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Can You Name the 4 Different Types of Cemeteries?

By Explore Options, Memorial, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

A cemetery is a cemetery, right? Well, to a degree, that’s true. However, there are actually several different types of cemeteries you should know about. Today, we’ll discuss the 4 main categories as well as some of the unique features that are available.

traditional upright headstones with flower arrangements

What are the 4 main types of cemeteries?

1. Public Cemeteries

Many cemeteries are public cemeteries. Often, they are the most affordable option. In short, a “public” cemetery simply means that anyone from the general public can inquire about purchasing a plot or niche. However, not all public cemeteries are run the same way.

Government-run public cemeteries

More than likely, a local government, like the city or the county, owns this type of public cemetery. Burial is open to anyone, and the local government maintains the grounds. However, they may not offer a full range of options and services.

Privately-run public cemeteries

On the other hand, privately-run public cemeteries are often owned independently or by a corporation. When you think of a cemetery, this may be the type that comes to mind most readily. They are commonly called “private cemeteries,” though they are open to the public. You can find them through the local funeral home, friends, or searching online. While the cost of a plot/niche may be higher, they also provide more services and options.

No matter which you choose, check on availability. In some cases, public cemeteries become full, sold out, or dedicated to those who die destitute (especially in the case of a government-run cemetery).

cemetery outside a beautiful old church

2. Private Cemeteries

Owned by individuals or businesses, true private cemeteries are not open to the general public. In fact, the owners have final say in who is allowed burial in a private cemetery. Let’s look at two primary examples of private cemeteries: family burial grounds and religious cemeteries.

Family burial ground

Very common in rural America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a family burial ground is located on private land and designated for relatives only. Today, there are more regulations in place, but it is still a possibility. However, there’s one potential problem to consider: access. If land is sold, the family may no longer have access to the cemetery. Some states guarantee the family access to the cemetery, and other states do not. Therefore, make sure you understand your local or state laws before committing to a family burial ground.

Religious cemeteries

This type of private cemetery restricts availability to those of a certain faith or belief or even affiliation.

Examples include members of a certain:

  • Church
  • Fraternal/sororal group
  • Ethnicity
  • Lodge

In most cases, the organization owns the cemetery and only allows members to purchase a plot or niche. While there are a lot of religious cemeteries across the United States, each cemetery has its own rules. Because of that, some are more restrictive and others more inclusive. If you are interested in burial in a religious cemetery, start by talking with the organization most closely affiliated with it.

Veteran cemetery with white headstones and small American flags

3. Veteran Cemeteries

Have you heard of Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? This beautiful cemetery is an iconic example of veteran cemeteries across the nation. For eligible active duty servicemen and women, veterans, and their dependents, both national and state veteran cemeteries are an option.

Maintained by the Veterans Administration, there are more than 100 veteran cemeteries in the United States. For those who are eligible, burial benefits are available. These benefits include a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a headstone, and military honors…at no charge. Some state veteran cemeteries charge a nominal fee, but the funeral home can contact the cemetery on your behalf to confirm.

tree with heart marker, representing natural burial

4. Green or Natural Cemeteries

The natural or green cemetery focuses on minimizing environmental impact and limiting the carbon footprint. While natural cemeteries have all the hallmarks of a standard cemetery, there are some notable differences.

They require the use of a biodegradable casket or urn. While embalming is not prohibited, it must be done without specific chemicals or avoided entirely. Instead of headstones, some cemeteries plant trees with minimal markers. For more information on green or natural burial, talk to your trusted local funeral home. They can answer your questions.

Do cemeteries have special features?

Yes, some cemeteries focus on a certain aesthetic. Let’s review a few examples.

Monument Cemetery – features traditional, upright headstones made of granite, marble, or stone; additionally, may include a designated area for flat memorial plaques

Memorial or Lawn Park – uses lawn-level granite or bronze memorial plaques; by using ground-level markers, they intend to promote natural beauty and decrease maintenance costs

Garden Cemetery – similar to a memorial park, except the design of the cemetery includes specific garden elements; for example, Mount Auburn Cemetery is the earliest known garden cemetery in the United States

Columbarium or Mausoleum Niches – while burial is an option for cremated remains, columbarium or mausoleum niches are also available at many cemeteries

Bench overlooking a cemetery on a beautiful day

Is there a cost difference?

Absolutely. The cost of cemetery good and services varies widely and depends on several factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • Type of cemetery
  • Type of burial
  • Location of the plot
  • Memorialization selections
  • Perpetual care fee

Let’s recap. First, public cemeteries are most likely to receive funding from the local government, so their costs are lower. Second, with private cemeteries, there will be fees associated with opening/closing the grave, perpetual care of the grounds, grave liner, headstone, and so on. Third, in most cases, burial in a veteran cemetery will incur little or no cost to you or your family. And lastly, a green or natural cemetery will likely cost less than a private cemetery because they don’t require certain items, such as a grave liner.

Ultimately, the decision of which cemetery to use is up to you and what’s available in your area. Your trusted local funeral home can give you all the information you need to determine what’s best for your needs and your family.

Young couple reviewing official documents with advisor

4 Reasons to Keep Your Beneficiaries Up to Date

By Estate Planning

Wouldn’t it be great if estate planning was a “one and done” type of task? If life came without change, then it could be, but we all know change is inevitable. That’s why it’s so important to update your estate plan needs over time, too. While it may seem like a hassle, failing to update your beneficiaries can actually have long-reaching effects that you’ll want to avoid. If you’re not convinced, let’s go over 4 key reasons why keeping your beneficiaries up to date is so valuable!

Older man and woman signing documents

What is a Beneficiary?

Before we jump into the reasons why it’s so important to update your beneficiaries, let’s first review what a beneficiary actually is. To define the term, a beneficiary is the person or entity that will receive the proceeds of your accounts upon your death. You may name a beneficiary on:

It’s always good to name both a primary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. That way, if the primary beneficiary were to die before you, the contingent beneficiary would inherit in their place.

Now that you have an understanding of what a beneficiary is as well as what types of accounts they are associated with, let’s talk about why it’s essential to keep your beneficiary information up to date!

Young couple reviewing official documents with advisor

4 Reasons to Keep Your Beneficiaries Up to Date

Reason #1 – Your Relationships Are Going to Change Over Time

If one thing is certain, the relationships in your life are going to change. Whether you’re a young person who hopes to marry one day or you’re an older adult who may eventually face the death of a spouse, things are going to change, and most likely, your listed beneficiaries will be affected.

