It's not uncommon for money to play a major role in funeral planning; today many families are attempting to avoid high funeral costs by purchasing a prepaid funeral plan from a local provider. Unfortunately, there's been a lot of negative press about prepaid funeral plans; so we're here to set the record straight. In short, pre-paying funeral arrangement expenses can save your survivors a lot of time and money. Here's what we'd like you to know about prepaid funeral plans.
The "Why" of Pre-Payment
To help ease their survivor's burden of making funeral-related decisions and paying for their choices, "an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals, designating their funeral preferences, and sometimes even paying for them in advance. In fact, many elder law attorneys advise prepayment as a way to invest in assets that will not be countable by Medicaid or SSI." (Source: ElderLaw Answers)
Pre-paying for projected funeral expenses has certainly become more popular, despite consumer concerns. "Based on a recent survey conducted for AARP, almost 17 million adults age 50 and above have prepaid some, or all, of their funeral or burial expenses." (Source: Better Business Bureau) Popularity aside, the question here is really a personal one: is pre-payment right for your situation?
What is a Prepaid Funeral Plan?
"A prepaid agreement", asserts the BBB; "consists of a contract and a funding mechanism to pay for the funeral or burial plan. Under state laws, the funeral home or cemetery places a percentage of the payment in a state regulated trust or purchases a life insurance policy with the death benefits assigned to the funeral home or cemetery. Most, but not all, prepaid contracts guarantee that the price of the funeral or burial will cost no more at delivery than what was paid at the point of purchase."
The Debate about Funeral Pre-Funding
There are concerns, however. The Federal Trade Commission's booklet, "Shopping for Funeral Services" offers suggestions on the questions to ask if you decide to sign-up for a pre-paid funeral plan:
- What happens to the money you've prepaid? What happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid and put into a trust account?
- Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?
- Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?
- What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home?
You need to remember two things: every state has different requirements for handling funds paid for prearranged funeral services. Also, some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but it can cost you, or your surviving relatives, more money to do so.
"Pre-Paid Funeral Plans: Buyer Beware", ElderLaw Answers, updated May, 2014, accessed September, 2016
Better Business Bureau, "Prepaid Funeral and Burial Plans", January 23, 2014