Funeral and burial preplanning gives survivors ease of mindWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
When a loved one dies, family members are often left to plan and pay for the funeral and burial arrangements — unless that loved one has preplanned.
It’s never too early to preplan your final resting place, said Jim Mocek, sales manager at Toledo Memorial Park, a cemetery in Sylvania. Typically, a life change spurs preplanning.
“People don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, honey, let’s go to the cemetery and plan.’ It’s usually something that has happened. They went to the doctor; there might be something wrong with them; or a family member or friend passed away,” he said.
Preplanning also saves family members stress — and cash.
“Not only are they under the stress of somebody passing away, but then they have to make the decisions and then they have to figure out how they’re going pay for a lot of stuff too, which just compounds the problem,” Mocek said. At Toledo Memorial Park, clients lock in current rates and can pay off their bill in 60 months. While preplanning, customers can also learn about options for cremation remains, like burial or niches, if they choose to go that route.
“Everybody thinks that it’s OK just to be cremated and have nothing permanently done with the remains as far as final disposition,” Mocek said. “We have so many affordable options for cremation burial.”
Preplanning seems to be on the rise, he said. About 90 percent of customers at Toledo Memorial Park have selected their grave spaces ahead of time.
“The big population that’s in that baby boomer category is now getting into that age where they really need to start thinking about stuff like this,” Mocek said.
Megan Coyle Stamos, director and prearrangement specialist at Coyle Funeral Home, agreed, “[Baby boomers] are the much more practical, plan-ahead generation.”
Coyle Stamos said she will make house calls and do whatever is needed to make clients comfortable. She said she tries to inject “humor and smiles” into the meetings.
“When someone decides to come in and get more information about prearrangement, I take the time to really listen to what’s going to be important to them,” she said. This means educating people about their options — like burial, cremation, religious aspects, loved ones’ involvement and items like caskets.
When customers prepay for their funeral, the money is put in an account and cannot be touched by the funeral home until after the individual dies, Coyle Stamos said.
The account, aka a funeral insurance irrevocable trust, features a flexible payment plan and also has built-in payments in case someone dies before he or she pays off the balance. The rates are also locked in and unaffected by inflation. If a person moves away, the trust can be transferred to another funeral home.
By allowing customers to lock in rates, the funeral home assumes the risk, said Keith Walker, owner of Walker Funeral Homes. He said about 30 percent of his clients preplan while Coyle Stamos estimated about 60 percent of her customers do.
“What we try hard to do is to get the word out that it’s an easy process. It makes a lot of sense and it would be best that everybody did,” Walker said.
Walker said it isn’t uncommon for children of elderly parents to preplan for their mom or dad’s funeral.
Funerals are a chance to celebrate a person’s life, he said.
“One thing about a funeral, it’s probably the one time people come to commemorate everything that person was from start to finish,” Walker said.
Sometimes the survivors don’t necessarily know their loved ones’ wishes or plans, said Hilary J. Sujkowski, owner of Sujkowski Funeral Home. When a customer comes in, a file with that pertinent information is started. Preplanning also allows for a more accurate obituary because a person can spell out all he or she wants publicized, Sujkowski said.
Although some consider preplanning morbid, they are thankful when it comes down to it.
“They talk like that when they hear about [preplanning], but it’s totally different when they’re faced with it,” Sujkowski said.
“The survivors always seem to be happy that it’s done,” Sujkowski said. “It goes so much smoother.”