When you go through a major life change, like marriage, birth of a child, death of a spouse, divorce, etc., make sure you update your beneficiaries. If you don’t, your family may face unintended consequences. Let’s look at a few examples.

Marriage

If you marry and don’t add your new spouse as a beneficiary, your spouse may not inherit anything. Of course, it all depends on who your beneficiaries are. If you are a young person and have always named your parents as beneficiaries, they will hopefully make sure that your spouse is taken care of. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, especially with estranged relationships. The best route is to update your beneficiaries to include your new spouse.

Divorce

Let’s say you marry in your twenties. You have two children and set up a life insurance policy, naming your then-spouse as beneficiary. Fast forward 20 years. You have divorced and re-married, and now, you have a child with your new partner. If you never updated your beneficiaries on your policy, your ex-spouse would inherit, leaving no proceeds for your current spouse or any of your three children. By updating your beneficiaries as needed, you can avoid this unpleasant situation. For more helpful tips on estate planning for a blended family, click here.

Deceased Beneficiary

In some cases, you may name a beneficiary who happens to die before you. If you don’t update your beneficiary to someone new, it can cause complications down the line and may require your family to go to court to straighten things out. And in some cases, you can’t untangle things, and your family won’t receive your assets.

Even after only a few examples, it’s easy to see how complications creep in quickly. By staying on top of your beneficiary updates, you can ensure that everything goes smoothly for your loved ones.

Two people reviewing official documents together

Reason #2 – Your Beneficiary Designations Supersede Your Legal Will

Did you know that the United States Supreme Court ruled that beneficiary designations supersede the provisions of a will or trust? What does that mean? It means that keeping your beneficiaries up to date is more important than ever before.

Even if you write a legal will, whoever is listed as your beneficiary on the individual accounts is the person who will inherit. So, if you write in your legal will that your spouse should inherit the proceeds of your investment account, but your parent is named as the beneficiary on the account, your parent will inherit, if they are still living. If they aren’t living, things get more complicated from there, and your spouse may need to go to court to receive any proceeds at all.

In situations where there is divorce and re-marriage, it’s essential to update beneficiary information. If you don’t, an ex-spouse may receive support you intended for a current spouse. By keeping things as current as possible, you can prevent headache and heartache for those you love.

Reason #3 – You Eliminate Confusion and Avoid Probate Court

Reflecting back on what we’ve already discussed, it’s easy to see how quickly things can get confusing with your estate plan and beneficiary selection. By keeping your beneficiaries up to date and accurate, you eliminate unnecessary confusion for your loved ones.

By matching up your beneficiary information with your legal will, you can make sure that your intentions are crystal clear. With everything clear-cut and in agreeance, your family can avoid the costly expense of probate court and receive the financial benefit of your accounts much sooner.

Older woman signing official documents while seated with spouse and advisor

Reason #4 – You Ensure Your Loved Ones’ Financial Security

Without the correct beneficiaries listed on your financial accounts, the wrong person may receive the proceeds of your hard work. To ensure that your loved ones receive everything you want them to, it’s best to stay on top of your beneficiary information. The last thing your loved ones need after your passing is to untangle your legal affairs and possibly go to court to ensure their own financial security. And even in court, they may not win because many beneficiary mistakes are irreversible.

What’s Next?

Now, it’s time to go check your accounts and make sure that your beneficiary information is accurate and up to date. Has your beneficiary moved or died? Have phone numbers changed? Are your relationships different now? Would like someone else to inherit? All of these things could trigger the need to update your beneficiary information.

While it would be great if you could do everything once and be done, life isn’t always that straightforward. Consider reviewing your beneficiary information every two – three years (or whenever you have a significant life change), so that you don’t fall into this common estate planning mistake. Instead, you will protect your family’s interests and well-being, both today and in the future.

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary. Only undertake estate planning with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state. 

What to Expect at a Preplanning Appointment

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead

Did you know you can put your funeral wishes in writing in advance? That’s where a preplanning specialist can help! They specialize in sitting down with you (and your family, if you’d like) to listen to your wishes, review all the options, answer your questions, and help you put your preferences in writing.

If you’d like to learn more about planning ahead, check out “What is Advance Funeral Planning?” for a deeper look at why planning ahead can benefit both you and your family.

What to Expect at a Preplanning Appointment

During your chat, the preplanning specialist will listen to your thoughts and answer your questions. They will help you understand your options, so you can make plans that balance your own personal wishes with the emotional needs of your family. A few general topics will likely come up. Let’s review them.

1. Vital Statistics

The preplanning specialist will ask you for some specific vital statistics. After death, there are many documents that must be submitted to state and local authorities, and they each require certain information. With the vital information provided, the funeral director can obtain the necessary permits for burial or cremation, help prepare the obituary, and submit a request for a death certificate. And for veterans, the funeral director can use vital statistics to request military honors, if you wish.

When possible, consider bringing these vital statistics to your preplanning appointment:

  • Full legal name
  • Address
  • Race and gender
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Occupation (kind of business or industry)
  • Marital status
  • Spouse’s name (if applicable)
  • Maiden name (if applicable)
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Education information
  • Armed Forces information (including DD-214)
  • Names of surviving spouse and family members

2. Funeral Preferences

As you might expect, your funeral preferences are going to be a topic of conversation during a preplanning appointment. Here are a few things you may discuss with the preplanning specialist as you determine what’s right for you and your family.

  • What type of final disposition do you want? (burial, cremation, anatomical donation, etc.)
  • What kind of service do you want?
  • Where do you want the service to take place?
  • If you prefer burial, have you already purchased a cemetery plot? If so, where?
  • Who would you like to take part in the service? For example, eulogists, pallbearers, etc.
  • Would you like a gathering for mourners after the service?

There will be more questions, of course, but these give you an idea of what to expect during your preplanning discussion. If you’d like a more in-depth guide, click on our Funeral Planning Checklist and start filling it out today. You can take the completed checklist to your preplanning appointment and discuss your selections with the preplanning specialist.

3. Personalization Preferences

Just as no two people are the same, no two funeral services should be the same. That’s where personalization preferences come in.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and educator who has walked alongside thousands of people on the grief journey, tells us:

Focus on what is really important—what is essential—about the funeral you are planning. What is essential is the life that was lived and the impact that life had on family and friends. To honor that unique life, the funeral must also be unique. Over and over families tell me that the best funerals are those that are personalized.”

