Top 10 Funeral Plan Choices

Funeral plans are an ever more popular way to cut costs and ensure peace of mind. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose – and your choices are the most important part of any plan. Here, then, are the top 10 funeral plan decisions that millions of people have already made and will continue to make in the years ahead.

Our Clients Top Ten Funeral Plan Choices

1. Burial or cremation?
A hundred years ago, most people would have automatically opted for burial, but today we recognize that it’s good to have a choice. Burial is the traditional route, allowing you to have a permanent grave that your family and friends can visit whenever they wish with flowers and other tokens of remembrance. You can choose a headstone and other forms of decoration, and if your family has lived in an area for a long time, your grave may be surrounded by those of relatives stretching back for many generations. Cremation, on the other hand, can seem a quicker and more convenient option, allowing you to have your ashes to be scattered at a location that was important to you during life or placed in an urn and stored permanently in a special location at a church or other religious site. Or would you prefer your ashes to be kept by your loved ones? Our modern willingness to travel and re-locate means that a grave may become difficult to visit, but an urn can move with your loved ones wherever they may decide to live in future.

2. Who do you want to attend the funeral? 
After a long life, many people will have different circles of friends, some of whom may not know each other or even be aware of each other’s existence. And of course we sometimes become estranged from people who were formerly close to us or have friends who don’t get along with each other. By drawing up a list of those you want to attend your funeral, with full contact details, you can ensure that there will be no difficulties when the time comes. You can talk over your choices with your nearest and dearest, making sure that there will be no surprises and that your funeral is conducted in a harmonious and friendly spirit. You can also decide whether you want to inform people in advance that you would like them to attend, or whether you want to reach out after passing, perhaps allowing those who have slipped from your life to say a final farewell.

3. Do you want a religious or non-religious service? 
This again is something that, a hundred years ago, would once have been an automatic decision. People would have chosen a religious service within their particular faith, knowing that they were following in a long tradition and that they might have upset or puzzled family and friends by making any other choice. Today there isn’t an automatic expectation of a religious service and there is much more room for individual preferences to be exercised. Where once there was a firm belief in an afterlife, nowadays many people think that nothing survives death. Our feelings on these matters will obviously affect our decisions about our funeral. Will our service celebrate the life that has ended without any mention of religion and spiritual survival? Or will it place the departed person in the care of God and look forward to a time when those attending the funeral will be re-united with that departed person? 

4. What music do you want played at the service? 
Music and singing have always been an important part of funerals, but while in the past these things would have been religious in form and sentiment, today it’s increasingly common for secular alternatives. But of course there’s no reason why you can’t mix hymns and popular music, allowing your family and friends to unite in the singing of a hymn like “Abide With Me” before they fall silent to listen to your favourite piece of popular music. Because music is so varied in styles, genres, and the emotions it expresses, it’s an ideal way to make individual choices and ensure that your funeral is a unique and memorable occasion. Or perhaps you’d prefer something traditional, with music that resonates with history and that your ancestors would have recognized and appreciated.

5. What poems and other texts do you want to be read at the service? 
One of the most memorable parts of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral was the reading of “Stop All the Clocks”, a beautiful and moving poem by the poet W.H. Auden. It was a perfect example of how the right choice of reading can both express and channel the emotions of those who are attending the funeral. And it undoubtedly influenced the way funerals are conducted in real life. Just like music, the choices that people feel able to make today are much wider than they were in the past. Once all readings would have been religious in character, drawn from traditional texts like the Bible and books of prayer. Now we can replace those entirely with secular readings, or choose a careful mix of the two, depending on how we want to shape and pace the funeral service. Poetry will always be a popular choice, but many people have favourite passages in novels or short stories that they may wish to have read. And there is, of course, nothing to stop us or our loved ones from composing words of our own.

6. What flowers and other symbols do you want at the service? 
Someone who has been a keen gardener during life may think that this is the most important choice to be made about a funeral. Flowers are certainly central to most people’s ideas about how a funeral should look. Do you want bright and cheerful blooms, or something darker and more dignified? Do we want flowers on our coffin or dropped into the grave before it is filled in? There are many other symbols to consider too. Like music and readings, our choices might once have been automatically religious, but today we can choose to celebrate other aspects of our lives. A passionate football fan might want to go to rest surrounded by reminders of their favourite team; a life-long devotee of Star Wars or of super-heroes like Batman might want pictures to celebrate their fandom. They might even want those attending to wear suitable costumes. Themed funerals are becoming ever more popular, allowing your family and friends to participate even more directly and memorably in the occasion.

7. Funeral service before or afterwards? 
The timing of the service can have an important influence on the form of the service. Do you want it to take place before burial or cremation? Or would you prefer it to take place afterwards? If it takes place before, it’s preparing your family and friends for the emotions and heart-ache of finally saying goodbye. If it takes place afterwards, it’s helping them to cope with those emotions and giving them a space to recover. In the two cases, your choice of music and readings may be different. Of course, you can choose to have services of varying length both before and after – as always, the choices are yours and you can re-visit them at any time you choose.

