Editor’s note — This article is the second in a series concerning what people can do to prepare themselves for the end of their lives.
What will your funeral be like? While you may have an idea of what you would like said and done, communicating those wishes and planning out all the details can be uncomfortable and emotional.
"Planning for your own death is just not a pleasant subject. It's not something everybody wants to think about or deal with," said Kevin Stockham, co-owner of Stockham Family Funeral Home.
According to a survey done by the AARP, around 34 percent of people over 50 years old have preplanned their funerals, with women being twice as likely to have plans as men.
"People who preplan typically spend less money because they're not caught up in their emotions in the death that's happened," Stockham said.
Noting your wishes about your funeral service gives you the opportunity to specify what details are most important to you.
"People want to make sure their wishes are carried out, and it's important to them that there are instructions out there for somebody to follow," Stockham said.
Some people give verbal instructions to loved ones before they die, but that is not always the case, and if different people are told different things at different times, it can cause confusion for family members.
"They have to think and decide for themselves what the best thing is and hope they make the right decision," Stockham said. "That can be a major issue in a big family or a blended family. It can really alleviate some arguments if they have instructions on file."
Individuals often start preplanning their funerals when they reach retirement age or have a health issue, but those plans can be made before then.
"Most funeral homes charge nothing for that," Stockham said. "They'll sit down with you for an hour or two hours, three hours, whatever it takes, to create that file of instructions."
Funeral plan details can also be changed at any time.
"Nothing's really set in stone," Stockham said. "People come in and update their plans all the time."
You can leave instructions about what kind of service you want, if you would like to be buried or cremated, where you would like your remains to reside and even get help writing your obituary.
"It can be real detailed or it can be real basic," Stockham said. "Some people want to just hit the high points and some people want everything spelled out to the last detail."
You can note who you want to serve as casket bearers, what songs should be sung and who should receive memorial gifts. It is inadvisable to put funeral plans in your will.
"Sometimes wills are not read until several days or weeks after a person has passed away," Stockham explained.
By the same token, funeral plans should not be kept in a safe deposit box.
"I've had a few instances where those people were the only one authorized to get into their own box — no one else could access the box," Stockham said. "I always tell people to keep a copy in their house, somewhere other people can find it."
You can also opt to prepay for your funeral.
"If you choose to pay for your services in advance, that's a separate piece," Stockham said. "The two can go together, of course, but they can be independent of each other."
Preplanning gives you the chance to compare prices between funeral homes, some of which have prepay plans that guarantee services at the current price, no matter how many years later you pass on.
"Whatever you pay that day is all you're going to pay," Stockham said. "That's a way to save some money, because things go up over time, and I can guarantee you that what you preplan today is going to go up in five years."
Kansas laws prevent funeral homes from using money prepaid for funerals for other purposes, and dictates that it must be held by a third party, such as a bank or insurance company. Those funds are also excluded when a person applies for Medicaid benefits.
"When the money's handled in that manner, there's pretty much zero chance that something's going to happen to your money," Stockham said.
If you move out of town or out of state, your funeral plan can move with you.
"With prepaid funeral plans, they can even be transferred to another funeral home," Stockham said. "They're portable so you're not stuck using a funeral home in a town where you no longer live."
With plans for your funeral set, your loved ones are relieved of making multiple decisions at an emotional time without knowing your wishes.
"A lot of families have been so relieved about that — knowing that it's all done, sometimes that it's even all paid for," Stockham said. "I get so many families come in whose loved ones have taken the time to preplan who will tell me, 'this is the best thing that mom and dad could have done for me.'"