Lisa Conway, One Senior Place – Special to FLORIDA TODAY

Q:  My mother passed away unexpectedly and the final arrangements we had to make afterward caused real turmoil in our family. How do I make sure my children never go through that?

A:  Please accept my sympathies on the loss of your mother.

Life (and death) come at us fast and failure to plan can often make a tough situation worse. You’ve just described a common scenario, where a family is suddenly forced into a tailspin because no one knows what Mom or Dad wanted or who will pay for it.

Why pre-plan?

It’s never too soon for adults to consider “pre-need” arrangements. Although it might make your children or family members uncomfortable to think about the unthinkable, deciding now what will happen immediately after your death is actually a final gift for the people you leave behind.

How do you go about “pre-planning?”

AARP suggests learning about the options first.

“Embalming or cremation? A full service at a funeral home, a graveside one or a DIY ceremony? Who will be there? A viewing of the deceased or not? Burial in the ground, or ashes scattered someplace meaningful?”

Having a plan doesn’t necessarily mean paying for it in advance, although many people choose to do so. Situations change, companies go out of business and you may pass away far from home.

Some experts recommend shopping around and creating an account with accessible funds to be used for the event.

The cost of dying

In 2019, the national median cost for a funeral with burial was $7,500. The same year, the national median cost of an adult cremation with a viewing and memorial was $5,150.  An honorarium is customary for clergy or musicians, if present.

AARP has more advice.

“Some funeral homes are reluctant to reveal prices, but if they resist, insist. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires them to quote prices over the phone or in person.”

Talk it over and write it down.

Conversations about the future can be uncomfortable, but if you initiate the talk, it will be easier on everyone.

Putting together a pre-need plan can help minimize confusion, financial hardship and anxiety for your family members, while ensuring your wishes are met.

Their minds will be at ease executing the plan they know you wanted. If you have no family members, your plan should be left with an attorney or trusted advisor.

Pick up a copy of the “Five Wishes” at One Senior Place.  It is an excellent free tool to help you think through options leading up to, and after, the inevitable.


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One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and a provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services in Viera.