By preplanning the arrangements for your own funeral, you can save a lot of stress for your family. CNS photo/Rick Wilking

Take stress off your family by pre-planning your funeral

  • November 3, 2013

Pre-planning your own funeral can relieve some stress for your family at the time of your death, says Bradley Scott.

“Parents like to take that responsibility and concern off of their children,” said Scott, general manager of R.S. Kane Funeral Home in Toronto. “Every funeral home has someone on staff, a licensed funeral director, who can meet with families, sit down (and) make the arrangements. At the time of prearrangement you can get into as much detail as you want. Or often people will leave a lot of things to the time of death because circumstances dictate.”

Scott said there are two main areas to pre-plan which take a significant amount of stress off your family in the days following your death. The first is choosing from two options, burial or cremation. It may sound straightforward, but Scott said it is not a simple decision.

With a burial one has to select the type of casket from a large selection of wooden and metal caskets. Then there is the question whether it is to be an open or closed casket visitation, if there is a visitation at all. And a decision needs to be made on the vault. With cremation one must decide the type of urn, will all of the ashes be buried, will there be visitations and if so, how the will the body be displayed?

And that’s just the tip of the tombstone, said Scott.

“It is a big event and I don’t think people are prepared for the detail and the organization required,” he said.

The other main source of stress is the cost, said Scott. By prepaying, in full or in part, much of the stress is taken away from your loved ones.

“A lot of people will prepay,” said Scott, noting that the average funeral arrangement in Ontario costs about $7,500. “Not all people that pre-plan prepay but if they can prepay for the arrangements, again it takes the burden off the kids.”

Scott also noted that prepaying today means that you are not subject to what will likely be a higher price tomorrow.

Not only can pre-planning reduce some of the stress surrounding your death, it gives you more say in your final celebration.

“We’ve had people bring in hobby things,” he said. “We had a gentleman who was a model aeroplane builder so we hung some model aeroplanes from the ceiling in the visitation room. He was also a pharmacist by trade and his white pharmacist’s smock was hanging by the casket.”

Another client, a former tow truck operator, had his casket transported from the funeral home to the cemetery on the back of a flatbed truck.

“Truly, as long as it is legal and ethical and is not going to cause some concern in the community ... then we try to meet every request,” he said. “As time goes on the consumer looks for more creative ways to make each service unique because we are all obviously unique people. We are doing things today that we never would have dreamed of doing 10 (or) 15 years ago.”

What cannot be customized is the funeral service itself, if it is to be held in a Catholic church. While there are some options in terms of readings, prayers and hymns, things such as eulogies, secular or ecumenical music and non-religious literature are prohibited.

Still, preplanning your funeral isn’t common. Scott said only about 15 per cent of those who use R.S. Kane Funeral Home actually plan ahead even though it can take as little as a couple of hours.

“It is just not a topic people are comfortable with,” he said. “More people have cemetery space prearranged and prepaid because they know where they want to be but that is somewhat indirect. Talking about your funeral is a little more personal and a little bit more real.”

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