• Planning the Party of Your Life: Incorporating Burial and Funeral Planning into Your Estate Plan
  • April 15, 2015 | Author: Rachael M. Roseman
  • Law Firm: Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, P.C. - Grand Rapids Office
  • I sometimes ask people what they think an estate plan should be used for. I always get the traditional responses: to name a guardian for my kids; to avoid probate; to make sure my family is taken care of. Rarely do people say, “to plan my funeral!”

    Of course, the primary goals of an estate plan are to provide financially for your family, to identify the proper guardians for your children, to minimize tax implications and so on. But an estate plan can do more.

    Not only can you control how your money is distributed, but you can also control where your body goes after you have passed away and how your funeral is carried out. We always ask our clients if they have any specific wishes as to their funeral plans or how their remains ought to be disposed. Surprisingly, few clients take full advantage of this last opportunity to make an exit with a bang or to create one last memory for their loved ones.

    Gone are the days where funerals have to be quiet, somber and sad events. Many have taken to demanding their loved ones celebrate their lives with a bar and a band. For some, that means a funeral that is more like a wedding celebration. In your estate plan, you have the freedom to tap into your inner party planner. Bring out all of the bells and whistles for this last affair. You can dictate the attire, the theme, the food, the beverages and much more.

    A Hawaiian luau, a sports-themed bash, or an outdoor adventure in memoriam—anything you can imagine. Memorial party favors can be a hit too — a copy of your favorite song or book; a seedling of your favorite plant; or memorabilia from your favorite sports team. And cremation jewelry may be the perfect gift for those family members who want to keep you close to their hearts.

    For more traditional folks, your plan can detail all of the specifics of a traditional funeral: the obituary, the music, the eulogy, the pallbearers, the charity to which donations can be made, the location of the affair and the scriptures to be read. All of these details can be incorporated into your estate plan.

    In addition to planning your funeral, you can plan your burial. Will you be cremated? Will you be buried in a traditional plot? Will you be buried near a loved one? Will your remains be donated to science? These are all things that have to be sorted out upon your passing. But a burial plan can inform your loved ones as to your wishes.

    If you choose cremation, your loved ones should know how to dispose of your ashes, how to divide your ashes or where to keep your ashes. If you wish to donate your body to science, your estate plan can identify the organization to which you wish to be donated. If you wish to have a traditional burial, you can identify your burial plot, choose your casket, select your outfit and design your monument. All joking aside, everyone should seriously consider burial and funeral planning to get the most out of an estate plan. Ultimately, the primary goal for most estate planning clients is to ease the transition after you have passed away—both financially and emotionally. Planning a funeral can be exhausting. Deciding what your loved one would have wanted is challenging. Using an estate plan for this purpose can ease the stress experienced by many loved ones following a death in the family and can help avoid family conflict.

    By planning some of these details in advance, you leave your loved ones with one less hurdle to overcome. You leave them with peace of mind knowing that everything is the way you would have wanted it. You can leave them with one final, happy memory of you.