You may want to make your arrangement in advance but not prepay for them. Keep in mind that over time prices may go up and businesses may close or change your arrangements. It’s a good idea to review your decisions every few years, and you should make sure your family is aware of your wishes. Put them in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. (Don’t keep your only copy in a safe-deposit box. Your family may have to make arrangements before the box can be opened – for example on a weekend or when the banks are closed)
If you do decide to prepay for funeral and/or cemetery services, you have several options.
(NOTE: These are options, not recommendations. Be sure to carefully compare the advantage and disadvantages of each – and consider consulting an attorney – before making any decisions.)
Preneed Trust Contracts – Decide on the funeral and cemetery services you want, sign contracts that fully describe those services, and pay a set amount into a trust administered by the funeral establishment or cemetery. There will usually be some costs that cannot be prepaid. Services such as opening and closing the grave are not usually part of the preneed contract and must be paid at time of need.
(NOTE: Be sure that your contract includes a cancellation clause in case you change your mind later. Keep in mind that if you cancel a funeral preneed trust, a large percentage or all of the money you paid in may be refunded to you (depending upon the state law) . Most cancellation clauses require a revocation fee, limited by law to no more than 10 percent of the total amount that you have paid in.)
When choosing a preneed trust contract consider the following:
- A guaranteed price plan: This type of plan protects you and your family from future price increases. Without it, your survivors may have to make up the difference in cost. Some items or services will still have to be paid at the time of need. Austin Layne Mortuary will provide you with an estimate of these additional “at-need” charges so you and your family will know what to expect at the time of need.
- Your funds in trust will increase in value: You may receive an annual statement of earnings, which may be required to be reported as interest on tax forms. Your trust agreement will state what happens with any remaining trust fund earnings.
- Transfers: In most cases, your funeral arrangements can be transferred to another funeral establishment. (Inquire with the funeral director at the time of establishing your pre-need trust).
Earmark a portion of your savings for your funeral expenses, and ensure that your family members and attorney are informed and that provisions are made of your survivors to withdraw the funds at your death. You can change your mind at any time.
You may want to establish a Pay on Death (POD) account with your bank designating your chosen funeral establishment as the beneficiary of funds upon your death. Be sure to inform family members, the funeral establishment, your chosen executor and your attorney of the provisions of the account. POD accounts my involve service fees and interest earned is taxable. They may be cancelled without penalty. The funeral establishment must pay any excess to you survivors.
Buy life insurance equal to the value of the funeral and arrange for your beneficiary (family member or friend) to handle the arrangements in accordance with your stated wishes.
You may want to buy funeral insurance through Austin Layne Mortuary from certain pre-need insurance providers. You preselect the casket, services, plot etc and the price may be guaranteed. If the price is guaranteed your family members will be safeguarded against price increases. Detailed illustrations are made available from the insurance provider regarding the policy values in annual increments. You should, however, find out what happens if you cancel the policy.