When Kathryn contemplated her death (which granted, wasn’t very often) she foresaw herself being buried in a cardboard coffin. A mahogany casket with a plush, satin finish? That wasn’t for her. Kathryn’s exit would be easier on the planet, easier on the wallet, and no doubt easier on her family. 

She casually made her wishes known to her daughters – both young adults – and thought of it no further. That is, until her dad passed away. Kathryn, an only child, was 51 at the time. Her mother June was 78. Together, the two of them took care of the funeral arrangements. 

Kathryn wished her father had put an end-of-life plan in place. 

Says Kathryn, “I’m pretty easygoing, so before my dad died it had honestly never occurred to me to put a formal funeral plan in place for myself. I just figured that whatever the girls choose to do would be fine by me. I mean, I won’t be here so does it really matter? But this experience taught me that planning isn’t only for the deceased; it’s for the people left behind. The ones who have to do the planning.”

An unplanned funeral can easily become an emotional nightmare.

While Kathryn’s parents had long picked out their burial plots at a nearby cemetery, that was the extent of their end-of-life preparation. When June insisted that the memorial take place at her local church, Kathryn was strongly opposed. Her father had stopped attending services a decade ago and the idea seemed hypocritical. But without her father’s word to go on, there was no way she was going to trump her mother’s decision.

Another conflict arose because her father had said nothing about the type of gathering he would want at his funeral. June, a very private individual, wanted to limit the service to immediate family and close friends. Kathryn, on the other hand, felt her father deserved broader acknowledgement. Once the principal of the local secondary school, he had been well respected in the community. Surely he warranted a grander send-off?

“At the end of the day, my mom called all the shots and I have to admit, it put a wedge between us at a time when we really should have come closer together and supported one another,” says Kathryn. “We’ve recovered but to be honest, I still feel a little bitter about some of the decisions she made.”

The less you plan ahead, the more your funeral will likely cost.

Family conflict aside, Kathryn’s father’s funeral drained her financially. June was confident that her husband would have been happy being buried in a cardboard box, but when it came time to select a casket, Kathryn just couldn’t do it. 

“I never once saw my dad wearing scuffed shoes,” she says. “There was no way I was going to let him leave us in a cheap coffin. Sure, an eco-friendly box is good enough for me, but not for my dad.” 

No funds had been set aside for the funeral. June wasn’t in a financial position to pay for an elaborate casket and Kathryn wasn’t either so she withdrew some of her retirement savings to cover the costs. That’s when she realized she needed to put some of her own plans in place.

“It’s not for me; it’s for my kids,” she says. “I did what I did for my dad because I needed to be 100% certain I was doing the best by him. If I don’t put a formal plan in place, my girls are going to be facing the same guessing game. Heaven forbid they fall out with one another because I failed to make my wishes clear to them.”

Kathryn now has preneed funeral insurance in place.

Within a few months of her father’s death, Kathryn visited her local funeral home and they helped her put a preneed funeral policy in place. She’s chosen her casket and pre-selected every little detail – from the memorial location and the music she’d like played to the type of food she’d like served, and more. 

When the time comes, her girls won’t have questions about what their mother would have wanted. Nor will they have any financial burden. Every last detail has been articulated. The funeral home will simply pass Kathryn’s death certificate onto Assurant and they’ll take care of the costs. 

“When I die, I want my life celebrated,” says Kathryn. “The girls and I have discussed my funeral plan thoroughly. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have, but they’re now clear about my wishes and above all, about the importance of them not swaying from the plan. I refuse to be the cause of conflict.”

Speaking of celebrating life, Kathryn also articulated this in her funeral plan: “No black to be worn at my funeral!”

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