Resources for families

Talking with Your Family about Final Arrangements

By Emma Grace Brown

Having a serious conversation with your family about long-term care, end-of-life arrangements and how you plan to pay for these expenses isn’t easy, but it’s certainly necessary. In particular, discussing end-of-life care is paramount. If you don’t make your wishes known and come up with an effective way to pay for any custodial care you may need, there is a good chance your family is unable to provide for the services you desire.

Once your plans are established, you can implement legal means of giving your family the necessary authority to act on your behalf in the case you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. These legal measures include things like an established power of attorney, living will and Social Security representation.

When planning your memorial services, there are a lot of decisions to make. Your burial or cremation can be a part of your funeral service or you can wait and have your memorial graveside. You can have a memorial service outdoors, in a place of worship, or in the comfort of your own home. Your memorial can involve a host of supplemental services including a viewing, wake, or visitation. Finally, your services should have personal touches that allow your loved ones to feel close to you. These touches can be everything from the locations where services are held to passages family members will read and the songs or hymns that you want played. If you have an extended social circle beyond your family, it may also help to come up with a list of those you would like notified at your time of passing and their current contact information.

Paying for Final Expenses

The high costs of final expenses can be a huge stressor for people who are already grieving. Making sure you have measures in order that will help cover these expenses is the best gift you can leave behind for your loved ones. An easy way to do this is by investing in a life insurance product that also comes with death benefits. A death benefit — sometimes referred to as “burial insurance” or “funeral insurance”– provides your family with tax-free funds that they can pay for your final expenses including funeral costs, hospital and doctor bills, as well as estate settlement costs.

When it comes to paying for a funeral, other options you have available include:

  • Purchasing an irrevocable funeral trust from the funeral home you wish to use.
  • A Totten trust is payable to your beneficiary without going through probate.
  • If you have the cash to pay for funeral expenses, you can deposit funds in a joint bank, savings and loan or credit union with your beneficiary.

Alternative Burial Methods

While in the United States many people consider embalming the body before burial the norm, the practice did not become popular until the Civil War when coroners needed ways to get troops’ bodies back to their homes. Today we know that this “traditional” means of burial is causing serious harm to the planet. As the body decomposes — slowly, but surely — the toxic chemicals in embalming fluid seep into our soil and eventually make their way into our water table.

The futile nature of preserving a dead body combined with its environmental impact has led to many people considering alternative burial methods. There is always the tried and true method of cremation, but there are new ways people are dealing with the ashes including biodegradable urns that allow your body to contribute to the growth of a tree long after you’re gone. There are even companies that will turn a loved one’s ashes into artificial coral reef, gemstones and glass art.

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Talking with your family about end-of-life arrangements is a necessary and difficult conversation. When talking about this, it’s not just about what you want at your funeral. You also need to discuss what kind of long-term or custodial care you want in case you need it and how you will pay for these expenses. Whatever your choices are, communicating them to your family is important.

Hospice Chaplaincy is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting excellence in spiritual care at the end of life. We are committed to the belief that people from all backgrounds, cultures and faith traditions should experience the end of life in a way that matches their own spiritual/religious values and goals. The task of dying is complicated and often confronts us with lots of spiritual, emotional and physical suffering. Hospice Chaplaincy is dedicated to providing support and professional development resources for hospice chaplains, patient advocacy, and education services to the public, to create a cultural shift to inform and transform our thinking around the psychosocial and psychospiritual issues at the end of life .

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