Estate Planning: DIY or Pro?
Burial Insurance on Mom and Dad
I am the oldest of five children and the only one of my siblings who is somewhat financially secure. Both of my parents are not in the best of health, and my fear is that when their time comes, my husband and I will end up footing the bill alone. I have no problem with it other than that it may strain our finances, given we might be the only ones who have any money to contribute.
My question is about burial insurance. I would like to have something in place to help defray the cost of any funeral expenses. I am not looking to make any money. I want just enough to help with any final expenses. Is this something I can obtain on my own? Am I even allowed to apply for it if I'm not the insured? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
You May Not Need Burial Insurance
I was in this situation six years ago when my mother passed on. Regardless of what you hear and see on TV ads and what other people say, you can arrange a nice funeral without breaking the bank. Go online and educate yourself about the funeral business. For example, embalming is not a law. Don't purchase the casket, the flowers for the casket, the headstone, etc. from the funeral home. Find a place in your city that sells caskets and headstones. Find a good florist that can make a beautiful arrangement for the casket. Even with delivery, it's much cheaper than buying from the funeral home. If you prepare ahead of time, it probably will not be too big a strain on your finances.
Create Your Own Burial Insurance
Open a money market account with your bank or credit union, adding to the account monthly. This account should not be used for anything other than funds set aside for the burial expenses for your parents. In my own parents' cases, insurance that they thought would cover them was totally worthless and they were sold a bill of "goods."
Pre-Pay Funeral Expenses Instead of Buying Burial Insurance
You do not need Burial Insurance. You can pre-pay for a funeral. You pay for everything in advance so you do not have to make quick decisions when you are not thinking rationally. Make sure you keep the receipts and have it in writing that it is pre-paid. And make sure to use a reputable home, so they do not try to add extras expenses at the end. This plan worked for our family.
Melissa in State College, PA
Discuss Burial Insurance Needs with Family
I would sit down immediately with your parents and siblings to ask the following questions:
- Do you have any life insurance that will cover the cost of your funeral?
- Do you have any assets that can be sold after your death to go towards the cost of the burial?
- Are there any military benefits for your burial? If either parent was in the service, check with the local Veterans' Assistance for aid.
- What kind of burial and memorial ceremony do you want? This might be cheaper than you think. Our guilt and pain has us do more for our loved ones' funeral than what anyone really expects.
- Who will pay for what part of the service? This is a great time to have a sibling or two take over the cost of food, casket, burial plot, etc.
Also research the Internet and library for ways to save on funeral costs. Instead of feeling tacky, just think of yourself as an educated consumer.
June in Yelm, WA
Use Funeral Association Instead of Burial Insurance
Go to funerals.org. There is information there on low-cost funerals and the associations that provide them. My husband and I joined the People's Memorial Association in Seattle for $25 each lifetime membership. They contract with funeral homes for far less than standard pricing. We also paid for a membership for my father-in-law after he was diagnosed with cancer and paid just $599 for his body to be removed from the nursing home and cremated. Burial insurance is really just a form of life insurance, and if any of the companies go out of business, you are stuck. Funeral associations are the way to go.
Terry in Washington State
Plan Your Own Burial Insurance
The best way is to make you own "insurance policy" by saving money in a "burial insurance fund" that you create on your own. Save what you can. You will have the full benefit of the "payments" and so will your parents when the time comes. You will have freedom to use the resulting funds in whatever way you wish compared to how a funeral insurance business may require that you use the money. Still in your possession will be the part of the funds that would have gone to the insurance company's fees. And you will be able to choose the way to invest that makes the money earn the most interest for you.
For advice on planning funerals in ways that will cost a minimum yet be highly respectful, contact an association that advises about how to save money on funerals. I mean a consumer association that usually is volunteer and may be called a co-operative. The one I led for years was called "The Memorial and Funeral Planning Association of (that province/state)".
This kind of group also will give you different ideas to think about that may provide a very nice funeral with just what you would like for your parents but in a form that you had not thought about before. I have been involved with many funerals, including taking full leadership in the ones for my parents, and have saved a lot of money by knowing beforehand exactly what I wanted in negotiating with their chosen funeral homes.
Finally, please consider organ donation; this is the most wonderful way to memorialize a person's life.
Eloise in Nova Scotia, Canada
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