Are You Including Funeral and Burial Instructions in Your Estate Plan?

Many people include funeral and burial instructions as part of their estate plan. There are a number of different reasons to make these final arrangements within your estate plan. Among other things, the benefit of putting funeral and burial instructions in your estate plan include:

  • Informing your family of your preferred final arrangements;
  • Reducing the risk of a conflict over how exactly the funeral or burial should go; and
  • Providing clarity to your loved ones during a difficult time.

We want to make sure that you have the tools and information you need to build a truly comprehensive estate plan. Here, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers highlight the things you should consider if you are including funeral and burial instructions as part of your estate plan.

Funeral and Burial Instructions: Communication Is Key

When thinking about their funeral and burial arrangement, many people start with the same question: Should I put my funeral and burial instructions in my will? The short answer is that you can use your will to share this information, but it is usually not sufficient. Here is the issue: In the United States the average funeral takes place within a week of the death. In some cases, the funeral occurs before a will is even located and reviewed—let alone before it is submitted to a North Carolina probate court. Make sure that a trusted person knows your preferred funeral and burial arrangements. Here are two basic tips:

  • A ‘Final Arrangement’ Document is a Good Option: If you have specific desires for your funeral and burial, it is worth drafting a final arrangement document. You can use this type of basic estate planning document to address many important issues, including things like the location of the services should be held and the proper way to notify family and friends.
  • Communication is Important: You will not want to keep funeral and burial instructions a secret. While it is obviously a sensitive topic and not necessarily something you want to talk about on a regular basis, you should make sure that trusted family members know how to access your final arrangement instructions. It is a good idea to executor and anyone that holds your general power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney fully informed.

Notably, there are state laws governing funerals. Under North Carolina law (North Carolina Statutes § § 130A-420), the right and responsibility for making handling the disposition of a body goes to the person(s) given authority as part of a valid estate plan. If no funeral and burial plan is in place, then the closest living relative—spouse first, then adult children, then parents, and so on—will have the right and responsibility to determine how to proceed.

A Clear Financial Plan Is Highly Recommended

Funeral and burial planning is really a two-step process. This first step centers around communication and clarity. Your loved ones need to know what you want. The second step is focused on financing. A funeral and burial can be costly. For reference, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that the average total cost of funeral and burial between $7,000 and $12,000. Of course, the cost of any specific funeral/burial can vary widely. It is recommended that you include a financial plan as part of your funeral and burial arrangements. Here are your three primary options for handling the costs:

  • Pre-Pay Funeral and Burial Expenses: Many people choose to pre-pay for part (or all) of their funeral and burial expenses. In some cases, it is a convenient option. Of course, pre-paying is not without its drawbacks. The younger you are, the less pre-paying makes sense.
  • Set Up a Designated Savings Account: You can also have a designated savings account or otherwise put away some money to cover your funeral and burial costs. This way, your family and friends will not need to figure out who is going to pay the expenses.
  • Purchase Life Insurance: Finally, life insurance can be a useful tool to cover funeral and burial expenses. You should review your life insurance coverage to make sure that your needs are addressed.
Schedule a Fully Confidential Consultation With a North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers are driven to help people and families find true stability and security through careful planning. If you have any questions or concerns about estate planning and funeral/burial instructions, we can provide guidance and support. For a confidential initial consultation, please contact us today. From our offices in Monroe, Mooresville, and Charlotte, we offer estate planning services throughout the wider region.