Prepaid Burial

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Question: I’ve already bought a plot. Are there any other steps I should take to plan my funeral?

Answer: While buying a plot is an excellent start, there are other steps you can take to make sure your wishes are followed and your remains are disposed of according to your wishes.  Pre-planning and pre-paying for your funeral during your lifetime is the perfect way to ensure you there is no delay in carrying out your wishes.  Although planning for after your death can be a difficult and emotional task, doing so can alleviate the stress on your friends or family who would be left to make these decisions upon your death.

There are many advantages that come with pre-planning and pre-paying for your funeral.  One advantage is knowing that payment is taken care of, therefore relieving your loved ones from any financial burden associated with the funeral arrangements. After you die, your funds may be tied up in a probate proceeding, or held in accounts that are not immediately accessible to your executor or designated beneficiaries. This can cause a delay of your funeral or require a loved one to pay out of pocket in the hopes of being reimbursed sometime in the future. Pre-paying for your funeral can also eliminate any unnecessary expenditures by your loved ones that are sometimes a result of emotional planning and excess spending for the ‘perfect’ funeral.

Another advantage, and arguably the most important, is that you get to be the decision maker regarding your funeral and burial arrangements.  By planning during your lifetime, you get to determine where you want the funeral to be held, the flowers you want, the type of service you want, whether you want to be cremated, and other such details.

However, it is not enough to simply plan and pay for your funeral arrangements.  It is also important to convey your wishes and the steps you have taken to accomplish same. Therefore, one will still want to execute an Appointment of Agent to Control the Disposition of Remains (Disposition of Remains). This is a legal document that allows you to memorialize your wishes regarding your funeral services; the disposition of your remains, such as organ donation or cremation; where to be buried; or even how to disburse your ashes. You will also nominate an agent to carry out your wishes. You can and should appoint a successor agent in the event your initial agent is unable to act. Your initial agent will have to sign off on the document, therefore acknowledging your wishes and accepting appointment.

Executing a Disposition of Remains form will help avoid any confusion or disputes that may arise after your death.  For example, if you have children, they may find themselves in a situation where they disagree on how to dispose of your body, such as whether or not you should be cremated. The Disposition of Remains will give detailed instructions to your family and friends and make it clear who is in charge.

Those who find themselves in need of Medicaid services may also benefit from pre-paying their funeral by purchasing an irrevocable funeral contract.  In order to qualify for Medicaid in New York, a single individual is allowed to have up to $15,150 in resources. Many of our clients find themselves over-resourced and need to come up with ways to spend down their assets in order to meet the resource limit.  Purchasing an irrevocable pre-plan funeral arrangement can help achieve this goal, because the funds used for the funeral will not be counted towards your resources.

What happens if you purchase a pre-paid funeral contract and you decide to move out of state, or the funeral home closes?  Funds used to pre-pay your funeral are held in a trust under your name and social security number. If you purchased a revocable plan, you can either transfer the funds to another funeral home or close your account and get your money back.  If you purchase an irrevocable plan, these funds will be transferable.  Funeral homes nationwide can access the funds upon your death, therefore ensuring that wherever your funeral ends up taking place, you will not lose out on your initial investment.

If you would like to engage in pre-planning your funeral, you can contact your local funeral home to review your options. You should also discuss this with your estate planning attorney so that your estate plan and related documents can reflect these decisions.

Michal Lipshitz, Esq. and Nancy Burner, Esq.

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Burner Law Group, P.C.

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