Think about how much time we put into planning things like college, a wedding, moving to a new home, having a baby and retirement. Now think about how much time we put into planning for our death. For many people, it’s no time at all.
Perhaps you’ve got your estate plan documents in order, but how much time have you put into thinking through and planning for your funeral, burial or cremation? Unfortunately, by you not making these plans, they end up being thrown together at the last minute by bereaved friends and family. That is hardly the time for them to make significant financial and emotional decisions. As for the financial part, we may able to help. Consider earmarking funds for just this purpose and save them in a readily accessible account, or have these costs funded by a life insurance policy — if you are ready to talk about ways to set aside adequate funding, give our firm a call.
Today, the death industry is big business. The cost of a typical funeral in the U.S. ranges from $8,000 to $10,000. The cost of a casket alone can run from $2,000 to $10,000, although if you comparison shop you can find cheaper prices.1 For example, you can buy less expensive caskets online at places like Costco.2
If you want to help your family save on costs and avoid making emotional decisions, your pre-planning will go a long way. You don’t have to pre-purchase your own coffin, but you could shop around, create a plan for costs, bookmark your favorite options, and document ideas on how you’d like your demise handled. Consider it a guideline for your loved ones to help them make decisions when the time comes.
Once you embrace the idea of planning for your own death, it can become a satisfying exploration into your life, your quirks and individuality. As with nearly every challenge faced during their lifetime, baby boomers are getting creative about how they want their deaths handled. Ideas include custom-decorated caskets, green funerals, webcast streaming for people who can’t attend funeral services, as well as writing and/or videotaping their own obituaries.3 Some funerals encourage participants to share their own memories of the deceased by singing favorite songs, or reading personal letters or poems that reflect their feelings.
Some people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles are choosing green funerals. Choosing a “natural burial” is apparently better for the environment because it doesn’t involve embalming chemicals and coffin materials that contaminate the soil. People who go this route are instead buried in biodegradable containers (such as wicker) on areas of protected land instead of marked graveyards.4 For example, in South Carolina, the Ramsey Creek Preserve is one of many across the U.S. that allow for natural burial sites in the forest, with graves soon being covered with various types of plants.5
Of course, as another alternative to what we might consider a “traditional” burial, cremation is on the rise. In 2016, the number of people who chose to be cremated grew to 50 percent. One reason it has become more popular is that Americans are more transient now, living in a variety of different places throughout their lifetimes — not to mention the travel habits of their adult children — so they’re not interested in being buried in a place no one will ever visit.6
This option considers that ashes are portable. They can relocate along with family, or be spread anywhere in the world — or both. Some family members carry ashes in lockets or share them with other loved ones of the deceased.7
Here’s a new twist on cremation: There are companies that can compress the ashes into a memorial diamond. Because human remains contain carbon, they can be compressed and heated in the same way that diamonds are formed naturally. The process can even be used to memorialize deceased pets. This alternative can even be a less expensive and less complicated alternative to a traditional burial, depending on the color, size and cut of the diamond.8
It may be incredibly unconventional, but turning a loved one into a diamond sounds like a lovely idea to keep their memory “on hand.” After all, diamonds are forever.
1 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
2 Costco. “Funeral.” https://www.costco.com/funeral.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
3 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
4 CBS SFBayArea. Nov. 1, 2017. “New ‘Green Burial’ Cemetery Operating In San Mateo County.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/11/01/new-green-burial-cemetery-operating-san-mateo-county/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
5 Ana Aceves. PBS. Nov. 9, 2017. “Wilderness Burials May be Better for the Environment and Boost Conservation.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/wilderness-burials-may-be-better-for-the-environment-and-boost-conservation/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
6 Josh Sanburn. Time. July 13, 2017. “More Americans Than Ever Are Choosing to Be Cremated.” http://time.com/4853150/cremation-rate-us-50-percent/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
7 Annalisa Barbieri. The Guardian. Jan. 6, 2018. “‘It was an incredibly enriching day’: the families taking control of death.” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/06/it-was-an-incredibly-enriching-day-the-families-taking-control-of-death. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
8 Business Matters. Jan. 4, 2018. “Memorial Diamonds: A new & innovative burial service rising in popularity in the UK.” http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/memorial-diamonds-a-new-innovative-burial-service-rising-in-popularity-in-the-uk/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.