Pre-Need and Pre-Paid Final Arrangements: Plan Ahead and Avoid a Nightmare Scenario

Losing someone you love is hard enough. Not having the money to pay for the final arrangements can make it a whole lot worse. The worst moments in your family’s life do not have to lead to a nightmare scenario. Read on…

Pre-Need and Pre-Paid Final Arrangements: Plan Ahead and Avoid a Nightmare Scenario

Planning and paying in advance can give you peace of mind that you can afford the most meaningful final arrangements that your loved one deserves. Planning ahead can ensure that his/her end-of-life wishes are carried out and fulfilled.

Most People Are Unprepared for the Loss of Their Loved Ones and Final Expenses Usually Put a Heavy Financial Burden On Their Entire Family

Not having any means of paying for final expenses can put a heavy financial burden on your entire family. Some people cover the unexpected funeral and burial costs by using their credit cards, getting a loan, borrowing from their retirement savings or selling their most precious belongings.

Planning ahead makes a lot of sense for everyone, especially for people with health issues as well as people that families depend on, such as, parents and caregivers.

Everyone deserves to have their final wishes for end-of-life care respected.

Instead of guessing about what your loved ones want, it’s necessary to have discussions that can give you a better understanding of what matters most to them. By having these discussions, you can help them create a plan for final arrangements that reflects their values, beliefs and wishes.

Discussing funeral planning and other sensitive aspects of final arrangements is difficult for most people, but it needs to be done. It can help ease the emotional and financial burden for your entire family. It can help you avoid suddenly needing to plan a funeral for one of your loved ones during the most difficult time in your life… when you’re dealing with overwhelming grief.

What can make matters worse is that your family may not be financially prepared to pay for the unexpected funeral and burial costs.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the cost of the average funeral is over $10,000.

However, Social Security only pays a lump sum death benefit of $255 to the surviving spouse. The Veterans Administration (VA) pays the surviving spouse of a veteran a death benefit of about $450-$800. Even if your family qualifies to get the death benefits from Social Security and/or the VA, the money will not be enough to pay for your loved one’s funeral cost and other final expenses.

What Happens When Families Do Not Have the Upfront Cash to Pay for the Final Expenses? Avoid This Nightmare Scenario…

What Happens When Families Do Not Have the Upfront Cash to Pay for the Final Expenses? Avoid This Nightmare Scenario…

Funeral homes usually require payment upfront before services are rendered. For families that do not have the upfront cash to pay for them, they’re not allowed to have their deceased loved ones transferred from the hospital to the funeral home. Instead, they are required to “warehouse” their dearly departed in the hospital morgue or an obscure holding facility until the grieving family can raise the required payment.

This happened to friends of mine in 2011. They were financially unprepared for the unexpected passing of their beloved brother. Why? He was just in his 40’s and was doing well in spite of some health issues.

He used to be the one that provided the main source of income for their family. After he suddenly passed away, he was taken to the hospital and he stayed at the morgue for about a month until they raised enough funds to pay the funeral home for his burial.


Lately, hospital morgues have been overwhelmed with too many deaths (fatal drug overdoses related to the opioid epidemic and other health crisis are contributing factors). According to a hospital administrator (who spoke on the condition of anonymity), the maximum time they can keep the deceased at the morgue has been reduced to 7 days.

After that time, they are moved to the city morgue. Since they’re also overwhelmed and running out of space, some of the deceased end up being kept in mobile morgues (which are cold-storage mass-casualty trailers). When mobile morgues are also out of space, some of the deceased end up in non-refrigerated storage areas. Sadly, decomposition of the deceased further limits the amount of time that families have available to raise the necessary funds to pay the funeral homes.

When families of the deceased are not able to get them out of the city morgue timely, they get included in mass cremations; this allows the city morgue to have additional space to receive more people who just passed away.

Planning and Paying for Funeral Arrangements In Advance: What You Need to Know

Funeral expenses have been consistently rising over the years. Funeral-related costs have nearly tripled in the last 25 years.

Cemeteries and funeral providers expect payment in full before services are rendered. However, most families have trouble coming up with end-of-life expenses all at once. Instead, they prefer to pay a little bit at a time for their loved one’s final expenses.

With the rising cost of funerals, prepaid funerals have emerged as a cost-saving option for many families. It allows them to pay for funeral expenses in small monthly installments. It helps them avoid placing a heavy financial burden on their entire family.

Pre-need funeral arrangements are plans people make while living. In contrast, at-need funeral arrangements are made at the time of death. They’re usually more difficult for families because they are dealing with the grief of their loss.

The best way to avoid spending more than you need is by planning in advance; so, your family can avoid making unnecessary emotional purchases when you’re dealing with overwhelming grief and sadness.

Pre-need insurance (also called final expense life insurance, burial or funeral insurance) is designed to cover final arrangements. It gives many families the chance to fund their final expenses over time through affordable monthly payments.

There are so many things to consider when planning a funeral in advance, such as, burial or cremation, funeral and memorial service, viewing, visitation, etc. It can be overwhelming for most people. It’s usually helpful to work with a pre-need funeral planning counselor who has special training and expertise.

You can get help with planning, doing research and making decisions in advance about funding options. Getting help from a pre-need funeral planning professional can simplify the process as well as minimize confusion and misunderstanding.

The more decisions your loved one can make beforehand, the fewer decisions your entire family will have to make at a time when you’re grieving and dealing with the emotional stress of losing someone you love. If you put off making final arrangements until the very end, your family may end up with a lot of disagreements and conflicts during the worst time of your life.

