I just learned that October 30th was “Create a Great Funeral Day”. It’s a new recognition day, barely a decade old. It was registered as an official ‘day’ by Stephanie West Allen as a way of attempting to relieve the pressure of having to decide what a loved one would want for their final send off.

I checked the “Days of the Year” website. The Day was founded with the hopes of getting loved ones to sit down together and talk about what the individual wants at his or her funeral (or memorial service or celebration of life). Then their loved ones know when the time comes that they do not have to juggle their own grief with trying to plan a funeral and guess what the deceased would have wanted, even if it just so much as a particular song played at the funeral, or words for the headstone.

Gail Rubin is a Certified Celebrant and has written an award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.

According to an article written by Rubin: “The idea behind Create a Funeral Day is to think about how you would like to be remembered and to let those you love know how you’d like your life celebrated.

“The family’s experience of the funeral is so much better when a loved one expresses their desires and values before dying.”

The Day’s founder, Allen, states about having a funeral pre-planned: “The people who are left behind are so grateful to have this already done. And planning your funeral in advance, regardless of your age or state of health, is a good way to think about “What is my legacy thus far and how do I want it affirmed?”

So why don’t people plan in advance? Yes, there is the fear of death or having to think of our own mortality. But I don’t think that is the main reason.

I think you have considered what you would want for your own funeral, but you don’t know how or where to start. You’re not sure you can shop around for your funeral services. You are worried that if you go to a funeral home, you might be ‘sold’ something you don’t want. And you may be pressured to ‘pre-pay’. There is a difference between pre-planning and pre-paying.

To me, prepaying is optional. Preplanning is a must. You need an advocate.

Pre-planning can save a lot of money. I’ll give you some examples of the cost of cremation services I have observed in the past 12 months.

Two different individual I know passed away in the last year and the spouses paid very different amounts. Just for the cremation. One paid about $1000 and the other paid $2500.

Did you know that the maximum CPP death benefit is $2500? Do you think it any coincidence that one funeral home invoiced the deceased’s spouse $2500? And do you think he knew he could have had his wife cremated for less than half the price?

At a recent ‘pre-planning your funeral’ information session I attended in August in Winnipeg, I overheard an interesting conversation between another attendee and ‘the preplanning specialist’ employed by the funeral home:

The individual asked how much just a cremation is; the ‘specialist’ advised that there is so much more to be considered than just the cremation. She told her that most basic cremation and service starts at $2500. What another coincidence! And she didn’t even answer the question!

Your funeral is the last, great party you will ever have thrown in your honor. My feeling: as you were in life, so should you be in death.

If you’re so inclined, you can plan it down to the fine details. Do you prefer a religious rite or a secular celebration? Are there ethnic customs or family traditions you wish or need to honor? Where will the funeral be held – church, hall, funeral home, outdoors in a meadow (or curling club)?

Will there be a procession to a cemetery? Open casket, closed casket, no casket? What music will be played? What readings represent your values? Do you have a preference for flower types or colors? How about donations in your memory — do people including your family know your favorite charity?

And who will preside over your service? Who will ‘orchestrate’ the day?

If you don’t preplan your funeral, lots of decisions need to be made by your family in a very emotional and vulnerable state and in just a day or two.

And deep in mind the funeral isn’t for you. It’s for your family and friends. Yes it is about you, but it’s not for you. And please plan something.

A funeral/memorial service/celebration of life avoids your family members having to hear from others over the next several months: “I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your…” Instead they will hear “How are you doing? Can I have you over, or can I come over?” It will be easier to share memories if a service had been held.

Preplanning means you care. You care about your family and their needs when you have died.

So now what? I plan to launch a new service in 2013: an independent funeral planner.

Why do you need an independent funeral planner?

You need an advocate: I come and visit with you and find out about your life and your values and how you picture your funeral. We shop around. We create your obituary. I document your wishes. We send a copy to your family. The costs are known. You know how you will pay for it (pre-paid, life insurance, money set aside). It can be revised as you carry on and your life changes.

At the same time, if you need it, we can review your Will, or arrange to get it and other important documents in place (power of attorney, health directive, living will). We can review your estate plans and do some tax planning. We can confirm who your executor will be and if he/she is a good choice (lives near you, willingness, ability, and capability).

If you are interested in getting help with pre-planning your funeral, give me a call or stop on by. We can get started when you are ready.

Anni Markmann is a Certified Financial Planner, a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging and Tax Expert living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact her at 422-6631, annimarkmann@mymts.net or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne.