Final Wishes

If you are like most people, you probably have some specific issues regarding the disposal of your remains. You may want to be buried in a coffin, with a burial vault, in the ground, or you may want to be cremated and placed in urns on your children’s mantels so you can watch over them and their families.

Do you want a funeral or memorial service? How about visitation and viewing of your body? Do you want a public service, a small private family service or no service at all?

To make sure that your wishes are going to be followed, the first thing you need to do is get them down on paper. If you have any specific requests, document them.

One of the best ways to document your funeral wishes is to purchase a pre-paid funeral contract. With a pre-paid funeral contract, you can choose the type of service, the visitation that you want, your casket, burial vault or urn, etc.

When purchasing a pre-paid funeral contract, make sure that it is a Medicaid qualifying contract and get the funeral home’s Medicaid certification which is done on Form DHS-8A. If the pre-paid funeral is not Medicaid qualified, the pre-paid funeral would be considered an available resource that you would have to spend down before you could apply for Medicaid to pay for your nursing home care.

For example, the pre-paid funeral contract cannot include a funeral luncheon. If the pre-paid funeral contract includes a funeral luncheon, the contract would not be eligible as an exempt asset for Medicaid qualification purposes. The entire pre-paid funeral contract could be considered an available resource available for nursing home care spend down.

You can purchase a burial plot and monument or headstone of your choice. The monument or headstone can be engraved with everything except for the death date and placed on the burial plot.

To make things easier for the family and because you may have specific wishes, you may want to write out your funeral service including readings, songs, verses and prayers. I have seen many families almost come to blows about what songs should be sung, what readings should be read and by whom. In documenting your wishes, you can make it easier for the family so they can concentrate on grieving rather than worrying about how many verses of How Great Thou Art should be sung.

In addition, if the family doesn’t like it, they will be mad at you instead of each other. I would rather have my children mad at me after I am gone than at each other for the next thirty years.

Another thing to do to make things easier for your family is to write your own obituary. By writing your own obituary, you can be in control of what gets said to the paper and how you want to be remembered. You are the person who best knows you. If someone else has to write your obituary, it can be a tedious task.

For example, I had an uncle who was a priest and the family wanted to include in the obituary, all of the churches he had served with the years of service so that the obituary could be placed in the local paper of each of those parishes. One of the nephews spent the better part of two days in gathering up the information and writing the obituary and placing it in all of the papers. Instead of spending all that time preparing the obituary, we all could have spent that time supporting one another.

Most importantly, let your loved ones know that you have written down specific wishes and tell them where the documents can be easily found. Do not lock them away in a strong box or bank safety deposit box only to be found weeks after the funeral. Put them some place logical from which they can be easily retrieved before the funeral.

You have lots of options. Most people want their family proceeding through the grieving process and supporting one another rather than worrying about or fighting over the details of their funeral and disposal of their remains. Write down your wishes and let your family know where those wishes can be found.

By: Matthew M. Wallace, CPA JD

Published edited June 7, 2009 in The Times Herald newspaper, Port Huron, Michigan as: Leave final plans accessible for family

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