Planning for death in life

by Gillian King

Couples often delight in planning for new babies, anniversaries, birthdays and their children’s weddings. They set aside money for their children’s college fund and for their own retirement. They make plans to buy a new house or travel around the world. One thing that couples may not look forward to planning, however, is their own funerals.  The desire to not leave a burden for their children is pushing many seniors to do so, though.

Geraldean Densley, 81, and her husband, Fred, think it is important to make sure they have as much planned as possible so their children will not have to try to guess what the couple’s wishes are.  They also want to make sure their children do not have to worry about paying for funeral expenses.

“We have money in savings for that,” Geraldean said, “and my husband says it will be enough.”

Many couples worry about leaving a burden for surviving family members and so have set aside money to lessen the burden. Noel Taylor, 78, and his wife are among those individuals who have made the necessary financial arrangements.  Taylor is not shy about what his wishes are either, and he makes sure he discusses them with his family. “It’s something that needs to be talked about,” Taylor said.

Taylor also said he does not believe in spending a lot of money on funerals, and would like his own to remain as low-cost as possible. He does have one specific request, though.

“I’ve been looking into green funerals,” Taylor said.  A green funeral would mean that his body would not be embalmed and the use of a special casket would be required. He believes it is important to be environmentally friendly even in death. Taylor has already begun shopping around for his casket so that his family will have one less thing to worry about.

Buying things such as caskets pre-need, or before an individual dies, can make the actual funeral arranging much easier for surviving family members. This is why more people are buying what they can while they can.

“We already have our plots in Riverton,” Geraldean Densley said. “We bought those about 20 years ago.” The decision of where to buy their plots was not made randomly. “Riverton is home,” she said. Densley added that it would not seem right to be buried somewhere else since they have thought of Riverton as their home for most of their married lives.

Taylor has also already acquired plots for himself and his wife. Much like the Densleys, he wanted to pick somewhere that would feel like home.

“We have plots in Pleasant Grove, where my parents are buried,” Taylor said.

He chose to have his plots in the same cemetery because he wanted to be able to be near family. His children are scattered among several states and two countries, so being buried near them would be impossible. He decided being near his parents would be the best option.

But not everyone plans things ahead of time. Genean Warner, 70, and her husband still have a lot of things to figure out.

“We’re one of them procrastinators,” Warner said. “We haven’t planned anything yet. We’ve talked about it, but we haven’t done anything.”

Like Taylor and Densley, however, Warner does know where she wants to be buried. She would like to have plots for her and her husband in Murray, where they live.

Not having formalized plans or designated funds for funeral expenses can present difficulties for surviving spouses or other family members. The average funeral costs around $10,000. Not everyone is able to come up with that amount in short notice either. Social Security can help a little. According to the Social Security Web site, surviving spouses can receive a one-time payment of $255. It may not seem like very much, but every bit helps.

With all the emotions that family members may be feeling upon the death of a loved one, worry is one feeling that Densley does not want her family to have to feel. Anxiety about where the money will come from to fund a funeral or how to carry out her wishes is something she wants to spare her family. There will be enough going on that she does not want her family to have to wonder what she would want or how to accomplish it.

“We have a living will so the kids will know exactly what to do,” she said.

Densley is not the only one trying to reduce confusion. Along with setting up funeral funds and arranging for plots and caskets, Taylor and his wife also took the time to draw up their will.

No matter how much time is taken in planning, there always seems to be more to do, though.

“I keep thinking we should get our headstone, but we haven’t yet,” Densley said.