhelmed with the number of issues that arise just after death. Their experience leads to a call to consider these issues ahead whenever possible. It may seem terribly uncomfortable to be arranging a funeral while the person is still alive. However, this is becoming the usual way that families proceed, and it certainly helps ensure that prudent choices are made and that the family has fewer serious disruptions in the emotionally difficult times just after death.


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