Cost of Dying - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Cost of Dying

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We all have to accept the fact that we are living on borrowed time, and that one day we will pass on, leaving loved ones behind. But do we want to leave them with the chore of making end-of-life decisions for us and also burden them with the financial costs of our funeral--costs that could be a real hardship?

The Terry Schiavo case made us all aware of the need for a Living Will and even the need to spell out how we want to live our final days and how we want to be buried.

Decisions that can tear families apart.

"Don't wait until there's a crisis. To try to make decisions. Everybody from the time they are 18 should have their advanced directives done."

Hospice of Palm Beach County recommends its booklet "Five Wishes," which spells out your final requests, including your wishes for burial.

You and your family can then also decide how much you want to, or can afford to spend. The National Average cost for a funeral is $6500, and that doesn't include the cost of a cemetery plot, $700 or more--and the roughly $650 it will cost to open and close the gravesite.

When someone comes to Hospice with a life-limiting illness, medical bills may have already made it difficult to pay for a funeral. It's a time of high stress.

"They're sometimes still in shock. Anticipatory grieving. Anger. Frustration. There's denial."

But it may be even worse for a family suffering a sudden death. So planning ahead can be critical.

Some families want to take it one step further and pre-fund it. It's put into a trust or insurance product that's protected by the state of Florida.

Pre-funding a funeral can usually be paid in monthly installments over several years. You can pre-pay for a funeral home's professional services, transportation, visitation, the ceremony, the casket and burial vault, and even flowers and a monument.

And it is all locked in at today's prices. But you still may have to pay later for certain costs that can't be anticipated--like flying a body out-of-state for burial.

"The average cargo itself, that bill might be $300 from here to New York, and that's just for transportation."

But since air fares can change radically in the future you probably won't be able to lock that in. at today's prices. Still, you can get a firm price for most items for your funeral.

Just make sure you understand what's covered and what you will have to pay for later so you can be prepared.

"There's a sense of completion and finality, but there's also a sense that I've taken the burden off my kids, spouse and I've made the decisions for them."

For instance, you might choose cremation because of personal desire or financial need. A simple cremation could cost $8-900 dollars. But a memorial service would raise the cost to $14-1500 dollars. And a traditional service similar to a burial could run about $3500.

Making the decisions yourself while you can, can help you financially, while making it easier on your family in their time of grief.

"This is exactly what mom wanted. We feel that we've carried out Mom or Dad's wish and we're having the type of service that they would want."

Pre-funded funerals are audited by the State and all the forms are approved by the state. But be sure of what you are signing. And because there are thousands of dollars involved, you might want check with an attorney.

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