We’re back to that recent New York Times article about funeral planning.  The reporter offers spot on advice about the ‘gaps’ of preneed arrangements.  A surviving parent will frequently advise adult children that they need not worry about his (or her) funeral because they have purchased a preneed contract.  As the article suggests, adult children should sit down with their parent to discuss those funeral and burial plans, and then review the preneed contract.  If there is a single preneed contract, that would be the first red flag that the parent has left out a key component of a complete funeral arrangement.

Historically, funeral planning would begin with the purchase of a grave.  With the cremation rate now exceeding 50% in many parts of the country, this may no longer be accurate.  Regardless, the first question children should put to their parent(s) is what do you want done with your remains.  If the parent wants a traditional burial, a minimum of two preneed contracts will be needed: one for a funeral and one for the burial services and merchandise.  This should be true even when the funeral home and cemetery are owned by the same company.

Cemeteries no longer include the opening and closing of grave spaces with the purchase of the grave.  The parent should have a document that transfers interment rights in a specific grave.   Most cemeteries no longer issue deeds.   Rather they convey a right of interment.   But, that document will not likely address the services required to open the grave and then close it.

There are other services and merchandise that will be required to use the grave: a vault or grave liner; a monument or marker; an inscription on the marker or a bronze scroll with the name and dates.  If the parent has chosen cremation instead of a traditional burial, there are other items to be taken care at the cemetery: inurnment fees; an urn; bronze memorial plate; memorial services, etc.

If the parent does have a cemetery preneed contract, adult children should make an inquiry with the cemetery to discuss what might be left out.  Many cemeteries offer limited preneed options because the costs of granite and bronze rise too quickly.  It would be a good idea to take the contract to the cemetery to discuss the other costs they could expect.

There is also the possibility that the parent has purchased a preneed cremation contract and not made any arrangement for the disposition of their ashes.   My own mother’s plan was to sit on my fireplace mantle.  That did not fit well with my wife’s decorum for our family room.  Eventually, we obtained a second right of interment to my grandparents’ graves.

Even with a preneed funeral contract, there are frequently items that the funeral home does not provide.  Preneed funeral contracts frequently offer to set aside funds for cash advance items.  Most frequently, cash advance funds are used to pay for flowers, obituaries, minister fees and live music.  If the parent is contemplating a memorial at the church, there will be a separate expense to the church.  Again, adult children would be best advised to take the preneed contract into the issuing funeral home and discuss what is, and is not, covered by the contract.