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How to Start a Funeral Planning Conversation

May 27, 2021 by Gail Rubin

Estate planning attorneys see it all the time. Most clients avoid the funeral planning conversation, even though advance planning can reduce stress at a time of grief, save money and head off family conflict.

We have ample evidence that humans have a 100% mortality rate. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” and the universe doesn’t tip its hand to let anyone know when that time will be. How can you help your client families be prepared in this arena?

Consider recommending a few of these tips to help start the conversation.

  1. Shop Before You Drop: If your car died, wouldn’t you think about what you wanted, do some research and shop around before you bought a new one? Apply that sensibility to funerals before someone dies. Knowing the costs and what is involved saves money and reduces stress when a death in the family actually occurs.
  2. Watch a Funny Film: Laughter can help circumvent discomfort with death. Comedy can lead to conversation after the film ends.
  3. Watch a Serious Video: The 30-minute DVD Making Sense of Final Arrangements and Burial Costs shows how to make those phone calls to funeral homes without embarrassment. This DVD project by Kristen Lord, a funeral director intern and hospice volunteer, illustrates the simple steps it takes to make smart funeral planning choices and become an informed consumer of funeral and burial costs.
  4. Lead by Example: If parents or a partner avoid the funeral planning topic, make your own plans and invite the other person(s) to come along for the ride.

Encourage clients to take some time to think about how they would like to be remembered and celebrated. The family’s experience of a funeral or memorial service is so much better when a loved one expresses their desires and values before dying. It’s an important aspect of legacy planning.

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. She uses humor, funny film clips, and outside-the-box activities to teach about planning ahead for end-of-life. She coordinates the award-winning Before I Die New Mexico Festival, and Albuquerque Business First recognized her with their 2019 Women of Influence Award. She’s also the author of three books on end-of-life issues and a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her website is www.AGoodGoodbye.com.