Pre-planning: What you need to know about prepaid funeral plans

Rick Noel, co-owner of Walton’s Funerals & Cremations, stands inside the company’s Sierra Chapel at 875 W. Second St. in Reno.

Rick Noel, co-owner of Walton’s Funerals & Cremations, stands inside the company’s Sierra Chapel at 875 W. Second St. in Reno.

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult moments you can face in life. However, planning your funeral in advance can make it easier for your family. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your loved ones is planning and funding funeral arrangements in advance.

Today, more individuals and families are making the decision to prearrange their funerals than ever before. Because of factors such as inflation, fewer extended family members living close by, and other changes in our society, planning your own funeral can make a lot of sense. Some of the most common reasons people give for pre arranging their own funerals include:

• Allows your wishes to be known

• Reduces stress for friends and family at an already emotional time

• Saves money

• Guarantees your family will never have to pay more for your funeral — no matter what happens with inflation

• Shows you care

• Relieves your loved ones of the financial responsibility

Funeral or memorial service? Burial or cremation? Not sure what you want? Then imagine how your family will feel when they're forced to make those decisions when you die. Save them the added turmoil, potential disagreements and second-guessing. Make those decisions now and let them know what you want.

Pre-planning can remove any potential financial burden from family members. If your funeral pre-planning involves pre-payment, this will save your family money and avoid any financial burden. When you buy a guaranteed plan that specifies the exact goods and services you want, the current price you pay into the plan will cover these expenses later, no matter when your death occurs. That means even if prices go up, your loved ones won’t have to pay more.

Rick Noel


But not all pre-paid funeral plans make sense financially, and regulations can vary by state and province. Understanding what works, what doesn’t, and what questions you need to ask will ensure that you find the right plan that works for you and your family.

Once you’ve made your decisions, your money is set aside with a third party, either via an insurance policy or in a trust account. This ensures your monthly payments are in one of the following safe places:

Pre-need insurance policy: you pay premiums for a set amount of time—usually 3 to 10 years, unless you choose a lump sum payment. The policy is in effect as long as your payments are up to date, and the benefit is paid directly to the funeral home.

Revocable trust: money (a lump sum or payments) for funeral expenses is placed into a trust with a trustee or beneficiary that you can change. The trust can be cashed out or canceled whenever you'd like. The benefit is paid directly to the funeral home.

Irrevocable trust: money (a lump sum or payments) for funeral expenses is placed into a trust that cannot be canceled. The trust has no cash value, and the money in the trust cannot be removed. Changes to the trustee or beneficiary or dissolution of the trust cannot take place without the permission of the trustee. Families usually designate a trust as irrevocable only as a state requirement for Medicare or Medicaid assistance. The benefit is paid directly to the funeral home.

In addition, prepaid funeral plans usually cover these items:

• Services of a funeral director and funeral home staff

• Transportation to the funeral home and care of loved one

• Casket or cremation container

• Cremation services and a container

• Venue for the funeral and/or reception

• Catering

• Transportation to the cemetery

• Burial vault

• Flowers, stationery, decor, keepsakes for family and mementos for friends may be planned and included in prepaid costs

No matter what options you choose when pre-planning for your funeral, the most important part is family communication. Many people often forget that informing their family members about their prepaid funeral plans is crucial to planning. Sometimes they include the details in their will, but family members don’t typically read the will until after the funeral. Similarly, a person might keep an insurance policy or trust in a safe deposit box, but grieving family members may not go through that box right away.

Though you may have put forward your best effort to let your loved ones grieve without the financial burden, they may make their own arrangements if they were not informed beforehand.

To ensure that your wishes are carried out, it’s important you choose the people you designate to handle them carefully and make sure they are fully informed about what you want.

The most important thing to know is there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to plan a funeral. Instead, create a unique, personalized plan that honors your personality and wishes.

Walton’s Funerals & Cremations has been family owned and operated since 1959 when Ed McCaffery purchased the original Walton’s Funeral Home, located at the corner of Second and Vine Streets. Rick Noel has been with the company for 21 years, most recently serving as General Manager, before becoming an owner in 2019. Over the past 11 years, he has been responsible for daily operations, financial management, staff oversight, community relations and marketing. Rick is a third-generation funeral service professional and has been a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer for 36 years.


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