Personalization is the key to creating a healing and meaningful experience that will meet the emotional needs of family and offer comfort throughout the grief journey. During your appointment, you can brainstorm personalization ideas with the preplanning specialist. They will offer ideas based on their own personal experience in the funeral profession.

To help you get a sense of what funeral personalization means, here are a few resources:

Why Does Funeral Personalization Matter?

7 Elements of a Healing and Meaningful Funeral

Practical Ways to Personalize the 7 Elements of a Funeral

The Core Elements of a Military Honors Funeral 

4. Veterans’ Burial Benefits

If you are an honorably discharged veteran, the preplanning specialist will discuss the burial benefits you are eligible to receive. Dependents and survivors of veterans may also be eligible for VA benefits.

The main burial benefits available to veterans include (at no cost to your family; all benefits apply both burial and cremation):

  • Burial allowance
  • Interment at a national cemetery
  • Headstone or grave marker
  • Burial flag
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate
  • Military honors

If you aren’t familiar with what each of these benefits entails, you can read our “What Are My Burial Benefits as a Veteran” eBook here. Then, you can discuss your preferences with the preplanning specialist and ensure that your family gets access to all of the veterans’ burial benefits you’d like to receive.

5. Funding Options

While funding your funeral plans is not required, it’s worth considering. The preplanning specialist will likely discuss a prepaid funeral insurance policy. With a prepaid funeral insurance policy, you can protect your family from a financial burden and ensure that funeral funds are available immediately. Some people elect to use a life insurance policy or final expense plan to pay for funeral expenses, but both have a few drawbacks to consider. Your meeting with the preplanning specialist is an excellent time to ask questions about each of these options to help you decide what works best for your situation

Here are some resources to help you:

Understanding Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policies

The Truth About Life Insurance and Funeral Expenses

Myth vs. Fact: The Truth About Final Expense Plans

10 Questions to Ask Before Your Prepay Your Funeral

What’s Next?

Now that you know more of what to expect, do a little brainstorming and research in advance of your preplanning appointment. If you choose not to, that’s okay, too. The preplanning specialist has experience with guiding families through each step of the process, and they won’t rush you.

One of the biggest benefits to planning ahead is that you can take your time to decide what makes the most sense for you. After everything is complete and your plan is in place, you and your loved ones will feel a sense of relief that everything is taken care of!

Shows couple talking to funeral professional about their funeral plans

What is Advance Funeral Planning?

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead

After the death of a loved one, surviving family members must often answer between 100 – 200 questions before any kind of funeral or memorial service can take place. What’s your loved one’s mother’s maiden name? What is their social security number? For veterans, do you have a copy of the DD-214? Needless to say, pulling together all the answers while grieving a recent loss can feel overwhelming. That’s why advance funeral planning is such a great idea.

What is Advance Funeral Planning?

In short, advance funeral planning is sitting down with a funeral professional to think through and write down (and possibly fund) your final wishes. Like a will, you can put your wishes in writing at any age. But what exactly does advance funeral planning do? Let’s dive into it a little more.

Shows grandmother, daughter, and grandchildren living with peace of mind

1. Advance Planning Gives Peace of Mind

Remember those 100 – 200 questions? By answering them ahead of time, you save your family from having to do it in the future. The first few days after a loss are hazy and can feel like a dark cloud has descended. Having to plan a funeral or memorial in the midst of all those emotions is hard. With advance funeral planning, you alleviate the burden that will fall on your loved ones to plan and pay for your funeral services. That’s a weight off your shoulders – and theirs!

2. Advance Planning Helps Prevent Family Disagreements

One of the biggest family tensions after the death of a loved one can happen when surviving family members disagree on service details, dates, and times. Some lean toward cremation; others burial. Some want a private service; others a public one. With advance funeral planning, they don’t have to guess what you want – they know. You can remove uncertainty and doubt, empowering your loved ones to make decisions with confidence.

Shows a couple creating a meaningful service

3. Advance Planning Gives You Time to Create a Personalized Final Tribute

It’s difficult to plan a truly meaningful funeral in mere hours, especially when feelings of grief are so near the surface. Advance planning allows you to thoughtfully plan and prepare a funeral service (burial or cremation) that will fulfill your wishes and meet the emotional needs of your family and friends. A thoughtfully planned service is a healthy first step for your network of supporters on their individual grief journeys.

4. Advance Planning Saves Money

There are several ways advance planning helps your family save money in the long run.

Prevents emotional overspending

When your family doesn’t know what your wishes are, they may be tempted to seek “only the best” (i.e., most expensive) options and end up emotionally overspending. With advance planning, you can make your selections with a clear, rational mind rather than one affected by emotional strain. In this way, you control the ending cost and save your family money in the long run.

Shows older couple making a plan

Protects against inflation

If you decide to prefund as well as preplan your funeral arrangements, many funeral homes will guarantee in writing that the funeral services and merchandise itemized on your contract will be covered by your prepaid funeral insurance policy at the time of death. A prepaid funeral policy grows over time and often covers all inflation costs.

Plus, if you have a prepaid funeral insurance policy, funds will become available for use immediately. If you rely on life insurance proceeds to pay for a service, it could be six to eight weeks before any funds become available to your family. That means your surviving family members will likely have to pay for the service out of pocket before the life insurance claim is paid out.

Helps you qualify for Medicaid coverage

If you anticipate that you will apply for Medicaid in the future, you can spend down your assets with a prepaid funeral plan. If you place your funeral funds into an irrevocable contract, then whatever funds you place in the contract will be considered exempt assets for Medicaid purposes. In this way, you help yourself qualify for Medicaid while ensuring that your money benefits your family. Click here to learn more.

Shows couple talking to funeral professional about their funeral plans

How to Get Started

Now that you know what advance planning is and how it benefits both you and your family, the best next step is to talk with a preplanning specialist.

Once you select the funeral home you want to partner with (here are some tips for that), give them a call, send an email, connect on Facebook or just stop by their business. They will have a qualified funeral preplanning specialist on staff who will work with you to iron out all the details for your funeral wishes. They will educate you on all the options, so you can make informed decisions regarding your plans. And best of all, their assistance is free!

In many ways, the most loving thing we can do is take care of as much as possible in advance. The future may be uncertain, but with advance planning, you can make a difference in the lives of the people who matter most.

