Funeral pre-planning can help to ease grieving. Here’s what you need to do

Although we always shy away from discussing death in our Asian society, funeral pre-planning is an important topic to discuss. The emotional pain of loss and the subject’s superstitions should not deter you from making arrangements.

Because while planning won’t make grieving the loss of a loved one easier, it’ll make it more manageable. It may be the last gift from the deceased to their family members.

This article will discuss the reasons to pre-plan and the essential steps you’ll need to take for the funeral services.

Why should you pre-plan for a funeral?

There are 3 main reasons you or your family should pre-plan for a funeral.

The first reason is that it causes less anxiety to family members when you or your loved one passes on. This is true, especially if it is sudden death. In the event of an accident, family members might not know what arrangements to carry out, and they might feel guilty that they do not know the deceased’s last wishes.

Apart from anxiety, reducing the stress of making funeral arrangements is the second reason for pre-planning. So often, when people are grieving, they’re not in the right headspace to make decisions for the funeral. But while we all want to send off our loved ones in the most respectful ceremony possible, the expenses can add up.

It might come to the point that even minor logistics like transportation of the coffin can cause tensions to flare over what to prioritise. Therefore, pre-planning the funeral avoids family conflicts since you’ve laid all the steps and costs out.

Lastly, if you are pre-planning for your funeral, it’ll give you more control over how you want the funeral to go. For example, if you have religious practices that you would like to follow, you can make the arrangements and control how the funeral is handled.

How do you plan for a funeral?

The first consideration is how you would like to get your affairs in order. There are 3 ways to go about that.

The most common one is to write a will. A will is a legal document which states your last wishes relating to your assets and loved ones after you pass on.

Generally, a will includes your assets and liabilities. It dictates the beneficiaries of your assets. If you have children under 21 years of age, it’ll state the legal guardians to take care of them. The will also state executors who will carry out your will.

Although you can write a will via the Singapore Legal Advice’s will-making service, it’s generally advised that you write your will in the presence of lawyers who will execute your will according to its stipulations.

There are 2 other legal documents that you can consider when pre-planning for a funeral. While these documents do not state what happens to your assets, it clarifies what happens if you’re unable to make decisions on your own due to health or medical conditions.

The first is a Lasting Power of Attorney. This legal document allows a person to voluntarily appoint one or more persons to make decisions and act on their behalf if they lose mental capacity one day.

The second is an Advance Medical Directive (AMD), a legal document that you sign in advance to inform your doctor you do not want your life to be artificially prolonged with life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill and unconscious.

With these considerations, you can then start pre-planning for the funeral logistics.

What are the steps involved in planning a funeral?

Step by step, these are the decisions you will need to make when you pre-plan a funeral.

What to do when death happens

First, you need to know what to do when death occurs.

In the case of natural death that’s occurred locally, anyone (including a relative of the deceased or a funeral director) can register the death of the deceased and apply for a digital death certificate at the My Legacy website. The certificate has to be sent to the funeral director hired to proceed with the next steps.

All deaths in Singapore must be reported within 24 hours. Prep your family members so they know what to do and documents to get ready when they’re needed.

What if death happens overseas? You can find out more here.

Cremated or buried

Next, ask yourself if you or your loved one wants to be cremated or buried and the location of the final resting place. Both options entail different costs. Only Choa Chu Kang cemetery in Singapore is open for burials currently. The cost ranges from $400-$1000. Note that you have to make this decision before you register the death.

As for cremation, there are 3 crematoriums in Singapore. You can choose between just cremation or cremation with storage of ashes. Prices vary for the location and type of urn but range between $400-$600.

Type of casket or coffin

The next is to consider the type of casket or coffin you or your loved one would prefer. It’s an important decision as caskets/coffins, come in different materials, and the price varies depending on how luxurious or decorative it is.

When this decision is not made earlier, families might make impulsive choices or argue over the type of coffin. Whether you prefer a more lavish-looking casket or a plain one depends on your lifestyle and your preferences.

However, be prepared to pay more for hardwoods such as mahogany, cherry, and oak which can cost between $2,000 and $10,000.

Caskets made of lightwoods (such as pine, or wood veneer) are the more affordable option, costing several hundred to a thousand dollars. While lightwoods are sturdy and practical, they’re not as elaborate or ornate as hardwoods. There are also eco-friendly options.

You can also choose sealing the coffin or not. Sealing the coffin will add to your costs. Most people opt to seal the casket because there’s a misconception that sealing the casket will preserve the body.

