Monday, May 6, 2013

My parent keeps changing their wishes for their funeral arrangements-how do I handle arrangements

By Bob Gregory

Most children of elderly parents shy away from discussing final funeral arrangements for their parent.  No one wants to think about the time their parent will pass away and most don’t want to discuss it either.  However, I think you will be surprised to find how many elderly parents are more than willing to tell their children exactly what they would like for their final send off from this world.  In fact, you may find yourself getting new versions all the time and that’s where the real issue begins!

None of us can say with any certainty when our death will occur but we can all be sure it will occur.  Planning for the future should include more than where one will retire, how much money they will have and where they will travel.  It should also include the end of life plan.  This plan should include the proper documents that need to be in place such as a Living Will, Trust Documents, Do Not Resuscitate Form (DNR) and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  It should also include your final wishes for the proper burial once you have passed away.  Individuals’ preferences vary widely on this matter and you should make your wishes clear.  These wishes are usually spelled out in detail as part of the Will.  If your parent does not have these documents or their final wishes detailed in the will, I strongly suggest you get them completed and read my post “What legal documents does my aging parent need to insure their end- of-life medical wishes are followed?”

butterfly (in a cemetary)
 (Photo credit: paul goyette)
If you can get your parent to complete the forms I listed above, then their end of life wishes should be detailed in the Will.  I suggest you keep a copy with you as well as with the attorney.  It is always a good practice to review legal documents from time to time as significant changes occur throughout our lives.  This can be true of funeral arrangements as well.  It is not uncommon for individuals nearing end of life to become more Spiritual or “find” God.  Certain Religions have guidelines, sometimes rules, an individual must follow for their final burial.  If so, you will want to revisit what was included in the Will and make any revisions necessary to comply with your parent’s religious belief and wish.  This can usually be achieved by a Codicil (addition) to the Will so the entire Will does not have to be rewritten.  Be sure and detail in writing your parent’s wishes before contacting the attorney.

If your parent does not have a Will and you are not successful in convincing your parent to have one written, then sit down and write down exactly what your parent would like.  I suggest you have your parent date and sign the document.  This will allow you to “remind” your parent what their wishes were at that particular time.  If they wish to change the plans, do so in the same manner so you will always have the latest version on hand with a date and signature.  Generally, if someone changes their mind about their final wishes, it is either to simplify or to embellish, so be prepared.

Prepaid funerals can be a very good way to plan and assure that your parent’s wishes are carried out properly and the financial means are available.  Most funeral homes have prepaid plans available and most are very flexible—this will allow your parent to change their mind within the budget they have prepaid!  Make sure you deal with a well established funeral home and beware of changes in ownership.  Prepaid funerals are also a good way to assure emotions do not dictate what type of funeral is purchased after a loved one has passed away.  Choosing and paying for one’s funeral in advance can be a little unsettling so prepare yourself and your parent.  Also, don’t think that the task is complete and all is settled once you have prepaid.  Often there will be some up- selling by the funeral home at the time of death so don’t let your 
Red sunset
Red sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
emotions get in the way of your parent’s plan!

You parent will most likely change their mind about their final funeral arrangements at least once in their life time so be patient.  If you have not been successful in implementing any of the above, then go with the last thing your parent told you and not what you may remember from many years ago.  My mother had planned a very elaborate funeral right down to the color and type gown to wear.  She had made this wish known for years and we all knew exactly what she wanted.  In the last year of her life she literally did a 180 degree turn on what she wanted and insisted on a very simple ceremony.  In the end, her wish was to make it simple and easy on her children she was leaving behind—an unexpected favor to us!

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Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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