Older man and woman using calculator to add up costs

Understanding Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policies

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

We all know the value of being prepared. We buy car insurance, fire insurance, health insurance, life insurance – all just in case. When you stop to think about it, why do we buy these policies? Answer: Because the future is unknown. We don’t know if we will be in a fender bender, if hail will damage the roof, or if a health issue will arise. While most aspects of the future are unknowable, we can be sure of one thing – we will all face death someday. So, if we prepare for events that might occur, doesn’t it make sense to prepare for an event that will occur?

Advance funeral planning is writing down your funeral wishes so that your family knows how you would like your life honored when that day comes. By doing this, you take the mystery out of your wishes. Your family doesn’t have to make decisions in a cloud of grief, uncertain about what you would have wanted. Instead, with your wishes in hand, they can make decisions with confidence and certainty.

Older man and woman reviewing paperwork with professional

However, you can take things one step further and also protect your family financially by preparing for the cost of a funeral. At this time, you may be planning to use a life insurance or final expense policy to pay for any final services. While it’s better than having no plan at all, check out The Truth About Life Insurance and Funeral Expenses and Myth Vs. Fact: The Truth About Final Expense Plans to get a fuller look at what using these policies will mean for your family.

Today, let’s talk about a type of policy you may not know much about: prepaid funeral insurance policies.

What is a Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policy?

Definition

In a nutshell, a prepaid funeral insurance policy is an insurance policy based on a contract between you and your chosen funeral home. You select a funeral home and make an appointment to talk about your final wishes. Then, you make your selections – burial, cremation, casket, urn, service, visitation, etc. – and the funeral home will draw up an itemized contract. Once you know the cost of your selections, you can make adjustments or move forward with what you have.

Once your selections are determined and the contract is drawn up, it’s time to open a prepaid funeral insurance policy in the amount of your contract. You can do all of this without leaving the funeral home. However, please note: You will not pay your premiums to the funeral home, but to the insurance company that backs the prepaid funeral insurance policy. Go to 10 Questions to Ask Before You Prepay Your Funeral to see a few other questions to ask before signing anything.

Person signing contract

You can draw up a contract at any age, regardless of health. However, when you submit the paperwork for a prepaid insurance policy, the insurance company will ask health questions. In most cases, these health questions won’t prevent you from opening a policy. However, your answers may affect the type of plan you are eligible to sign up for.

When you sign the contract, your down payment and all other payments will be kept in escrow with the funeral insurance company (not the funeral home) until the time of death. The insurance company ensures that your funds are available for use by your family when they are needed.

A Step-by-Step Breakdown

  • Select a funeral home partner.
  • Sit down with an Advance Planning Specialist to learn about all your options.
  • Write down your funeral wishes.
  • Once your wishes are determined, review an itemized list of the cost of the funeral (based on the funeral home’s pricing).
  • Once the pricing is set, the funeral home will submit your contract to their insurance company partner.
  • Based on your answers to a few quick health questions, the insurance company will determine which plan types you are eligible for, review your payment options, and finalize the policy.
  • Now, all that’s left is to pay for the plan. You can pay in one lump sum or make payments over a set period of time. Most companies allow early payoff options, if desired.
  • When you have completed your payments, your policy is paid in full!

Man wearing white shirt and woman wearing blue shirt reviewing contract

Revocable vs Irrevocable

There are two types of prepaid funeral insurance policies available: revocable and irrevocable. The only difference is that you cannot cancel an irrevocable policy to receive its cash value. The main reason to choose an irrevocable policy relates to Medicaid eligibility. Essentially, because you cannot access funds in an irrevocable account, Medicaid considers them an exempt asset. For more information about using an irrevocable prepaid funeral insurance policy to help you qualify for Medicaid, please read Medicaid Qualification Rules and How to Spend Down With a Burial Plan.

One more note regarding revocable and irrevocable accounts. Most funeral insurance companies have a “grace period” where you can revoke your policy, no matter which type. But, after that time frame (different for every insurance company), you can only cancel revocable plans.

Guaranteed vs Non-Guaranteed

In some states, funeral homes offer a guarantee on the goods and services you select for your prepaid plan. This means that you can lock in today’s prices for certain items. However, not all items and not all states offer guaranteed prices. If the prices are not guaranteed, the cost for goods and services is determined at the time (date/year) that the funeral takes place.

If the funds set aside in your prepaid funeral insurance policy are not enough to cover the end cost of the funeral, your family will be responsible for paying the difference. However, in most cases, the funds in the policy are more than enough to pay the total cost as they usually grow over time to offset inflation.

Mature couple walking together, smiling at camera

How Do You Benefit from a Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policy?

There are so many ways that both you and your family benefit from both preplanning and prepaying for funeral wishes. Here are a few:

  • Affords you control over your end-of-life plans. Because your wishes are written into the contract, the funeral home will follow them precisely. (If  needed, your surviving family members do have the ability to make adjustments.)
  • Protects your family from having to make difficult decisions at an emotionally stressful time.
  • Guarantees that the funds necessary to pay for a future funeral are available right away.
  • Grants you the opportunity to spend down your assets for Medicaid purposes (irrevocable only).
  • Covers the cost of inflation due to growth in the fund over time.
  • Gives your family more money because life insurance policy funds aren’t reduced for funeral costs.
  • Gives you time to consider all your options and make sound, financially responsible choices.
  • Spares loved ones the financial burden of paying for funeral or memorial services.
  • Allows your family to simply grieve during a time of loss rather than focus on funeral or memorial details.
  • Saves you money in the long run. As with everything, the cost of a funeral continues to go up. Planning now will only help your family in the future.

Older man and woman using calculator to add up costs

Some Important Details

If you do decide to purchase a prepaid funeral insurance policy contract, there are a few important things to remember:

1. Give a copy of the contract to several people you trust and keep a copy with your other important documents. It is the family’s responsibility to contact the funeral home you have partnered with regarding your final wishes. Make sure they know who to contact.

2. Often, a prepaid plan does not include cemetery costs (unless the funeral home you partner with also owns a cemetery). You will need to coordinate any burial needs with a cemetery of your choosing.

3. Make sure that the insurance company backing your prepaid funeral insurance policy is reputable. Look into the company and their business practices before signing your contract.

4. Regarding revocable plans. If you decide to cancel, you are not guaranteed to receive back everything you have paid in so far. You will receive back a certain percentage but not a full refund. Some people treat an revocable contract like a bank account. This is not the case, so don’t make the same mistake.

