What to Do When Your Family Doesn’t Like Your Funeral Plans
Like part of a growing trend of Americans, you’ve pre-arranged your funeral to save your family from heartache after your death. You made the decision between cremation and burial, and set aside the appropriate funds to cover the entire ceremony. Now all that rests between you and completing your advance funeral arrangements is sitting down to inform your family of the details.
While most families appreciate the time, effort, and money that goes into advance funeral planning, this isn’t always the case. If you deviate from tradition or plan for something out of the ordinary, you may find yourself facing a family who not only disagrees with your funeral plans, but who are honestly hurt by the decisions you have made.
Unusual Funeral Plans
The types of funeral plans that most often upset family members include:
- Cremation (where there is a religous or family tradition of burial)
- Burial next to one spouse, when you have had multiple sp0uses
- An unusual custom casket or burial in a prized possession
- Direct burial/cremation (where no funeral service is held)
- Donating your body to science
- Being buried away from the family plot or hometown
- Ash scattering ceremony in a unique location
- Overly ostentatious ceremony
- A “life celebration” gathering instead of a somber chapel service.
As you can tell from the list, what constitutes an “unusual” funeral plan depends on each family. For some, being cremated without any of the trappings is considered shabby, while for others, spending more than a few thousand dollar is considered wasteful. How you approach your family with your wishes, therefore, depends largely on their expectations.
Having the “Funeral Talk”
No matter how you pre-plan your funeral, it’s best to sit down with your family and go over the details well in advance of an impending death. Although there is no law that says you have to discuss your funeral plans, it’s never good to surprise them at a time when they will already be grieving.
1) Bring copies of all the necessary paperwork for your family to keep. This will allow them to find the information when it is needed. Many people mistakenly put their written wishes and funeral insurance policies in a safe deposit box; but family members often don’t open them for weeks or months after a death.
2) Discuss the money aspect of things up front—and be prepared to defend your decisions. Unless you are personally paying for the funeral (or making pre-arrangements for payment), your family isn’t legally obligated to uphold your wishes.
3) Prepare to talk about why your plans matter to you. It’s much easier for family members to accept something out of the ordinary if they understand your reasoning.
4) Put the arrangements into the hand of someone you trust. If you don’t feel that your family will see your wishes through, consider naming a funeral home as the beneficiary and legalizing your plans in a contract. You can also work things out with just one (or a handful of) relatives.
5) Give them time. Thinking about—and talking about—death is a difficult process, especially if this is something they haven’t given much thought to. Outline your funeral plans and give your family a few weeks to let it settle in. Then you can meet up again to go over the details.
You can also sit down with your estate attorney, financial planner, or funeral director to ensure that everything is set up the way you want it to be. The more you expect people to question or disagree with your choices, the more vital it is that you get services in writing and pay for them in advance.