Helping Plan Your Own Funeral
One of the benefits of proper estate planning is the ability to lessen the burden on family members that are called upon to make decisions on your behalf. An advance directive that instructs physicians and hospitals on end of life decisions is one example of that. Another example concerns the difficult decisions our loved ones are asked to make immediately after death.
I was reminded of that just this week when my mother-in-law passed away after a long illness. Within a few hours, my wife was called upon to make decisions surrounding the interment.
The most significant decision is often burial vs. cremation. A second, equally difficult decision, is whether to have an open casket. When family members are asked to make these decisions, there is a preference to do “what mom would want.” And that can be hard to determine and can lead to bad feelings if family members disagree. The very last thing any of us want is to have our passing create family disharmony.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law set out in her will her decisions on interment, avoiding any uncertainty. But a will is not the only way to make our burial desires known. The Texas Legislature has provided us a form that family members and funeral homes are required to follow. This burial instruction form, found here, allows a person to designate an agent to make decisions regarding interment or burial, as well as provide instructions.
One of the advantages of using this form, instead of placing the information in your will, is that you can provide the form to the person you designate without having to also provide that person with a copy of your will. In addition, a will containing this information may not be immediately accessible at the time these key decisions are made.
I discussed these issues with the funeral director my wife had selected. He told me that just recently, in a meeting with a grieving family that had the benefit of detailed instructions, one of the family members called the instructions “one last gift” from their loved one.