5. Make sure that the contract states:

    1. The name and address of the funeral insurance company
    2. How the funds will be invested (to grow the fund and account for inflation)
    3. What happens if the total amount in escrow is more or less than the final cost of the funeral at the time of death
    4. Whether you receive a yearly statement of the money in your account

No matter how you decide to pay for the funeral, take the steps necessary to ensure the burden doesn’t fall entirely onto your family’s shoulders. Planning ahead is a gift you can give those you love and one they will always be grateful to have received.

Older couple standing next to car looking lovingly at each other

Protecting Your Family If Death Occurs Away from Home

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead

If you’re like many of us, you spend quite a bit of time traveling out of town. You may not be getting on a plane every time you travel, but you are probably traveling away from home frequently on the weekends and holidays, in addition to vacations. Perhaps you visit family, take day trips, go to out-of-town medical appointments, or head to the big city for a day of shopping. But what if something unexpected happened while you or a family member were out of town? Would your family be prepared to handle everything if death occurs away from home?

Older couple standing next to car looking lovingly at each other

Challenges Your Family May Face

An untimely and unexpected death can bring many challenges for loved ones, especially if that loss is complicated by having to work with out-of-town funeral providers to get your loved one back home. Here are just a few of the challenges that loved ones may face:

1. Out-of-Pocket Transportation Costs

When a family calls to notify the funeral home that a loved one has died, a funeral home staff member could travel a specified distance to pick up the deceased without charge. However, the distance and possible fees will depend on the funeral home. If a loved one dies hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from home, the family will have to pay for transportation of the body, which can add up quickly, even if prearrangements have already been made for burial or cremation.

2. Missed Opportunities for a Full Funeral Experience

With the added cost to transport a loved one home, families in this situation may be forced to make choices that change the meaningful celebration of life or memorial service they had planned to have. The proceeds from a prearranged funeral plan may even need to be reallocated to cover transportation costs, which means that other areas of the plan would have to be reduced to offset the added costs.

Because the funeral or memorial service is essential for helping loved ones grieve and receive love and support from their community, when a service is omitted, everyone – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – misses out on the opportunity to pay their respects and say that final farewell.

3. Lack of Closure if Cremation Takes Place Away from Home

To save on costs, a family may be tempted to cremate the body at the place of death. While this may feel like the best option at the time, it may not be the best decision because it can rob the family of the opportunity to see a loved one’s body one last time before burial or cremation. A cremation without a viewing prior can leave some family members feeling a lack of closure.

Older couple sitting in a convertible smiling at the camera

So, What Can You Do to Protect Your Family?

1. Set Aside Funds for Funeral and Transportation Costs

If your family is able, start setting aside funds now for the “just in case” situations. If you want to travel to your heart’s content without worries, putting aside money for both your final tribute and any associated costs (like possible transportation) will give both you and your loved ones peace of mind. Just make sure that the funds are easily accessible to your next of kin should you die unexpectedly. If you do not, your family may not be able to use your assets for funeral expenses until after probate.

2. Plan Ahead for Your Burial or Cremation Wishes

Another big thing you can do to protect your family is to plan ahead for your final wishes. By putting your wishes in writing, you give your family a roadmap to understanding how you want your life honored and remembered.

So many families feel lost and uncertain after the loss of a loved one because they have no idea what their loved one wanted. Burial or cremation? Visitation? Gathering? Families often have more questions than answers, and they may even disagree with each other on what to do. These disagreements can make an already stressful time even harder. By putting your wishes in writing, you remove the mystery and the chance of disagreements.

Mature man and wife sitting at table signing documents

Additionally, it’s valuable to take it one step further and talk with a funeral home about a prepaid funeral plan. By doing so, you ensure that you’ve covered the cost of the service you want, and your family won’t have to worry about a thing. Then, if death does occur away from home, they only have to consider transportation costs.

NOTE: You may be planning to use a life insurance policy to pay for final expenses, but please know, a life insurance company may not pay the policy in time for the funeral. Click here to learn more.

3. Consider a Travel Protection Plan

To provide your family with the highest level of protection, you should consider two things: 1) preplan and prepay for your funeral wishes, and 2) sign up for a travel protection plan.

Companies like APASI (American Pre-arrangement Services, Inc.) offer travel protection plans for an extremely reasonable price (often just a few hundred dollars). With a travel protection plan like this one, no matter where death occurs, the company will cover the cost of embalming and transporting the body back home, and your family won’t have to pay a cent.

NOTE: If you elect to sign up with APASI or a similar service at a different company, make sure to familiarize yourself with their policies.

People standing in line at the airport

By doing these three things (or a combination of them), you can dramatically reduce the financial burden and added stress your family would feel if death occurs away from home.

4. Don’t Forget about Bereavement Flights

If a death occurs away from home, loved ones may need to fly in to take care of service details and attend the funeral or memorial. Most last-minute fares are expensive, and seats can be full so close to the departure date. However, some airlines offer bereavement flights, which give a greater level of flexibility to those traveling due to loss.

Person packing a suitcase

Bereavement Flight Details 

Please note that a bereavement fare may not be the best deal out there. First, check out the current cost of a standard flight. This will give you a ballpark for how much a flight would typically cost. Then, armed with that knowledge, call the different airlines to determine if a bereavement fare is actually a better deal for you. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

A few things to remember:

  • Each airline has their own policy for what qualifies as a bereavement. In most cases, the person who has died must be an immediate family member (the specific airline determines this definition). For some airlines, it may include aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, but for others, it may not.
  • Be prepared to provide documentation that shows proof of the death (death certificate, obituary, etc.).
  • And finally, you must book a bereavement flight over the phone to make arrangements.

With these items in mind, let’s review the airlines that still currently offer bereavement fares.

Airport waiting area with big window and view of the plane

Air Canada: Call 1-888-247-2262. You can read Air Canada’s full bereavement policy here.

Alaska Airlines: Call 1-800-252-7522. You can read Alaska Airlines’ full bereavement policy here.

Delta Airlines: To book a domestic flight, call 1-800-221-1212. For international flights, call 1-800-241-4141. You can read Delta Airlines’ full bereavement policy here.

WestJet: Call 1-888-937-8538. You can read WestJet’s full bereavement policy here.

Lufthansa: For those with family members living in Europe, Lufthansa may be a good option to pursue. To find out more details, contact Lufthansa directly at 1-800-645-3880.

