Funeral Consumers Alliance of California

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Four Steps to Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is essential for having an economical, environmentally-conscious, and empowering funeral. The following four steps should provide an jumping off point for your preparations.

FIRST

Contact your local affiliate for examples of funeral plans. 
See what plan seems closest to what you have in mind. 
Choose the plan that most nearly meets your needs. Remember you can have a frugal funeral. 
If you need to buy cemetery space, read this first. 
The National FCA provides a list of green burial cemeteries. At these places, the cemetery area is dedicated for green space and a natural habitat for animals, birds, insects, and native plants, without headstones and without metal, plastic, embalming chemicals, or concrete underground. Some allow native fieldstone markers.

SECOND

Prices for each type of funeral will differ among locations and funeral homes in California. Most of the organizations belonging to FCA of California have done a funeral home price survey for their county or counties. These will be the retail prices for the same item or package of items so you can do comparison shopping at home. Some of them have special discount prices to FCA members, so be sure to inquire. (By law, funeral homes must give you prices by phone if you inquire, so verify that the price remains the same as on the survey.) 

If getting a discount interests you, you should join a local FCA affiliate if you are planning ahead for yourself, or for your relative who may be at the end of life. Contact the closest affiliate for information about joining and their discount prices and cooperating mortuaries.  

 When you make your plans ahead of time on paper, make copies for yourself, next of kin, and perhaps your lawyer or health care people. If you anticipate the death will be within the next few months, it would be wise to give a copy to the funeral home you choose. Thus, your next of kin has only to phone the funeral home after your death and the plans will be set in motion. Usually all the last minute paperwork can be completed by fax machine and the relatives may not have to go to the funeral home at all (except for a traditional funeral).

THIRD

Print off a copy of Checklist A - "Information to be Assembled Before Death" and start filling in the area at the right when you assemble the information and describe where the papers are located. Put this checklist with paperwork in a secure but readily available folder which can be easily found after death. Tell your next of kin where you keep important papers like this (NOT in a safe deposit box which may be closed for a period of time after your death. You may want to put copies of these documents in the safe deposit box, in case of fire or disaster, however.)

FOURTH

Resist prepaying even though the mortuary may try to convince you to do this. FCA affiliates have numerous complaints about lost prepayment money and other complications. Read the brochure about prepaying, and have your lawyer read and approve the contract if you are tempted to prepay. You may want to consider a Payable Upon Death trust account at your bank as an alternative.