  • Average funeral costs are usually based on the most commonly selected items for a traditional funeral, such as, the casket and vault. It usually doesn’t include the cemetery cost, such as, the grave, marker as well as opening and closing the grave; this can easily add another $2000 or more to the total funeral cost.
  • The cost for cremation can be significantly lower than a burial.
  • Cremation or direct burial (with no service) can be arranged for about $1000.
  • Instead of having a costly formal service, you can have a more affordable informal memorial service at home to pay tribute to your loved one’s passing.
  • Leaving behind no means of paying for funeral costs can put a heavy financial burden on your entire family.
  • If a loved one dies with no financial support in place for a funeral, the family has the option of putting expenses on a credit card.
  • By donating your body to science and medical research (whole body donation program), your final arrangements can be covered at no cost to your family.
  • The higher the quality of the casket and other merchandise, the higher the cost of the funeral. Funeral plans can be simple or elaborate depending on what families want. Pre-funded funeral insurance is typically purchased in the $1000 to $25,000 range; however, some companies offer coverage all the way up to $75,000.

To control the cost of the final arrangements, you can shop around by doing research online or stopping by local funeral homes in your area. You can also get help from a funeral planning professional to research the most affordable and meaningful funeral plans in your area.

7 Advantages of Pre-Planning and Pre-Paying for Funeral Arrangements

  1. By paying in advance, you can lock in the cost of the memorial and funeral of your choice. You can pay tomorrow’s final arrangements at today’s prices.
  2. Instead of unexpectedly needing to pay everything all at once at a time when families are financially unprepared and dealing with overwhelming grief, pre-paying funeral arrangements can be done in small monthly installments.
  3. It can alleviate stress during the grieving process for families. It allows families to set aside funds for final arrangements and relieves them of the financial burden of making panicked last-minute funeral arrangements after a loved one dies.
  4. It ensures that your loved one’s final wishes are honored, carried out and paid for. This can be comforting at the time of one of the worst life experience for your family.
  5. Your family can have peace of mind knowing that your loved one’s affairs are in order and (s)he will have the final say in everything from flower arrangements to the final resting place.
  6. Pre-paying for final arrangements tends to result in lower cost. Waiting until after death usually drives costly decisions for families dealing with overwhelming grief.
  7. Planning ahead allows you to control the cost of your funeral. You can select the services and merchandise you want at the prices you want to pay. It can help your family avoid the high cost, anxiety and panic of last-minute decision-making regarding funeral arrangements.

3 Disadvantages of Pre-Planning and Pre-Paying for Funeral Arrangements

  1. Most pre-funded funeral coverage paid in monthly installments have limited benefits for the first 2 years. The full death benefit is usually paid one day after the first 2 years. So, your payment installments may not be completed before the need arrives. To avoid this problem: you can pay your funeral coverage in full, if you’re concerned that your loved one’s health is rapidly deteriorating. For most companies, the full death benefit is usually paid for accidental death even for the first 2 years.
  2. The pre-funded funeral plan may not be transferable, if your family relocates. To avoid this problem, make sure you choose a funeral plan coverage that’s transferable to another location. If you move to another state or if you want another funeral home, your funeral plan can transfer with you.
  3. The funeral home or other funeral service provider may not be in business when you need their services. To minimize your risk, be sure to do your homework before you prepay your final arrangements. Check the company reputation with the Better Business Bureau. Choose a company that has a very long history of providing high quality funeral arrangements and coverage of costs.

Pre-Planning and Pre-Funding Your Final Arrangements: 3 Simple Steps

Pre-planning involves making choices about final arrangements. You can also pre-fund the funeral before you need it. Planning end-of-life arrangements is difficult for everyone, but it can offer huge comfort for everyone involved.

Once you have pre-funded funeral arrangements, a single phone call can usually set the process in motion… when your loved one passes away. For most people, this is an extremely difficult time and they’re usually too overwhelmed with grief to think about anything else. So, simplifying what needs to be done for the final arrangements into a single phone call can be very valuable.

The pre-planning and pre-funding process can be simpler that you might think. Here are the 3 simple steps:

1) Start the conversation – Discuss with your family their preferences and wishes about final arrangements. Discuss what you want to include in the funeral. Your funeral plan doesn’t have to be elaborate and expensive to be meaningful.

Start with the basics:

  • Internment options, such as, burial, cremation or donation to medical science
  • Funeral service options, such as, traditional funeral, memorial service, graveside service or no service

You can also discuss more specific details of the funeral (optional). Of course, some people may not want to do this.

What if your loved one is unwilling or unable to participate in planning his/her final arrangements in advance? In some cases, (s)he may be too frail or cognitively impaired to participate in the discussions.

You can still put together a plan by meeting with other family members and sharing what you know about his/her wishes. You can make your decisions based on your family’s knowledge of your loved one’s final wishes regarding end-of-life care, such as, their funeral, memorial, burial or cremation.

2) Make funeral arrangements — Discuss with a pre-need funeral planning counselor the various available options that can meet your family’s needs. You can get help finding ways to make meaningful choices while staying within your budget.

3) Pre-funding the funeral arrangements — The pre-need funeral planning counselor can help you find the most affordable pre-funding options for the final arrangements you have chosen. You can pay in full for the funeral or explore small monthly payment options.

Planning and funding your funeral in advance can give you peace of mind. After you set-up it up, it’s important to share information about the final arrangements that you’re paying in installments or you’ve paid in full with your family members and legal advisors.