With this information in hand, you can make the decisions that make the most sense for your family. Put a plan in place today that will protect your family and ensure that they are taken care of – financially and emotionally – after you’re gone.

5 Alternative Methods of Final Disposition

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

Choosing which method of final disposition is right for you is a very personal decision. For some, burial is most desirable, while for others, cremation is best. There is no wrong decision – only the best decision for you and your family, based on your values. That said, some alternative final disposition options do exist. While these are not the most common choices, they may be right for you and your family. After all, it’s always helpful to know your options. Let’s review them together.

5 Alternative Methods of Final Disposition

Natural/Green Burial

Both green and natural burials focus on allowing the decomposition process to occur naturally. This means that there is no (or very limited) embalming, a biodegradable coffin or shroud is used, and there is no outer burial container. However, there are differences pertaining to the place of burial. For a green burial, the body must be buried at a cemetery specifically sanctioned for green burial that is maintained without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or irrigation. On the other hand, a natural burial can take place on private land (subject to regulations) or in any cemetery that allows for vault-free burial.

Water Cremation

With water cremation (also called alkaline hydrolysis), the body is placed in a pressurized steel container with a solution that is 95% percent water and 5% potassium hydroxide before being heated to 350 degrees. The body breaks down until only the bones remain. In essence, water cremation speeds up natural decomposition by about 20 years. Like traditional cremation, the bones are ground into a powder and given to the family for memorialization. This method is not available in all states yet. To determine if water cremation is an option for you, speak with a funeral professional.

Burial at Sea

Burial at sea has a long history and is one of the oldest types of funeral ceremony. Today, there are two ways to request burial at sea: through the U.S. Navy or through a civilian charter company. Both full-body burial and scattering are available options. As a specialized service, burial at sea is subject to very specific regulations, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time with a funeral professional and make sure that all the details are taken care of according to your wishes.

Anatomical Donation

Anatomical donation typically refers to the donation of the whole body to medical or scientific research. However, in some ways, anatomical donation is not a true final disposition. After the research is complete, they cremate the body and return the ashes to the family. At that time, the family must decide how to honor the cremated remains, whether by burial, scattering, placement in a niche, or some other means. However, if you wish to help further scientific advancements, this may be a great option. Click here to learn more in-depth information about the anatomical donation process.

Recomposition

A new option currently only available in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon is the process of recomposition. In simple terms, the deceased body lies outdoors in a protected area, covered with natural materials like straw or wood chips. The straw or wood chips hasten the rate of decomposition. Once the body breaks down, it becomes part of the soil. Then, the soil goes to the family, who can decide which memorial option is best for them. For instance, they could plant a memorial tree. While composting the human body won’t be right for everyone, for some, it may offer a method of final disposition that meets their core values, especially if they want an option that is less harsh to the environment.

No Matter What, Remember the Importance of Ceremony

No matter which method of final disposition you choose, remember the importance of celebrating life. Every one of us is unique, and our lives are worth remembering. According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, respected grief counselor and educator, “People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life…strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.”

The end goal of a healing and meaningful funeral or memorial service is to give people the opportunity to confront their emotions and begin the grief journey on the right foot. Personalization is key to a meaningful ceremony. The ceremony itself accurately reflects the life of the one who has died and touches the hearts of those who mourn. And because the ceremony is meaningful, because it is personal, mourners experience healing. After the funeral, they start their own individual grief journey. This journey may take weeks, months, or even years, depending on the degree of loss. But it all starts with a personalized ceremony – a healing and meaningful funeral or memorial service.

No matter where your body finds its final rest, remember to give others the opportunity to mourn you, remember you, and most of all, celebrate who you are and what you mean to them.

How to Create a Memorial Page on Facebook and Instagram

By Estate Planning, Grief/Loss, Memorial

More and more, people across the globe are cultivating a social media presence. Some put more effort into it than others, but for many of us, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a normal part of life. But what happens to these online profiles when someone dies? Today, let’s talk about the ins and outs of creating a memorial page on Facebook and Instagram.

The Importance of Digital Estate Planning

You may associate estate planning with a will or power of attorney, but digital estate planning is an important, often overlooked part of estate planning. It’s just as valuable to provide instructions for online accounts, digital assets, and social media profiles as it is to write down your wishes for physical holdings. To learn more about digital estate planning, take a moment to read Managing your Digital Estate and How to Make Digital Estate Planning Simple.

Now, let’s move on to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Memorial Page

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Facebook

With Facebook, you have two options after death: delete the account or create a memorial page. Thankfully, Facebook has clear-cut instructions on how to do both of these things.

The most common reason to turn a Facebook page into a memorial is to create a place where family, friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances can process grief together and offer condolences to surviving family members. People can post memories, offer words of encouragement and sympathy, share photos, and more. Let’s start by going over a few pieces of key information!

Was a Legacy Contact chosen?

With Facebook, estate planning means designating a Legacy Contact. In other words, you tell Facebook who should manage your account after your death (often a spouse, close friend, or family member). The Legacy Contact can monitor your profile by deleting or memorializing the account, accepting friend requests, pinning tribute posts, updating profile and cover photos, and more. However, a Legacy Contact cannot log in to the account to view private messages or remove past posts, photos, or friends.

Currently, you can only add a Facebook friend as a Legacy Contact. When you select a Legacy Contact, Facebook gives you the option to notify that person right away, which is recommended so that person is in the know about your wishes. To learn how to add a Legacy Contact, go to How Do I Add, Change, or Remove a Legacy Contact?

On the other hand, if you’ve been added as a Legacy Contact to someone’s account and aren’t sure how to manage a memorialized Facebook page, go to How Do I Manage a Memorialized Profile on Facebook? for some helpful tips.

What if there is no designated Legacy Contact?

That’s okay. Family members can simply reach out to Facebook directly with a request to memorialize the account. However, memorialized accounts with no Legacy Contact can’t be changed in any way. To request that an account without a Legacy Contact be memorialized, go to the Memorialization Request.

What happens when you memorialize a Facebook page?

Memorialization locks the account and prevents anyone from logging in. While a Legacy Contact can’t log in to the account anymore, they can still make decisions on basic functions, like viewing posts, removing tags, updating profile and cover images, etc.

Additionally, a memorialized account will no longer appear in “search” results. However, any existing friends can still view the page and share photos, memories, and wall messages. The word “Remembering” will appear next to the deceased person’s name on their profile.

