Save Your Family Stress and Plan Your Funeral – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Making your way through the process of the death of a family member is an extremely personal journey, as well as a very big business that can put a financial strain on the surviving family.

Rate.com’s recent article entitled “Plan Your Own Funeral, Cheaply, and Leave Behind a Happier Family”  notes that on an individual basis, it can be a significant cost for a family dealing with grief. The National Funeral Directors Association found that the median cost for a traditional funeral, with a basic casket that also includes a vault (the casket liner most cemeteries require) can cost more than $9,000. With the cost of a (single) plot and the services of the cemetery to take care of the burial and ongoing maintenance and other expenses,  it can total more than $15,000.

Instead, if you opt for cremation and a simple service, it will run only $2,000 or less. That would save your estate or your family $13,000. Think of the amount of legacy that can grow from your last wishes.

If you want to research it further, it can be difficult. Without your directions, your grieving family is an easy mark for a death care industry that is run for profit. Even with federal disclosure rules, most states make it impossible to easily comparison shop among funeral service providers, and online price lists are not required. However, you can do the legwork to make it easier on your family, when you pass.

Funeral homes also are not usually forthright about costs that are required rather than optional. The median embalming cost is $750.However, there is no regulation requiring embalming. Likewise, a body need not be placed in a casket for cremation. The median cost for a cremation casket is $1,200 but an alternative “container” might cost less than $200.

The best thing you can do for your family is to write it down your wishes and plans and make it immediately discoverable.

It can be a great relief to tell your family everything you want (and do not want). However, if that is not feasible with your family dynamics, be certain that you detail of all your wishes in writing. You should also make sure that the document can be easily located by your executor.

Here is a simple option: Write everything out, place your instructions in a sealed envelope and let your children and the executor know the location of the letter.

This elementary step can be the start to helping their decision-making when you pass away, and potentially provide some extra money to help them reach their goals.

Reference: rate.com (June 21, 2020) “Plan Your Own Funeral, Cheaply, and Leave Behind a Happier Family”

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Having “The Talk” – Resources to Help You Talk About End of Life Needs – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

When it comes to thinking about the end of our lives, it can be uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ve thought a lot about how you want the end of your life to look, but you’re having trouble initiating a conversation with your loved ones. Perhaps you’re the adult child of aging parents who have not mentioned their end-of-life wishes. This is a conversation that should not be put off any longer. This article provides resources to get the conversation started, so that you and your loved ones are on the same page regarding end-of-life issues.

Preparing for the Conversation

We often don’t talk about difficult things with family, because we don’t know where to start or we don’t have the words to broach the subject. It can be helpful to sit down and outline what your goals are in the conversation. For example,

  • Putting finances in order
  • Ensuring a family member or pet is taken care of
  • Alerting loved ones to an important or upsetting health issue
  • Informing loved ones, as to who you want as your health care proxy

This list can get pretty long, so it’s essential to write things down in advance to help keep you on track. One resource we’ve found that is useful at this stage is The Conversation Project’s Conversation Starter Kit. This 11-page guide consists of fillable forms designed to help you plan and guide the conversation with your loved ones.

Educating Loved Ones

Sometimes, priming yourself and your loved ones can provide a starting point for the end-of-life conversation. Podcasts are a popular way for people to learn new things. -Why not end-of-life care options? Here’s a list of several popular podcasts addressing end-of-life issues that you can subscribe to and share with your friends and family:

Finding the Words

Whether you are thinking about your own future or the future of an aging loved one, it can be hard to find the right time and the right words to begin a conversation. The truth is, this doesn’t have to be one single, heavy conversation. You can lead up to longer, more in-depth discussions using a few smaller conversations that can happen at any time. Consider these conversation-starters:

  • “I was thinking about what happened to Aunt Sally, and it made me realize…”
  • “My friend Louis died suddenly last month, leaving his wife and daughter reeling. I’m worried that might happen to you and dad.”
  • “You know, I’m okay right now, but I’m worried that _____, and I want to be prepared.”
  • “I need your help thinking about the future.”
  • “Remember when Uncle Fred died and everyone said it was a ‘good death’? How can we make sure yours is too?”

Talking about end-of-life issues can be difficult. However, it’s a conversation worth having to ensure you face your last years, months, days and hours on your own terms.

Resources:

The Conversation Project. “Starter Kits.” (Accessed November 28, 2019)  https://theconversationproject.org/

ARRP. Org. “Caregiver Life Balance.” (Accessed November 28, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/talk-end-of-life-care.html

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Do I Need to Know About My Own Funeral Arrangements? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

You’ve heard about death and taxes. While having a plan for your death may not be a big priority, creating a plan for your family when you pass is something everyone should do.

WHNT’s recent article, “How to plan for life after death,” says the first step is having that conversation with someone you trust. It may be a close friend, a family member or an attorney.

Next, think about some important considerations like what you want in terms of a funeral service, burial or cremation, if you want life insurance to pay your last expenses and how your estate should be handled.

The National Institute on Aging has created a comprehensive list of considerations for those who are facing end of life decisions. It’s also a great resource for caretakers.

