BOSTON (CBS) – As a member of the Over the Hill Gang reading the obits becomes a daily routine. We acquire an awareness of our own mortality as we attend funerals for family and friends.

Should you pre-pay your funeral? I don’t know? It may be the practical thing to do if you have just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Today the average funeral costs close to $8,000 and add in a reception, cemetery plot, and grave marker and you could be looking at $10,000 or more.

If you are just 55 I am just not sure it’s a good idea to pre-pay for something that may not occur for another 30 years. And in 30 years you could be living in a different town or state and the funeral home could be out of business.

There are advantages to pre-arranged and prepaid funerals:

  • The burden of making the funeral arrangements is done
  • Your last wishes are recorded
  • Where and what kind of service you would like is all pre-arranged

But I do believe the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

  • The funeral director could be a fraud
  • You may be stuck with the funeral plot if you should move
  • It may be very difficult to change the arrangements
  • Contracts are often very strict and can be cancelled if you miss a payment
  • There may be finance charges involved
  • Refunds may be reduced by sales charges
  • There may be hidden fees such as commissions to the person who sold it to you

Instead of pre-paying I would recommend pre-planning. I know that pre-planning works and helps the survivors cope during a very stressful time.

Leave a letter of instruction to your family as to what kind of service you would like and take the time to plan it and then set aside some money to cover the costs. A CD, savings bonds, or a life insurance policy will do or let them worry about paying for it.

The Funeral Consumer Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts agrees. Pre-planning is very good. Check their website for some good information.

Check out a consumer guide: Funerals: Consumer Guide

One more thing: For the record, Massachusetts has good laws on the books to protect people from unscrupulous funeral directors but very little enforcement. Look what happened recently when it was revealed that a Dorchester funeral home director, Joseph O’Donnell, operated without a license for six years. Leaving many families grieving a second time.

To plan an inexpensive funeral look to Costco and Walmart for help with caskets, urns and flowers.


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