preparing for the cost of dying

tomb tombstone grave graveyard crosses

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 )