If You Haven’t Thought About Pre-Planning Your Funeral, What Are You Waiting For?

My name is Noah Watry and I’m a licensed funeral director in the state of Wisconsin. I am also licensed in selling pre-need insurance. Pre-need insurance is basically a life insurance policy that covers you for funeral expenses when you do pass. In the state of Wisconsin, you need to be licensed to write up such policies (just as anyone is who sells life insurance). However, I’m not here to “sell” you anything. I’m simply here to educate the general public about the importance having your affairs in order. This is something everyone should either have done by now, or be doing in the near future. Not only planning your funeral, but also making sure the financial aspect is taken care of as well.

With everything going on in today’s world (namely, the coronavirus pandemic and if WWIII is upon us), people are feeling threatened or wondering about life itself. Neighbors, friends, family, athletes, celebrities; no one is immune. One day we’re being told about limiting gatherings to fifty people, the next day we’re being told to quarantine ourselves inside our home. By staying home, we’re protecting everyone by not coming into contact with them, and not spreading the virus (if we do indeed have it). Makes sense.

That also gives people a lot of free time on their hands. More free time equals more time to think. More time to think equals more plans. And as I touched on earlier, we can see that no one is immune to contracting this virus, or in a general sense, passing away. Therefore, why not act on what is happening and put those plans into place. It’s the least you could do, should something happen to you. This isn’t a scare tactic about the coronavirus, or an accident happening or passing away unexpectedly; it’s about something else now driving the point home that our time on this earth is limited.

The hardest step in doing anything is the first one. No one likes to talk about their mortality, much less even think about it, but it is our reality. Every one of us will pass from this world at some point. Why not make things easier for your loved ones that you will leave behind? Why not give yourself peace of mind beforehand? Planning your own funeral may seem morbid, but it’s really a painless process and let’s you have more control then you think. This is your chance to let it be known what your final wishes are.

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Image and statistic provided by the NFDA

The first thing to decide on is what type of services you would like done. Would you like to go the traditional route, by virtue of being laid out in a casket for a viewing and visitation, followed by a funeral service and then burial in a cemetery? Perhaps you would prefer being cremated, with your cremated remains being scattered at a favorite spot, buried in the ground, placed into a niche or even placed into an urn and brought back home, with a loved one being able to have you close to their heart. A lot of people are also unaware that you can have both! That is correct, you may also be laid out in a casket, to be viewed by family and friends, with cremation to follow afterward. As you can see, the first step is always the hardest. There are many options to choose from. This is a difficult decision, I will admit. Even I have gone back and forth on my wishes. As the world and our beliefs change, so do our final wishes. This is also why it’s important to update those wishes as your beliefs change.

Let’s say you decide on the traditional route. Therefore, having a funeral inside a church or funeral home chapel are options for you. Choosing a cemetery is up to you, as there are many in the state. After choosing the cemetery, would you prefer in-ground burial or inside a crypt? Perhaps an outdoor mausoleum? Maybe you have a hometown cemetery, or there is a loved one buried already at another. Be sure to check with each cemetery you are interested in though, as some cemeteries are connected with a church and with those, you must be a member of said church. It all depends. Again, options.

Going with cremation allows you to have even more freedom. As mentioned earlier, you could have your cremated remains scattered, placed into an urn to take home, have the urn buried or placed into a niche inside a cemetery columbarium. Maybe there are quite a few children or grandchildren that would like to bring the cremated remains home with them; the remains can then be split up evenly among themselves. You can even turn cremated remains into jewelry or art pieces. Technology, am I right?

Outside of deciding what type of service you would like, there are other options to go over as well. Would you like a newspaper notice run? Maybe you would prefer the local paper but also a paper in another state that you were born and raised in. That can be done. Would you like flowers present for the funeral? This is the time to select exactly what you like. Do you prefer red roses over white roses? Maybe you really don’t like carnations, OK, no carnations. Memorial cards? Guest sign-in book? Certain songs to be played at various points of the funeral? Would you prefer the family priest to officiate the service or have friends and family share their memories? Maybe you even have a collection of something dear to you that you would like to be displayed and talked about. I’ve had some people even pick out their clothing ahead of time.

Now, imagine you suddenly pass away and leave your family to make these decisions. Imagine you have passed away without deciding any of this. Suddenly, your family is left planning your funeral. Would they know what you would like? Do they know where you would like to be buried? Do you have a plot already in place? Do they know if you even want to be buried, that maybe you prefer cremation? Would they be able to pick out your favorite prayer for memorial cards or what type of flowers you enjoy? Now, imagine them going through all of this with me, the funeral director, and then also having to come up with the money to pay for the funeral. As if they aren’t grieving enough already, now they have to plan out a funeral and make sure everything is taken care of financially. And it’s not just the funeral, maybe you have other things that need to be tended to monetary-wise.

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Picture courtesy of VectorStock

This is exactly why pre-planning takes care of everything I just covered. All of this can be done by visiting with a funeral director. You can call and set up a date and time to meet, and then go over everything at your leisure. You don’t even have to put aside any money if you don’t want to. As I stated earlier, it’s not always about money (which is a nice fall back though). At the very least, getting your wishes put on file can be done for free. Setting money aside is up to you. Certainly, it helps to have things selected ahead of time and paid for, to save your family from going through such things. They may have a tough enough time as it is with your death, but to ease some of that burden by letting the funeral home know or having some paperwork set aside helps everyone out.

This is not something to be taken lightly, but rather, carefully. Pre-planning your funeral is something to ease everyone’s concerns when the time comes. Just as you would plan out your previous moments in life (college, career, wedding, children), wouldn’t you like to plan out your final one? And yes, I understand not all of those moments were planed, but how did you feel when they were first sprung on you, un-planned? Most likely a nervous wreck. All you have to do, is take that first step. I’ll be here, for you and your family, every step of the way after that.


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