Pre Need Funeral Planning | Things to Think About
Is not an easy conversation and I am pretty sure that it is not one of your favorites, but it is necessary. It is a privilege to share this information and hope when you are finished reading my article you will have a better understanding.
My plan is to give a general overview of prearrangements and to answer the difficult questions pertaining to death. Reason being, in my business, there are numerous scenarios that come up. I do business in New York State, so my information will reflect the laws pertaining to the state.
Why Pre-plan Funeral Arrangements??
I once had a person say, “when I pass away my family will be able to handle all that needs to be done.” I asked, “what if they do not know your wishes?” “Do they know the importance of protecting your assets”? The truth is, most of us prepare for the possible…the misfortunes of this life that really COULD happen. I ask….Why not prepare for the inevitable?? You have a 1 in 80,000 chance that you will ever lose your home to a fire, yet most of us are protected. However, you have a 1 in 1 chance of leaving this earth someday. Why not plan ahead?? NOW, it is not about just writing down what your wishes are when you die.
Sure, that is a large and important part, too many people I sit down with don’t even know what their loved one would want, but if you have ever had to make funeral arrangements for a loved one you know the great deal of information that needs to be provided to the funeral director.
Funeral prearrangements alleviate the burden on family members to make difficult decisions during a stressful time when they are not best prepared to do so. They also provide peace of mind. Many people think of funeral planning as part of their estate planning. An individual, and/or Medicaid/SSI recipients may set aside money to fund the service of their choice before their funds are exhausted down to necessary eligibility levels.
How Prearrangements work….
If you choose to preplan your funeral arrangements, FIRST AND FOREMOST, contact a funeral home of your choice to make an appointment to sit down and discuss your options. There is no charge to preplan a funeral. In fact, preplanning does not require ANY money whatsoever.
A lot of people I meet come in, share their biographical information with me as well as their wishes upon death and are given the total cost of the services selected and they are done. They have preplanned their funeral. Some choose to prepay, which has benefits for sure, from peace of mind to protecting one’s assets. However, this is not required. But pre-paid funeral arrangements offer an individual or applicant of Medicaid the opportunity to completely pay for the funeral of THEIR choice before assets are used for medical care and their assets are reduced for Medicaid purposes.
If you choose to prepay, either the full amount of the services selected or partial payment, the monies deposited are placed in a trust account and can only be used by the funeral home upon death. The trust accounts are fully transferable to another funeral home as well. If you wish to preplan and make an appointment with a funeral home, come prepared to discuss your personal information that will be needed for the death certificate as well as the obituary, your personal wishes after you pass away, cemetery plot information and any questions or reservations that you may have.
“Sure, I get it, no one wants to think about this, and we all understand this.”
But we funeral directors know the importance and benefits of preplanning, due to sitting down with families that have lost a loved one that did not preplan and seeing the different struggles that arise due to not preplanning. If someone passes away and has prearranged their funeral, when death occurs, a simple phone call is made to the funeral home, the funeral director meets with the survivors to make sure nothing has changed and update the file, discuss and schedule the actual service and/or cremation. It is a much easier process this way, due to emotions.
I encourage you to contact your funeral director, he/she will be more than happy to help you and answer your questions and help with the big words like Medicaid and Revocable and Irrevocable. This is a very sensitive topic and very difficult to discuss, but after I meet with a person preplanning, most of the time they feel relieved and say how easy it really was and should have done this sooner.
Let me share 4 different service options that all funeral homes offer and when preplanning SHOULD be discussed. Before I cover the options, I want you to know that at Otto Redanz Funeral Home ( my business), when arrangements are made, everything is done for you….us making funeral arrangements, the death certificate, contacting the church or clergy, contacting the cemetery etc….also all expenses are figured into one total for you so you are not having to remember to write checks to the local newspaper, Online Obituary website, Church or Clergy, the organist, the town clerk for death certificates, the cemetery or crematory etc….
With each of these options there are numerous scenarios, so I will share the basics.
1. Immediate Cremation
The body is immediately cremated after all paperwork has been filed. Cremains are either given back to the family, scattered or buried in grave or niche.