But ultimately, decomposition will set in, and if you choose a wood coffin, the porous material will still allow air and moisture to seep through. So, unless you’re transporting the casket by air to another country for burial, there’s usually little reason to seal it.

Funeral service

The next to decide is the funeral service. You’ll need to determine whether you want a public, private family and friends-only service or no service. Also, you’ll have to decide on the location of the wake, whether it’s at a public HDB or private property or the funeral parlour.

Finally, you’ll also need to decide on the length of service. Most funeral services last not more than 7 days, although you can have services that last longer as long as you have a permit from National Environment Agency (NEA).

Rites to be performed during the wake will also determine the cost of the service. For example, the cost of a Taoist funeral may be higher than a Buddhist one because it entails more elaborate, special rites.

Other costs that are typically included in the memorial package:

  • A casket
  • Refreshments or catering of meals
  • Religious items for worship and decoration (such as flowers, joss sticks,)
  • Rental and set-up of tentage, tables,and chairs
  • Hearse service
  • A framed photo of the deceased
  • Portable toilet
  • Religious leaders to lead funeral rites

When you’ve decided on the above, you should also think about the payment options. You might want to prepay for the funeral services if you’ve engaged a funeral company to oversee the above arrangements.

When should you pre-plan for a funeral, and who should you include?

If you’re pre-planning a funeral for yourself, you can do so whenever you feel ready to handle these arrangements rationally.

If you’re married, your spouse, and your children should be involved. If you’re single, your or next of kin, such as your parents or siblings, can also be included.

While they might not be ready for such a discussion, you can initiate the conversation calmly so that they know you are being pragmatic about death.

For a loved one who is terminally ill, you’ll need to broach the subject only when they are ready for a discussion. However, if your loved one has not left a will, LPA, or AMD, it might be best to sound them out on how they would like to be remembered after they have passed on.

When you’re pre-planning a funeral, do consider engaging a funeral service provider as they can provide advice and guide you on what you need to do.

If you’re searching for one, look for a reputable and experienced company which is upfront and transparent about its pricing – like Empathy Funeral Service. Moreover, for those who require specialized services such as religious rites, it’s best to choose a company that can cater to those needs.

Funeral planning tips

Here are quick tips to refer to when you are ready to pre-plan a funeral.

1. Check that your will is up to date

If you don’t have a will in Singapore, your assets are distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act (ISA). However, the distribution might not be what you wanted.

So, it is recommended that you create a will that outlines your assets, liabilities, and beneficiaries. If you have young children, it also determines their legal guardians, which will prevent a custody war in the future.

2. Know what is involved in the funeral

It helps if you know the range of options for each step and its significance. Then, you can make the arrangements according to your own religious beliefs.

You can download our checklist for a quick step-by-step item guide when you’re ready to make arrangements for the funeral.

3. Cost matters

Every decision made might mean a different cost, so consider each step carefully and the average costs incurred. For example, you can plan the funeral without paying first by setting up a bank account and designating your beneficiary to pay from it.

Your funeral service provider should be upfront and transparent about the cost of each item to help you decide on which services to include.

4. Understand the funeral package deal

Your chosen funeral services company may recommend a package that seems like the whole deal. But certain rites are unique to the religion and require an experienced funeral director to guide family members through the process.

For instance, a Catholic funeral service might require a funeral mass with a Catholic priest. Check with the funeral director on whether all the services you need can be provided and request an itemised list.

5. Start a conversation with your loved ones and write it down

It might be challenging to start a conversation, but your loved ones should also be part of this process. When it’s time to have the discussion, you can be specific but realistic. Your loved ones might not be able to execute all the details exactly the way you want.

But assure them that it’s not going to upset you. Instead, treat the conversation as an opener and let your loved ones hear you out, as talking about death can be an emotional topic.

6. Convince other family members to have this conversation if your loved one is terminal

When we’re wrapped up in grief, it’s hard to think clearly about funeral arrangements. But making these decisions while the person is alive is a way of honouring their wishes.

If your loved one is ready to decide, and other family members are unwilling to hear it, it might be good to reason that the person should be given a choice in determining their last rites.

Conclusion

While talking about death is a heavy and sensitive topic, it helps to pre-plan a funeral when you’re in a clear state of mind. This step minimises the stress and anxiety for the family members when the person is gone as the arrangements guide them to thoughtfully fulfil the deceased’s wishes.

Empathy Funeral Service can help with your pre-planning and oversee the funeral arrangements when you or your loved one passes on, easing the stress of planning a wake while grieving. Contact us to assist in your preparation.

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