Recently, my father passed away one week shy of his 99th birthday. Right up until his short hospital stay, he was living on his own, keeping his own yard, driving and coming into the office every day. As I reflect on my best friend, I realize just how lucky I was to have him for so long and, thankfully, in great health. If you were to divide people into ‘givers’ and ‘takers’, he was definitely a giver…always visiting elderly friends and staying connected with younger folks he knew as well as family. As a life insurance professional, he was still helping his clients right up to the week he entered the hospital. At our office, he would come through with ‘the question of the day’…a financial topic he wanted to learn more about from one or several of our advisors. He never quit seeking knowledge.
When my mother died five years ago, he made all of her funeral arrangements and then he did something that I thought was unusual. He went ahead and pre-arranged and prepaid for his own funeral. I remember thinking this was not a good idea…my financial mind thinking about time-value of money and allowing the funeral company the use of his money for what I hoped would be many years.
When he died, I realized that he was the smart one. This ‘giver’ had provided my family and me one final act of grace. Only those who have lost someone close to them can understand the vacillating range of emotions you experience. In dad’s case, I was able to pick up the phone and call my friend, Mayor Scott McBrayer, who, in addition to being Mayor of the City of Homewood, is the head of Ridout’s Valley Chapel Funeral home, and have him tell me, “Stewart, everything is taken care of.” The staff at Ridout’s did a wonderful job with every detail and made this time of both sadness and joy a wonderful experience. I cannot describe what a personal relief this was for me. Planning a funeral involves a complex set of decisions that are best made when you are not under emotional duress.
One of my biggest concerns with prepaying funeral expenses was that the person might move to another town or state and lose their prepaid expense money. Mayor Scott McBrayer set me straight. “We live in such a transient society so one of the great advantages to prepaying funeral expenses with us is National Transferability. We have well over 2000 Dignity Memorial Providers across the United States who will honor the prearrangements.”
I’m now a believer in prepaying funeral expenses even for folks who are much younger than my father. An alternative to prepaying for your funeral is to ‘pre-plan’ your funeral. By this I mean going ahead and making all of the decisions that someone else would have to make at your death. This is a process that we go through for our Wealth Management clients using a couple of forms:
- Authorizing Agent Affidavit form– This form allows you to designate someone as your agent for handling the disposition of your remains (i.e. all funeral arrangements). It is similar to a power-of-attorney for financial matters. It prevents having multiple family members giving conflicting instructions to the funeral service provider. This document must be witnessed and stamped by a Notary Public.
- Last Wishes & Memorial Planning form– This form allows you to provide the details of your wishes at your death. Don’t be surprised if you find making these decisions for your own funeral a bit daunting. Press on and imagine how much more challenging it will be for a loved one to make these decisions under emotional duress.
In an effort to be more like my father, the giver, I’ve put these forms in a free package available at our website:
If you’ll take the time to complete these forms I believe it’ll give you a peace of mind and be a blessing to your family. Be sure to give a copy to your ‘agent’ and any family members you feel are appropriate.