8. What kind of food and drink do you want to be served? 
Choices about food and drink are another way for someone drawing up a funeral plan to express their individuality and to create a memorable occasion for those will be attending the funeral. Perhaps you’ll want your favourite wine or beer to be served; perhaps you’ll have a favourite recipe for the food. You might even decide to prepare some of the food yourself in advance, if it can be stored or frozen until the time comes. Food can be both a delicious reality and a powerful symbol, reminding us in the midst of grief that the world has not become wholly bleak and that life will continue, slowly returning us to acceptance and peace.

9. What do you want on your gravestone? Where do you want your ashes to be scattered or a memorial plaque to be fixed? What kind of online memorial would you like? 
It’s always fascinating to read the inscriptions on gravestones in an old church, seeing what messages people chose to send down the decades. At one time, the messages were usually religious, taken from the Bible and other sacred texts and speaking of final rest and peace in the afterlife. More recently, messages of other kinds have become more common. If you choose to be buried, you may have strong feelings about the kind of message you want placed on your gravestone. Or you may choose something very simple, like a name and date of passing. It’s entirely up to you. If you choose to be cremated instead, you may have strong feelings about where you want your ashes to be scattered or stored. A fisherman might want their ashes poured into the water at a favourite fishing spot; a sports fan might request that their ashes are scattered at the ground of their favourite team. Or would you prefer permanent storage in an urn placed in a niche at your local church or other site of worship? Whether you choose burial or cremation, you can also be remembered on-line at a specialist memorial site or at the private pages you maintained at your favourite social media site. You can design something yourself, making it as elaborate or simple as you please. On-line interactivity means that family and friends based anywhere in the world can continue to visit and commemorate you at any time they choose in the future.

10. Do you want donations in your name to charity? 
A funeral is inevitably a time when the departed person becomes central to the thoughts and feelings of those who are in attendance. It’s therefore also an excellent time to honour that person’s memory by making a donation to a charity that was important to them during life. When you’re drawing up your funeral plan, you can choose what charities you would like people to donate to. When the funeral is conducted, the names and details of charities can be included on an order of service, which sets out how the service will be conducted. After the funeral, the same names and details can be permanently displayed at your on-line memorial, with links for quick and convenient donating in the name of the departed person. 

Final Thoughts

Your funeral plan allows choose exactly how you want things to be run. By thinking ahead, you can make decisions in the best possible way: without pressure and without any need to hurry. After that, you can relax and enjoy complete peace of mind, knowing that your funeral plan is in place and that your family and friends won’t have the burden of making difficult and delicate decisions right when they’re least able and willing to make them.

6 out of 10 adults do not have a Will

Thinking about a time when you are no longer around may feel uncomfortable, but failing to plan ahead can risk leaving a serious financial headache and expense for loved-ones who are left behind. New research shows that six in ten adults are taking this risk as they do not have a will. Many think a will is not necessary because they believe family and friends will choose who gets what of any assets – but this is not the case.

When someone dies without a will, rules of ‘intestacy’ kick in – and it falls to the state to determine how an individual’s worldly goods and assets are distributed. These decisions made may not reflect their individual wishes. Unmarried couples have no inheritance rights under this law while the complexity of modern families is not addressed, meaning children from previous marriages could miss out.

Such anomalies are currently under consideration in a review by the Law Commission aiming to structure the will-making process friendlier and more appropriate to modern family arrangements. This is no reason to put off writing a will, individuals and families need to understand the huge benefits of having a will and the even bigger risks of not having one.

Many individuals procrastinate and delay making a will because they believe they are too young or perhaps think they do not have the required financial assets. Other concerns are costs – or not knowing how to go about organising a will. Individuals could argue they do not need a will because they either have little money in the bank or believe death is far off in the future.

However, people need to think about who they want to inherit their belongings, such as their home, car, jewellery and in some instances – their pets. It is so important to put this down in writing, so family and friends can honour all these wishes. The lack of a will can and does, trigger bitter disputes after death and some loved ones can miss out entirely.

Dying without a valid Will can lead to confusion and uncertainty for the families left behind. To improve the chances of your wishes being carried out, it is crucial to put an effective will in place.

Writing a Will is the sort of issue you can keep putting off, but with the certainty that every life will end, it is important to have something in place just in case it happens unexpectedly and before an individual’s average life expectancy is reached.

People with straightforward financial affairs may be tempted to buy a DIY will kit, either off-the-shelf or online for a few pounds. But be wary of taking the DIY option without legal know how. There are numerous legal pitfalls to navigate – and there are risks of things going wrong.

Some of the most common problems with DIY wills include documents being written in ambiguous language; the will not dealing with all the assets and belongings in the estate; and paperwork not being signed correctly. In some instances, this can cause as many problems as having no will at all. If a will is open to misinterpretation, the courts may have to decide what the intentions were. This can prove an arduous – and potentially costly – process for families.

Once a will is written it should not be forgotten. It is worth revisiting the paperwork every few years or after key events – such as marriage, having children or following divorce. Most people might not be aware that divorce and marriage revoke any previous will.  Failure to understand this rule means that children of a first relationship, say, named in the original will, may get far less, or even nothing – to the benefit of a second spouse, which is probably not what the deceased intended.

With all the complexities of modern life and the interchangeable relationships over time between money, assets, family, loved ones and the uncertainty of health issues and accidents – it makes good sense to set up a Will sooner rather than later.

Get in touch with us to see how we can help you set up a Will.