For a full list of links to helpful information, go to All You Need to Know about Facebook Memorialized Accounts.

Option 2: Deleting a Facebook Account

Alternatively, you can choose to have an account deleted instead. Keep in mind, if/when Facebook learns of a death, their policy is to memorialize the account if no instructions were left behind (i.e. no Legacy Contact and no request to delete the account).

If you are completing your own digital estate planning and want your account permanently deleted after your passing, go to Settings. Click Manage Account. Scroll down until you see Request that your account be deleted after you pass away and follow the prompts.

If you would like to delete the Facebook account of a deceased family member, you can reach out to Facebook directly. To learn more about the process and the required documentation, click here. Once you have your documentation gathered together, you can use the Special Request Form to begin the process of deleting the account. Please be aware, Facebook cannot provide you with login information for someone else’s account even after a death has occurred, but they can either delete or memorialize the account.

That’s it for Facebook – let’s move on to Instagram.

Instagram Memorial Page

While Instagram has been working on its memorial options for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their efforts. Now, similar to Facebook, you can either memorialize or delete an Instagram account.

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Instagram

While Instagram now offers the ability to memorialize accounts, they do not currently allow you to designate a digital heir (Facebook calls this person a Legacy Contact). However, with the proper documentation, you can memorialize a loved one’s Instagram account after their death.

What are the key features of a memorialized Instagram account?

With a memorialized account:

  • The account locks and no one can log in.
  • The word “Remembering” appears on the person’s profile.
  • Any posts the deceased shared prior to death will stay visible.
  • You can no longer make changes to photos, videos, comments, privacy settings, or the current profile picture. Also, followers and the pages the deceased was following cannot be changed.

However, if you feel a comment or post on a memorialized profile violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Use, you can report it to Instagram by going to How to Report a Comment or How to Report a Post.

How do you memorialize an Instagram account?

The first step is to put in a request. When Instagram receives a valid request (regardless of whom that request is from), they will memorialize the account. To ensure that the request is valid, you must provide proof of death, such as an obituary or a news article. Just like Facebook, Instagram will not give out login information.

With a validated request, Instagram will memorialize the account. To submit a request to memorialize an account, go to the Request to Memorialize and fill it out.

Option 2: Removing an Instagram Account

The second option is to remove/delete the account. To entirely remove an account from Instagram, the requester must provide evidence that they are an immediate family member of the deceased.

Accepted forms of proof that you are an immediate family member are:

  • The deceased person’s birth certificate
  • The deceased person’s death certificate
  • Proof of authority under local law that you represent the deceased person

To request the removal of an Instagram account, you must complete the Removal Request and submit the required documentation.

Thankfully, both Facebook and Instagram have made the process simple and clear. Now that you know more about how to memorialize or delete accounts, take some time to carefully consider the best way to move forward. Every person is different, so decide what’s best for you and your family and do that. It may mean memorializing a lost loved one’s account so that friends and family can share memories and photos. It may mean removing the account entirely because it’s too painful to manage. There’s no right or wrong answer – just what makes the most sense for your needs.

Why Should Veterans Plan Ahead?

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Veterans

As veterans, you gave a part of your life in committed service to our nation, and we offer you a sincere and heartfelt thank you. But did you know that you can also do a great service and offer a gift of love to your family by planning ahead?

While no one likes to think about their own death, the fact remains that, one day, your family will need to make dozens of hard decisions to arrange your final life tribute. They will want to gather together, offer support to one another, remember you, and honor your legacy, including your noble service in the armed forces. Even if you don’t want a big fuss, the fact still remains: someone will be responsible for making funeral plans for you. Why couldn’t that person be you?

Why Plan Ahead?

There are so many reasons to plan ahead, but here are the top five.

1. Planning ahead can actually save your family money.

When most people are called upon to plan a funeral, they are doing so for the first time in their lives. Because of this, surviving family members don’t know very much about how to keep costs from ballooning and often end up emotionally overspending because they want “only the best” for you. However, if you put your plan in writing and your family knows exactly what your wishes are, they are generally able to save considerably by avoiding unnecessary spending.

2. Planning ahead allows your family to spend more time together.

At the time of loss, the last thing family members want to do is spend several hours at a funeral home making arrangements. With a plan in place that outlines your wishes for a final tribute, your family is able to spend more time together, offering comfort, support, and love to one another at a time when they need it most.

3. Planning ahead helps avoid arguments.

We are emotional beings, some more than others. The loss of a loved one often brings out those emotions, and if a family is torn about which options to choose, feelings can tend to run high. Even when a general consensus is reached, family members can sometimes continue to feel anxiety, doubt, and regret about the decisions that were made and how they were made. However, when family members know exactly what you want, they experience greater peace knowing that they are honoring your final wishes.

4. Planning ahead gives you time to create a meaningful and healing final tribute.

The more personal the service is, the more meaningful it will be. By planning ahead, you give yourself and your family time to plan and prepare a service (burial or cremation) that truly reflects your life and meets the emotional needs of your family. It will also give you time to mull over other questions, like whether you want to include military honors at the funeral or if you’d like to ask any fellow veterans to participate.

5. Planning ahead brings peace of mind even before you die.

Have you ever completed a big project and just felt a weight lift off your shoulders? That’s what it feels like when you finally take that step and plan ahead for your funeral wishes. Not only does it bring you peace of mind, but it can also bring comfort to family members who know that they won’t have to face those difficult decisions on one of the worst days of their lives.

Also, by planning ahead, you can ensure that you know exactly what you qualify for regarding veterans’ burial benefits. With these benefits provided by the Veterans Administration, you can further alleviate the financial burden left for your family.

What Are Your Burial Benefits?

While the Veterans Administration (VA) does not pay for everything, they do offer assistance that will help you take care of your family and create a healing and meaningful funeral ceremony.

Eligibility

The first step is to determine if you are eligible to receive the burial benefits available. The main thing to remember is that those who received honorable or general discharges qualify while those who received dishonorable discharges do not qualify. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact your local VA office.

Dependents and survivors of veterans may also be eligible for VA benefits. This means that your current spouse and any dependents are also eligible to receive certain burial benefits because of your service.

