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September 2, 2017

The “F” word no one wants to talk about

by Erika Fettner
Funerals: the topic no one wants to discuss. Unless you figure out a way to avoid this altogether, it will eventually happen, and if you discovered a way to avoid this, please email me immediately!

Funeral home with plenty of different coffins

It’s interesting that we plan for everything else in life and won’t plan for the last piece of it.

Without planning, emotional family members, for lack of knowing any better, may end up at a place that runs on commission. In doing so, they can count on spending thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs. Wouldn’t it be better to discuss it once, be prepared, and not bring it up again? When I started researching this topic, I tried to talk to my youngest daughter about it. She got up and walked out of the room, stating that her sisters could handle it and we weren’t to talk about it again.

There are many options available to you, even one that’s free.

The three basic options are cremation, burial or donation. I will start with the least expensive option: body donation. This means that your body will be used for medical research. Only certain tissue samples will be taken, not the whole body. They will then cremate the remainder of the body for free, and return the ashes to the family in 3 to 5 weeks.

Another inexpensive option is basic cremation.

Prices on cremation start around $700 and go up from there, depending on the funeral home and what you would like done with the ashes. They can be scattered at sea, put in an urn, or split up amongst multiple urns; one for each family member. You can also have them interred in a grave or mausoleum for a larger cost.

The third and most expensive option we’ll explore is burial.

Lots of decisions need to be made in this area. Will there be a viewing? If so, you’ll need to account for the extra expense of embalming. You’ll also need to factor the cost of a casket – which can be purchased at various locations (even Costco!). Casket prices start around $1,300 at Costco, but it may be more difficult to work with the funeral homes if you do not purchase in-house.  The funeral homes I visited had caskets ranging from $695 to $8,000. Again, if you end up at one of the big “chain” funeral homes, you could pay a lot more.

Then there is the cost of the headstone or grave marker, which depends on the material, size, and intricacy. Finally, the priciest part of all is the cemetery plot. Once more, depending on the cemetery, the price varies greatly. I found one for $2,280 and another for $4,500. There are also charges for opening and closing the graves (and charges down the road if you will be utilizing a burial plot for a couple; the grave will need to be opened again to allow the second member of the family to be buried).

On top of the three basic options, there are other associated costs that can add up to a significant amount.

Flowers, clergy, obituaries, death certificates, viewing costs, and transportation are some of many items that can increase the price of a funeral. Right now, you can go to a funeral home and buy an insurance policy or trust and pre-pay for the services you would like to have. This also locks in the cost at today’s prices and you will not need additional funds in the future. We plan for other important life events like weddings, vacations, and college, why not this? It could be something your family will really thank you for, even though you may not get to hear it.

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