Cremation versus burial…

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One of the difficult parts of estate planning is deciding your wishes as to whether you want to be cremated or buried when you pass away.  In my estate plans, these wishes are expressed in the healthcare power of attorney I create for my clients.

Since I am not in the funeral business, it’s not my job to counsel clients as to the best funeral plan for them.  But I do need to know a little bit about the process so that I can explain the options to clients.

There are two options:  burial or cremation.

If you want to be buried, you need to decide where you want to be buried.  You can buy plots at cemeteries in advance or just indicate that you want to be buried and let your family decide where that might be.  From a cost perspective, burial is more expensive than cremation because there are additional costs, with a casket being the most obvious one.

Cremation has become more popular in recent years for a few reasons.  First, it is a cheaper option than burial.  Second, in some cases, people think it is more intimate for their families, as they can give instructions as to how their ashes are kept or, in many cases, where and how their ashes are spread.  I recently had a married couple tell me to include instructions that their three sons are to take a trip with their ashes back to several locations where they had family vacations when the sons were young.  The idea being that the trip would bring their sons together during a difficult time and ensure that they honored their parents at the same time.

There are obviously many personal reasons to choose burial over cremation or vice versa.

You also need to let your family know what type of funeral you would like.  This could even include the type of food served, who to invite (or in some cases, not to invite), where to have it, what type of music to be played and so on.  Many people associate burial with more traditional funerals and cremation without, but you can do whatever you want.  You can be buried or cremated with as much or a little pomp and circumstance as you would like.

Some of my clients get very specific and some of them do not.  The important thing is that you identify your wishes in your estate plan so that your family doesn’t have to guess.