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VOL. 133 | NO. 115 | Friday, June 8, 2018

Dana and Ray Brandon

Planning for Funerals

Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s Take: The most expensive funeral ever documented was that of Alexander the Great. The cost of laying him to rest was a whopping $600 million in today’s money.

Rounding out the top five most expensive funerals on record are Ronald Reagan, Kim Jong Il, John F. Kennedy and the Queen Mother. When Reagan was laid to rest, the day was declared a day of mourning that closed down the stock market and gave federal workers the day off. This added to his pricey funeral expenses.

While most of us would never expect an expensive, elaborate funeral, the average cost of a funeral in the U.S. totals anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000. And this number only includes the basics of a service at the funeral home, burial in a cemetery and installation of a headstone.

Funeral planning is a grim topic but one that should be addressed with your closest family and friends and planned and saved for in your overall financial plan. There are so many options out there now for funeral planning. Companies now exist that offer prepaid funeral planning up to $25,000, funeral insurance programs that cut out funeral homes and even funeral finance plans.

When it comes to funeral planning, I try and listen for what’s important to my client. Some people know exactly what they want, down to the last hymn. Then it’s just a matter of systematically evaluating options for the organization of the funeral. Other clients don’t want to think about it, much less consider how to pay for it. In many ways, final arrangements are like financial planning. Start with the objective and work backward. Remember that most all of the arrangements for this life event are for the survivors and not the deceased.

Dana’s Take: In addition to funeral planning, another end-of-life plan is to donate all or part of your body to science. When my friend lost her father, I was surprised to learn he had preplanned to donate his remains to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Their Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology offers an anatomical bequest program.

To participate in this program, the future donor signs an “anatomic gift by living donor” form and returns it to UTHSC. The college acknowledges receipt of the form and sends it back with an identification card. Later, if the donor changes his or her mind, the bequest may be revoked, in writing.

Avoiding funeral costs by donating one’s remains to a medical school could free up $10,000 to $20,000 for a donation to a cherished cause. Donor forms are available online at www.uthsc.edu.

No matter which end-of-life choice is best for you, make a written plan of your wishes and share them with your family.

Ray Brandon, CEO of Brandon Financial Planning, and his wife, Dana, a licensed clinical social worker, can be reached at brandonplanning.com.

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