By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Pre-planning a funeral can be a benefit to family members when a loved one passes away. Pre-planning can range from selecting the funeral home, casket or urn and making other arrangements to pre-paying for everything.
Dan DeVries, owner and funeral director of Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home, said pre-planning allows people to make their wishes known while they are living. Pre-planning arrangements can be transferred if the individual making the plans moves away.
Pre-planning is non-funded or pre-funded. “The benefit to funding is that your assets are protected and your family does not have to worry about how to pay for the funeral.” Families often use life insurance policies to pay for the funeral, but it can take time to cash in the policy, DeVries noted.
Caralee Rath, pre-need counselor with Halligan-McCabe-DeVries, said people who pay in advance are guaranteed that rate. The money is placed in an irrevocable contract and protected. Halligan-McCabe-DeVries secures pre-paid funerals through Homesteaders Life Company. The money is fully transferable, but cost differences between funeral homes can vary.
No matter what time a loved one passes away, someone at the funeral home is on call to respond, DeVries said. Family members and the funeral home staff set a time to meet to discuss planning the visitation and funeral or to review pre-planned arrangements.
“At an appointment, we explore the thoughts and wishes of the family,” DeVries said. Any number of family members can participate, but usually it is the spouse, if still living, and children. “If there is no family, we can work with a friend.”
Funeral home staff and the deceased person’s loved ones go over an itemized sheet of available choices, even when pre-planned arrangements have been made. A few minor decisions may still need to be made.
Planning a funeral can be overwhelming, Rath said. “There is relief when it is done in advance. And if it’s paid for ahead of time, it protects the family from having to try to figure out how to come up with money to pay for the funeral.”
If a loved one dies while out of town, their survivors should call their hometown funeral home to help facilitate getting the body back home, DeVries said. “We are a network of professionals to help you.”
Funeral home staff also assists with notifying Social Security, getting an obituary into local and out-of-town newspapers, ordering death certificates, working with a church if a funeral will be held, working with the cemetery for burial, helping arrange transportation and other details.
DeVries said families can pre-pay for a cemetery plot, mausoleum or columbarium space. The gravestone also can be pre-paid, and basic information can be inscribed ahead of time. Each cemetery is different and has different rules, he noted. A cemetery plot is burial in the ground. A mausoleum is an above-ground building where the body is interred. A columbarium is a space, above ground, for cremated remains. Some cemeteries allow cremated remains to be placed in the ground while others do not. For caskets and for cremated remains to be placed in the ground, an outer burial container (burial vault or grave liners) must be purchased.
Pre-planning can be a gift for families, Rath said. “Get it written down and your family will know what you want.” If family members cannot find paperwork for pre-planned arrangements, call the funeral home. A copy is kept there.
Pre-planning also allows the family to move through the grieving process a little easier and gives more time for creating memory boards and displays and to share stories.