This planning will may make the process easier for those you leave behind, especially if you work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

There are also some fundamental decisions that can also ease the financial burden on your loved ones.

The average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. This price range includes the services at the funeral home, burial in a cemetery and the installation of a headstone at the cemetery.

The National Funeral Directors Association reports that the median cost to move the remains of a loved one to a funeral home in the U.S. is $325. Embalming can run about $725, and the average cost of a vault in the United States is $1,395, as of 2017.

According to the 2018 NFDA Cremation & Burial Report, the 2018 cremation rate is estimated to be 53.5%, and the burial rate is projected to be 40.5%.

Forbes says that roughly 42% of people opt to be cremated because of the costs involved with a standard funeral in the United States.

Reference: WHNT (June 30, 2019) “How to plan for life after death”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

‘Someday’ Is Sooner than You Think – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The cause for sleepless nights for many now comes from worrying about aging parents. As parents age, it becomes more important to talk with them about a number of “someday” issues, advises Kanawha Metro in the article “Preparing for someday.” As their lives move into the elder years, your discussions will need to address housing, finances and end-of-life wishes.

Where do your parents want to spend their later years? It may be that they want to move to an active retirement community not far from where they live now, or they may want a complete change of scenery, perhaps in a warmer climate.

One family made arrangements for their mother to take a tour of a nearby senior-living community after their father passed. By showing their mother the senior-living community, they made an unknown, slightly intimidating thing into a familiar and attractive possibility. Because she saw the facility with no pressure, just a tour and lunch, she knew what kind of options it presented. The building was clean and pretty and the staff was friendly. Therefore, it was a positive experience. She was able to picture herself living there.

Money becomes an issue as parents age. If the person who always handled the family finances passes away, often the surviving spouse is left trying to figure out what has been done for the last five decades. A professional can help, especially if they have had a long-standing relationship.

However, when illness or an injury takes the surviving spouse out of the picture, even for a little while, things can get out of control fast. It only takes a few weeks of not being able to write checks or manage finances to demonstrate the wisdom of having children or a trusted person named with a power of attorney to be able to pay bills and manage the household.

As parents age and their health becomes fragile, they need help with doctor appointments. Having a child or trusted adult go with them to speak up on their behalf, or explain any confusing matters, is very important.

Having an estate plan in place is another part of the business of aging that needs to be accomplished. It may be helpful to go with your parents to meet with an estate planning attorney to create documents that include a last will and testament, durable power of attorney and advanced health care directive. Without these documents, executing their estate or helping them if they become incapacitated will be more complex and more costly.

Eliminate a scavenger hunt by making sure that at least two siblings know where the originals of these documents are.

One of the more difficult conversations has to do with end-of-life and funeral arrangements. Where do your parents want to be buried, or do they want to be cremated? What should be done with their remains?

What do they want to be done with their personal belongings? Are there certain items that they want to be given to certain members of the family, or other people they care for? One family used masking tape and a marker to write the names of the people they wanted to receive certain items.

Finally, what do they want to happen to their pets? If there is a family member who says they will take their parent’s pet, can that person be trusted to follow through? There needs to be a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C so that the beloved pet can be assured a long and comfortable life after their owner has passed.

Yes, these are difficult conversations. However, not having them can lead to far more difficult issues. Knowing what your loved ones wish to happen, and making it enforceable with an estate plan, provides everyone in the family with peace of mind.

Reference: Kanawha Metro (May 29, 2019) “Preparing for someday”

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End of Life Planning to Care for Loved Ones During Grief – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s definitely an uncomfortable thing to do. However, making funeral arrangements for yourself eliminates a lot of stress and anxiety for the family members, who are left to guess what you may have wanted. This, says the Leesville Daily Leader in the article Planning for the end of your life lets you make the decisions.

Here are some of the things to consider:

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated?
  • Do you want a funeral or a memorial service?
  • What music do you want played?
  • Do you want flowers, or would you prefer donations to a charity?
  • Do you want people to speak or prefer that only a religious leader speak?
  • What clothing do you want to be buried in?
  • Have you purchased a plot? A gravestone?
  • Who should be notified about your death?
  • Do you want an obituary published in the newspaper?

There are also estate matters that need to be attended to before you pass. Do you have a will, power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, or a living will? Make sure that your family members or your executor know where these documents can be found.

If you do not have an estate plan in place, now is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and have a plan created.

Your family will also need to be able to access information about your accounts: investment accounts, credit cards, utility bills, Social Security, pension, retirement funds and other assets and property. A list of the professionals, including your estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor, along with the names of your healthcare providers, will be needed.

If you are a veteran, you’ll need to have a copy of your DD-214 in your documents or let family members know where this is located. They will need it, or the funeral home will need it, when applying for burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cemetery Administration.

If you wish to be buried in a national cemetery, you’ll need VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery. This must be completed and sent to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. Include a copy of the DD-214 with the application.

Your family may find discussing these details difficult, but when the time comes, they will appreciate the care that you took, one last time, to take care of them.

Reference: Leesville Daily Leader (May 1, 2019) “Planning for the end of your life”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys