Why you should consider planning your own funeral

Give yourself peace of mind knowing everything is taken care of.

To some of us it may seem to be a morbid thing to do, but planning your own funeral – and even paying for it – in advance can make a big difference when the inevitable happens.
Jotting down details about what you'd like when it comes to the service and burial or cremation, and covering the cost, can take a lot of pressure off family members at a time when they're likely to be very stressed, as well as grief-stricken.
"It can make things much easier for the family after the person has died, but can also help the person themselves beforehand," says Gavin Murphy, the general manager of Wellington-based Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors.
"Yes, talking about death is a difficult thing to do. It's like talking to your kids about puberty – not an easy conversation to have, but you have to strike when the time is right."
Gavin says funeral directors are happy to meet with people to talk them through what they'd like, so there is no uncertainty after they've passed away.
It's a good idea particularly if you'd like something out of the ordinary for your funeral or if there are elements you definitely don't want.
The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) supplies its funeral directors with a kit called My Life, My Funeral to pass on to clients. It enables you to record your information as required by the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, as well as including details of who needs to be notified of your passing and your preferences for your funeral.
"People do find it is a useful thing to do. You can see them walking out of the office with the weight lifted off their shoulders. They are pleased that everything is taken care of."
Families also appreciate that the funeral has been pre-arranged.
"We have a lot of people saying it gives them peace of mind because the person who has died was able to have their input into the music or the readings or the casket. They then just have to see that their wishes are carried out," Gavin says.
The other thing you can talk to a funeral director about in advance is the cost.
This can help to avoid a financial burden on the family, who may otherwise have to pay for the funeral themselves (prices start from around $7000 to $8000), then wait some time for the estate to be settled before they can recoup the money.
The FDANZ Funeral Trust allows people to pay for part or all of their funeral. The money is paid into the trust and released to the funeral director at the relevant time.
"A lot of the people we talk to about doing this are going into long-term residential care. There is an exemption on pre-paid funerals up to $10,000 when it comes to means testing for residential care, so that money is not considered as a cash asset," explains Gavin.
While a major life change like going into a rest home or being diagnosed with a serious illness may prompt you to begin planning your funeral, it's never too soon to start thinking about what you may want, he adds.
For more information about Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors, visit geeandhickton.co.nz

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