preparing for the cost of dying

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It costs anywhere from $6000 to $10000 to die in New Jersey (note that I said “to die”, not “to kill someone” – we aren’t all captains in crime families here in the Garden State, although we have our fair share and even some favorite sons).

Nobody wants to confront their own mortality, of course. My guess is that it’s probably right down there with cleaning septic tanks and reading children’s toy assembly guides on everyone’s list of least favorite things to do. But you have to stop and think about it for a second if you have a family – and even if you don’t.

If you are single, you may not have life insurance. If you are married, you may not even have started working on this yet. If you are married with children and don’t have life insurance, you need to go talk to an agent rather than reading this post. But life insurance may not always cover all of the costs, and you may leave behind a huge financial hit to your loved ones if you haven’t prepared properly. There is nothing more grim than planning your own funeral down to the last detail… except leaving your loved ones to do it for you. Think about a few of these things:

1. Burial? Cremation? A flaming ship pushed out to sea, Viking-style? You have to make your wishes known. You may assume that you’ll be buried in the family plot or have your ashes scattered to the winds, but have you told anyone about that? Can you imagine leaving that decision up to someone else, particularly in a moment of grief?

2. Taking care of the costs should not be a concern for your survivors. Can you imagine being a spouse or a parent or a child and trying to talk to a funeral director while doubled over in grief? Is that going to be a time that they need to be making decisions about money? Make sure that you take care of picking out a casket, or a mausoleum, or an urn or whatever it is you will need – but don’t leave that decision to your survivors.

3. Have money set aside as “don’t worry about anything” money. Make sure that you have an emergency fund well-funded or a separate account altogether (a “disaster fund” maybe) so that nobody has to worry about going to work or taking care of flying relatives into town – those details should be taken care of without worrying about the cost.

A confession – I haven’t done ANY of these things. I know I should, since I have a good example in the family. My grandfather had taken care of every single detail of his funeral 30 years before he died, to ensure that when he did absolutely no pressure to determine anything would fall on my grandmother. It was a brave thing to confront his mortality at such a young age (in his 40s) and certainly made a world of difference for all of us when he passed. He had expressed all of his preferences, leaving almost nothing to the imagination.

So just remember “worrying about death expenses” as item #675 on your list of a thousand things you need to plan for but haven’t yet.

(photo credit: robin.elaine )

10 Replies to “preparing for the cost of dying”

  1. I have a small life insurance policy ($30,000) to cover funeral expenses or whatever. I’m also putting together a list of my accounts for my parents in case anything happens to me. I don’t think I’m ready to prepare the type of funeral I would like though…

  2. I just realized that my above comment seems really morbid. However, I did have a few friends die (my age and younger) recently (accidents, cancer, etc); so I want to be prepared.

  3. Don’t forget to leave some decisions for your loved ones to make. Many people find planning things like readings / music etc for the funeral of a loved one to be very helpful – and of course, a funeral is meant to be (at least in part) a comfort to those left behind.

  4. I think this is very important to talk about with several people. It may be uncomfortable, but the more people you tell directly, without any ambiguity of what you want (cremation, burial, service type, etc.), the better the odds are your wishes will be kept. We’ve all heard of situations where families fight over how things should be done because the deceased “said” something to someone and the other person had no idea about it.

    It’s simple: if you want your wishes to be followed, be clear and explicit about them so when you die, everyone in your family will say “Of course that’s how we’ll do it, he talked about it all the time.”

    OK, maybe not ALL THE TIME, that would be a little morbid

  5. I’ve told them that I want my body given away. I should still look into what kinds of expenses that would incur. But I’d much rather it do someone some good somehow instead of just being stuck in the dirt and costing my family money. I don’t think it’s wrong to want a burial, but if you expect something expensive it’s only fair to have at least that much money in life insurance.

    I had a friend who died at 21 in a car crash. Her parents didn’t have the money on hand for funeral stuff. They were able to get her a plot, but not a stone. I think that I’d probably get small amounts of life insurance on any kids we have, just in case.

  6. I’m not getting life insurance until I have a family. If I were to die, my Roth, 401k, and savings could more than cover a funeral/burial. my parents are the beneficiaries. If I don’t get to use that money in my retirement, I should at least get to use it in my death.

    That being said, my parents had small policies on us kids when we were younger. Just in case. But they didn’t have a lot of savings and shouldn’t have liquidated their retirements to bury a child

  7. Be careful with life insurance policies. As a funeral director I was taught to have You the client make the Funeral Home The 1st beneficiary on your policy. It is a simple trap to get you to pay more to the funeral home.

    Your Funeral Guy and Author of “Rest in Peace Insiders Tips to the Low Cost Less Stress Funeral”, R.Brian Burkhardt

  8. You have to make your wishes known….so many people share their funeral ideas over coffee, it is important to have those creative funeral ideas written down on paper. If you want a Viking funeral, you should start researching the legalities of it now. Being creative does not need to be expensive.
    The services are for the survivors, it would be extra nice to have it all taken care.

  9. I don’t know how old he was when he made plans but my grandfather did the same thing. He passed last November and Mawmaw didn’t have to worry about a thing except to make sure his wishes were carried out.

    I am far from my family and not even sure where I would want to be buried.

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