End of life services: Preparing to ease the burden for loved ones

Posted at 11:03 PM, Feb 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-12 23:36:59-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to planning for the future, there is not much that's harder to plan for than end of life services for yourself or a loved one. It can be tough to think about and even tougher to talk about. But it doesn't have to be morbid to consider and plan for that day to ease the burden on your loved ones.

“The first thing we do is listen," says Ron Cook from Cook Funeral Homes in Grandville. "We walk families through a time of learning about their experience and who their loved one was."

The biggest decision during this process is to pick the type of service you are looking for. After you decide whether a burial or a cremation is preferred, you can pick between a modern or traditional ceremony style.

Prices vary from different funeral homes, caskets, cremation, and ceremonies.

“Thirty years ago, a funeral was a funeral," says Lee Karelse, funeral director at Heritage Life Stories funeral home. "Today, it’s not so much cookie cutter. There’s a lot of variations, and what may work well for one family may not work well for another family."

If you're looking to save money, local funeral directors say there are many ways to cut costs without cutting the quality of a memorial service.

“At least in the Muskegon County area, you’re looking between $3,000 and $5,000 for cremation memorial service. On the burial side, you’re looking between $6,000 and $10,000," says Jodi Clock at Clock Life Story Funeral Homes.

Funeral directors say to make sure you shop around and discuss exactly what kind of service you want for yourself or a loved one.

“This is a big decision, not just financially," says Cook. "But we’re going to be taking care of their loved ones, during one of the most traumatic times in their family's history."

There are resources in place to get help covering funeral costs. Most funeral homes will work with you and your budget to create a plan. Local social services can also have plans in place to help.

A federal law says that all funeral homes have to give you a price list of their services.

“You can go from one funeral home to another, and while the different price list may look different cosmetically, they should all contain basically the same information," says Ron Karelse, former president of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association.

“Prearranging your funeral ceremony is probably the best way to save money," says Sandra Costello with Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company. "It is very easy to prearrange a funeral with any local funeral home."

Making funeral arrangements in advance is like having a savings fund, allowing you a number of years to pay for the total cost. You can even take out a funeral insurance plan that covers the entire service through premiums.

According to experts, other ways to save are buying flowers, caskets, or an urn from an outside source and looking at local churches to hold the service instead of a funeral home.

If going green is important to you, some funeral homes will offer a special urn-burial where the ashes will be planted in the ground and grown into a tree.