Talking About Funeral & Burial Wishes: How To Have A Difficult Conversation


A sad, but unavoidable fact of life is that none of us will live forever.

Planning a funeral or memorial service and body disposition in advance may seem morbid, but it can give people a sense of control over their own destiny.

Funeral and memorial service planning also relieves families from the pressure of making tough decisions when the end comes making Prepaid funeral plans an excellent choice to have in place.

We will give you tips on how to start a conversation about post-death wishes and the types of issues that should be discussed.

Talking to Your Family About What You Want Nobody knows your family like you do. Assess whether the direct approach or an indirect approach is the best way to start the conversation. The direct approach is literally starting a discussion with a statement like: “I’ve been thinking about planning my memorial service, and I would like to discuss it with you. Can we talk about it next Tuesday evening?”

The direct approach works best with families that prefer to speak frankly and are highly practical. By scheduling an appointment to have the conversation, you are giving your family members time to prepare themselves mentally. You may even request a formal gathering of all adult family members.

In other families an indirect approach (where the topic of post-death wishes is mentioned in casual conversation) works best. You can create opportunities to have this conversation by first mentioning someone’s death and subsequent funeral or memorial service. It can be someone that you know that has recently died, or somebody in the news, or somebody who died on a TV show. After the general topic of death has been raised, ask open-ended questions like “Have you ever though about where you would like to be buried?” or “What type of funeral would you want?” After you have had the opportunity to hear what their wishes are, you are able to share your own thoughts and wishes.

Whether you take the direct approach or the indirect approach, you may have family members that get upset and resist having the conversation.

Reassure your loved ones that you are not trying to upset them and that you only want to have the conversation because you love them very much. You do not want them to be burdened with having to make difficult decisions about your funeral or memorial service and about your final resting place. Planning ahead is an expression of your love.

It goes without saying that having a conversation about your post-death wishes will be much easier to have if death is not an imminent possibility. Therefore, it is best to have this important conversation with your family when you are still in good health. However, if you are already in poor health, it is not too late to have the conversation. Choose a quiet time when your family members aren’t distracted. Be prepared for tears. Again, reassure them that you want to do as much as possible to make life as easy as possible for them during the difficult time you foresee coming.

Obtaining Agreement Did you know that the person who will arrange your funeral has no legal obligation to follow any instructions that you gave? It is therefore important that the people who are most likely to arrange your funeral agree to carry out your plan. In 2003, the famous baseball player Ted Williams died without having a funeral plan. His adult daughter and son disagreed about what their father would have wanted, resulting in a very public fight. In 2015, when 19 year-old Sawyer Sweeten died, his divorced parents fought over where his body should be buried. They both wanted Sweeten to be buried in the State they lived in. If you have a Legal Will (which is a good idea for many reasons, including minimising estate taxes), ensure that your executor understands and agrees with your funeral wishes. If you have any doubt that your wishes will be carried out, consider making your funeral plan part of your Legal Will.

Creating a File It would be a real gift to your family to create a file marked “My Legal Will and Funeral Planning File.” Show your family the file and exactly where they can find it should you pass away. Do not change the location of where this file is kept. This file serves both you and your family. It allows you to tell your family your last wishes in as much detail as you desire. The first document in your file should be your Last Will and Testament.

When you take out a Prepaid funeral plan you will receive documents that you can put in the file for your family. The funeral home may require your estate’s executor to provide proof that he or she has the authority to make decisions about your funeral or memorial service. Your Legal Will, which specifically names the executor of your choice, provides this proof. Your file should have a completed planning checklist for a funeral or memorial service.

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