How to Plan Your Funeral in Advance

No one likes to think about his or her own funeral, but it’s something everyone will need. You can let your family and friends concentrate on mourning by making your own arrangements and last wishes known. Advance arrangements are called “pre-need funeral planning.”

Pre-need planning enables you to make such choices as whether you want a burial in the ground, entombment in a mausoleum or a cremation. Do you prefer a formal, religious funeral or a simple memorial service? What clothing and jewelry do you want to be buried with? What music would you like to be played at your service? Maybe you want a simple graveside ceremony, or your ashes scattered someplace meaningful. Preplanning also means you can decide who is in charge of the decisions you don’t make.

Some pre-need arrangements include prepayment. Generally, there are two options for prepaid plans: guaranteed and non-guaranteed. If you go the guaranteed plans route, you lock in prices when you buy the plan, even if they keep rising over the years. Non-guaranteed plans mean no locked prices, but the money you put toward your arrangements grows over time through interest. The money is held by a third-party company in a trust or life insurance policy even though the prearrangement plans are made through a funeral home. As the name implies, the proceeds may or may not cover the funeral charges at the time of your death. If you’re facing a Medicaid drawdown due to nursing home costs, you can shelter some of your money with a pre-need plan purchase of either type.

Prepaying offers multiple advantages.

The money you’re prepaying can be used for your coffin, embalming, chapel, dressing and casketing, floral arrangements, stationery, staff for services and the basic service fee. You also can pre-pay cemetery expenses such as the headstone, opening and closing, and vault.

If you are the survivor of someone who has prepaid for a funeral, you’ll find out at the time of his or her death what kind of plan was purchased and what still needs to be bought. Don’t fret if the funeral home goes out of business — the prepayment is held by a third party, so it will still be there and available.

Pre-need contracts are portable, so aspects of arrangements can be changed. Plans can be canceled, and money refunded. It is important to read the fine print of any contract, especially the terms relating to cancellation. Another factor to consider is the transfer of the pre-need contract from one funeral home to another. There are possible transfer fees, paid from the funds on account, which will decrease the amount available to the transferee funeral home. If you unexpectedly die away from home, your family may end up paying for you to be quickly cremated out of town.

It’s often a good idea to buy your burial plot or niche in a mausoleum ahead of time because land only rises in cost through the years. But know, too, that you can save money for your funeral in a savings account. The savings account may not be an exempt asset if someone is also considering an application for Medicaid. The proper way to pay for a funeral in advance can be discussed with an estate planning attorney, or the funeral home administrator.

In this age of Covid-19, note that FEMA has set aside an enormous fund to assist families whose loved one have died of Covid. The requirements of proving this are rather simple, and the funds available are usually sufficient to cover most of the normal costs of burial.

Finally, don’t keep it a secret that you’ve prepaid for arrangements. Make things easier on your family and get the send-off you want by planning your own funeral. Funeral planning is a conversation you can have with your loved ones, laying out your wishes and knowing that it’s an opportunity to say goodbye your way. And be sure to consult with your attorney to make sure your financial details are properly taken care of.

Do you have questions?

You can count on Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance and experience in these uncertain times. For assistance with your legal needs, please contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at

white flowers on funeral casket