BOSTON (CBS) – Talking about prepaying funerals always seems to get listeners’ attention and some funeral directors who disagree with me.

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

If you are looking to do this on the cheap, Costco and Walmart sell caskets and urns.

If you are 55 I am just not sure it’s a good idea to prepay for something that may not occur for another 30 years. And in 30 years you could be living in a different town or state.

There are advantages to prearranged 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 prearranged.

But I do believe the disadvantages outweigh the advantages:

  • 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 prepaying 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.

For the record, Massachusetts has good laws on the books to protect people from unscrupulous funeral directors but very little enforcement.

One more thing:  I have heard from a few funeral directors on this issue. They disagree with me. Of course any business wants to lock in future business and a prepaid funeral does just that. Life holds many twists and turns for us and locking in anything doesn’t sit well with me.

Do your homework. You may very well have a relationship with a local funeral director and feel comfortable prepaying. Massachusetts has good laws on the books but very little enforcement.

Check out a consumer guide: Funerals: Consumer Guide


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