2. Immediate Cremation with Services
Same as what we just discussed, but prior to the final disposition of the cremains, the family can opt to have calling hours and/or a funeral service at the funeral home and/or church with the ashes present.
For families with traditional values you may opt to have an actual viewing of the person in a cremation casket or some funeral homes offer a rental casket. All traditional services are available. The only difference from a traditional funeral is after the actual funeral the body is transported to the crematory and when completed either we return the cremains to the family, scatter or bury in a grave or niche.
4. Traditional Funeral
This is a viewing with a funeral service, normally, but not always, the following day followed by services at the cemetery for burial or entombment.
No two funerals are the same in any way, after choosing a service option, the funeral director will supply you with a price for the services selected.
Payment– Some choose to pre-pay, in full or partial payment and in terms and language, you can understand. As I stated at the beginning, you write a check for the amount you wish to deposit. The funeral director deposits monies in an interest bearing trust account. The interest is used at the time of need to help offset inflation. The trust is opened in the name of who the funeral is for in trust for say Otto Redanz Funeral Home. Again, this is a trust….a funeral home can’t just deposit in their business account and just cover the funeral upon death.
In fact, NYS has the strictest funeral pre-need laws in the nation, which is good…this protects you the consumer. I only have access to the funds with a certified death certificate. Every state has their own laws regarding pre-planning and the Funeral Home you choose will explain.
Before finalizing the pre-need contract the funeral director will discuss what type of trust is needed. He/she will ask revocable or irrevocable.
In NYS , it mandates that prearrangements with a NYS funeral firm must be revocable except for Medicaid recipients-what this means is simple……SO, if you are not a recipient or applicant of Medicaid, if you want after pre-payment, you can have your money back including all interest earned with no penalty if you so desire. It’s your money. Also, monies can be added or taken out at any time with this type of account. An example would be at Tax Time, every year.
Now NYS also mandates that all pre-need burial trust accounts for applicants or recipients of Medicaid MUST be irrevocable. Simply, this means that you cannot have your money back because the person that is receiving Medicaid is receiving assistance from the county and the money if given back could be counted as an asset. In fact, this stops the people using a prearrangement account to hide money and later taking it back. No money can be taken away. If upon death there is a surplus of money due to interest, the excess funeral home must write a check to the local Social Service Department.
However, with both accounts your money is protected. The funeral is paid for and Medicaid does NOT use the money deposited. It is safe. Also, with both accounts they are fully transferable to another funeral home for whatever reason. I have had families that had arrangements elsewhere and took a liking to me and simply moved the account. Or if someone moves and burial location were to change both accounts can be transferred.
Now, both the funeral director and purchaser sign the agreement upon payment. You will receive multiple copies for you to keep and if Medicaid needs a copy or anyone else you have them. The FD has 10 days to deposit into the trust account and following will come a letter from the institution acknowledging and certifying your account is opened as revocable or irrevocable.
If you have additional questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact me:
[email protected] or 716-297-9007
Michael R. Goodlander is a Licensed Funeral Director in NYS and the owner of Otto Redanz Funeral Home, in the Town of Niagara, NY. Michael works alongside his wife Laura, who is very active in the day to day operations.
Michael grew up in Newfane, NY working his uncle at his funeral home and followed by getting his degree at The Simmons Institute of Funeral Service in Syracuse, NY. He is the Owner and Caregiver of Otto Redanz Funeral Home which he purchased in March of 2005, fulfilling his calling of faithful and dedicated service to his community in assisting families in honoring a life lived. Otto Redanz is a full-service funeral home, serving all faiths, specializing in pre-planning, traditional funerals, cremations, memorial services, celebration of life services, as well as assisting with social service benefits, insurance benefits and when death occurs away from home, in hopes to accommodate each family’s needs. As you can tell, he guides the families they serve differently than other funeral homes, as Michael and Laura cover every detail imaginable. They coordinate everything from funeral services to flowers, to Funeral Brunches and Hotel Reservations, with the goal met of making the healing process more manageable for you the consumer.