Now, let’s review the five main burial benefits available to you:

Burial Allowances

Generally speaking, when a veteran’s cause of death is not service-related, the reimbursement is described as two payments:

  1. A burial and funeral expense allowance (associated with funeral or memorial options)
  2. A plot interment allowance (associated with burial costs)

In a nutshell, the burial allowance is a designated dollar amount that the VA pays toward a veteran’s funeral. To receive this benefit, your family must apply following your death (or the death of a spouse or dependent child). After the application and receipts have been submitted, the VA will reimburse a designated amount to your family’s account. Due to rising costs each year, the VA increases the burial and plot allowance amounts annually.

For more detailed information on eligibility, click here.

Cemetery Interment Benefits

Choosing a final resting place is a very personal decision, and it’s always good to know your options. In the VA’s eyes, there are three types of cemeteries: national, state veterans, and private.

National Cemetery 

In addition to burial allowances, the VA also offers burial (cremated or full body) in a national cemetery through the National Cemetery Administration (www.cem.va.gov). This benefit includes a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, and a government-issued headstone. While placement is based on availability, you, your spouse, and any dependent children can be buried in a national cemetery. Of course, as with anything, there are certain rules and guidelines.

There is no charge for a burial plot in a national cemetery. Because of this, the plot allowance is not available for burial in a national cemetery. In some cases, the VA may even pay for the cost of transporting a deceased veteran to the national cemetery. Speak to a funeral director or your regional VA office to get more details.

State Veterans Cemetery 

A second option for burial is a state veterans cemetery. These cemeteries are facilitated by the individual states, not by the National Cemetery Administration, so regulations will vary. Because of this, you or a funeral professional will need to contact your nearby state veterans cemetery to see if there are any fees associated with burial there and if they allow dependents to be buried on the grounds. However, you will be eligible for a government-issued headstone as well as the plot allowance.

Private Cemeteries 

If you choose burial in a private cemetery, then you will be responsible for cemetery costs on your own. However, you will be eligible for the plot allowance to assist with the total cost. Again, you are still eligible to receive a government-issued headstone or medallion. Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery receive no benefits.

Government-Issued Headstones or Medallions

The VA will provide a government headstone or medallion to mark the grave of an eligible veteran. If you want, you can even request a government headstone for eligible dependents if they are not buried in a private cemetery. The headstone can be placed in any cemetery around the world, but the grave must be unmarked.

Additionally, if you prefer burial in a private cemetery, you can request to receive a medallion. Medallions are durable and affix easily to any headstone. They offer a way to identify a veteran who elects to use a more personalized grave marker.

Click here to view the headstone and medallion options available through the National Cemetery Administration.

Burial Flags

Because the American flag is a symbol of your service and sacrifice, its presence is a tribute to your life. Due to its importance, the VA provides an American flag to drape the casket or urn, and after the funeral service, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag is issued per veteran.

Presidential Memorial Certificates

Finally, the VA offers a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC), which is an engraved certificate, signed by the current President, that is given to honor your memory and your service.

So, these five elements make up the basic lineup of burial benefits that are available to an eligible veteran. There are many details to the whole process. That’s why it’s important to work with a funeral professional and your local VA office. They will ensure you have all the answers you need.

What’s Next?

Now you know why planning ahead is beneficial and which burial benefits are available to you. The next step is to reach out to a local funeral home and get started! Do a little research and find a funeral home with a good reputation. To help you, take a moment to read 10 Characteristics to Look for in a Funeral Home.

Once you’ve selected a funeral home, their staff will walk you through the rest of the process. They will make sure you don’t miss any details. With all the decisions made, you and your family will have peace of mind, knowing that everything has been taken care of.

5 Powerful TED Talks about Grief and End-of-Life Wishes

By Grief/Loss, Plan Ahead

Planning for end-of-life wishes and walking through grief can both be very difficult seasons in life. But you don’t have to walk through them alone. Others have gone before us who aren’t afraid to discuss their ups and downs through the journey. In these 5 powerful TED talks, each speaker shares part of their own personal journey with grief and the lessons they learned and wisdom they gained as a result. As they bare their hearts and share their stories, may you find comfort and peace but also the inspiration to grow in the way you think, feel, and process grief and death.

5 Powerful TED Talks About Grief and End-of-Life Wishes

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage (Susan David)

When faced with loss and the difficult seasons of life, our emotions can sometimes feel like a hindrance rather than a help. In her powerful presentation, Susan David discusses the value of emotions while also emphasizing the importance of resilience and emotional dexterity. In this deeply moving, at times humorous, talk, she discusses the passing of her father and how that event catapulted her into learning how to recognize and acknowledge emotions while also working toward accepting and processing them in a healthy way.

We Don’t “Move On” from Grief – We Move Forward with It (Nora McInerny)

Following the loss of a loved one, many of us may have heard the words, “It’s time to move on.” While the person may have had good intentions, these words aren’t necessarily helpful. In this TED talk, Nora McInerny shares her own personal grief story and candidly discusses what we often think and what we’d like to say when other people say the wrong thing during times of grief. In her own words, she encourages her listeners to remember that “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again. They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.”

The Journey through Loss and Grief (Jason Rosenthal)

Losing a loved one is never easy. In this brutally honest, at times sweetly funny, and yet heart-wrenching story, Jason Rosenthal discusses the difficulties of caring for a dying loved one through hospice. Before she died, Jason’s wife, Amy, wrote a widely read article giving her husband permission to move on and find happiness. In this talk, given just one year after her death, Jason shares candid insights into the process of grieving and offers heartfelt wisdom for anyone experiencing life-changing grief.

What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death (Lucy Kalanithi)

Even in the face of death, life is precious and worth living. That’s what Lucy Kalanithi and her husband, Paul, found as they faced his terminal diagnosis. In her dually-focused talk, Lucy shares about her end-of-life journey with Paul while also advocating for people to pursue medical care that best fits their personal values. In the end, she says that both she and Paul learned that, “Engaging in the full range of experience — living and dying, love and loss — is what we get to do. Being human doesn’t happen despite suffering — it happens within it.”

Talk About Your Death while You’re Still Healthy (Michelle Knox)

In general, we avoid talking about death and all the trappings that come with it. But is that really the best approach? In this straightforward yet heartfelt talk, Australian Michelle Knox explores a topic most of us avidly avoid: death. She asks us to reflect on our core values and intentionally share them with our loved ones. That way, when we are gone, our surviving family members can make informed decisions without fearing that they have failed to honor our legacy.

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary, so any estate planning should only be undertaken with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state. 

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