The death of a loved one can be one of the most traumatic and stressful times in a person’s life. Not only is the family mourning the death, they may also have the burden of planning and paying for a funeral.

While nothing can take away the pain of losing a family member, preparing for the inevitable could help ease the pain and make the experience less stressful.

Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo
Jake Kettenacker and Dora Rivera, pre-planning advisors with Noblin Funeral Services, say pre-planning your funeral is one of the best gifts you can leave your family.

Both Dora Rivera and Jake Kettenacker, pre-planning advisors with Noblin Funeral Services, say of all the deeds you can do for your family, planning and funding your funeral can be the most considerate and caring gifts you can leave them.

“Pre-planning is about people taking time to envision their final arrangements,” Rivera said.

“People do, in advance, what someone is going to have to do for them when they pass away,” Kettenacker said. “What they do is they help their family understand, in advance, exactly what they want done with themselves when they pass.”

Most families are not aware of what has to be done when someone dies. Very few families are prepared for what they’re going to go through — both emotionally and financially.

“Pre-planning gives the funeral director a guideline to keep the family on track and bring them back to what the deceased wanted for themselves,” Kettenacker said.

Another advantage of pre-arranging is the cost factor. When a person pre-arranges their funeral, they also prepay, which eliminates a lot of financial burden on the family.

“There are a lot of times when a family isn’t in the position to write that check, and a funeral home, by law, cannot extend credit after someone dies,” Kettenacker said. “So it can solve a big problem to prepay for the funeral.”

Much like every other type of service, funeral costs increase every year (statistically they double every 10 years), but by prepaying, you’ll be able to lock in today’s prices whether you die tomorrow or 30 years from now.

Anyone interested in pre-arranging and pre-paying for their funeral can make as many detailed decisions about their services as they want, Rivera said. One of the first decisions is whether to have a traditional burial or be cremated. They then can pick out their casket or urn, service arrangements and then address the cost.

There are different options when it comes to prepaying, including paying it all at once, monthly payments or even one-year, same as cash.

“You’ve heard of people saying they’ve spent a lot of money on funerals, and that usually happens when there are no pre-arrangements,” Rivera said. “That’s because they’re making emotional decisions. They want nothing but the best, and that’s how they tend to overspend. But when they do it ahead of time, they’re making more logical decisions because they’re clear-headed.”

Even though someone takes the time to preplan their funeral, Rivera and Kettenacker say those plans can change depending on what the family wants to do.

“By law, the dead have no rights,” Kettenacker said. “If a family comes in and wants to change it from a cremation to a traditional funeral, the only thing we can do is remind the family of the deceased’s wishes.”

Although, Rivera says most families do respect their family member’s wishes.

“Our job is to find out what their wishes are,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot of things that can’t be decided until the death occurs, such as the time and date of service”

By prearranging, you can be as detailed as you want when it comes to your services, such as the church and cemetery you want your services to be held at, your choice of minister or person who will officiate and the person who will deliver the eulogy. You can even choose the flowers you want at your funeral, the music and which prayers you prefer to be read at the service.

“Some people want to take the time to make all the decisions, such as selecting their flowers, prayer cards, the poem or prayers, and they’ll go as far as selecting the clothes they want to wear,” Rivera said.

Pre-planning a funeral can eliminate about 99 percent of any questions, because most families are appreciative of the fact that someone has made those hard decisions.

“There are many reasons why people prearrange their funerals,” Rivera said. “For some people, it’s the financial part of it, and they don’t want to leave that burden for their family.”

Kettenacker says there is not one negative reason for making prearrangements for your funeral.

“You have a price lock, a guarantee that your money is in a trust, and you’re putting the funeral home on retainer, so that where ever you are in the world, you make a call and the funeral home can take care if it,” he said. “It permits you to fully transfer your funeral prearrangement plan to any funeral home if you relocate or you’re traveling when you pass.”

Kettenacker said the trust company holds the money, not the funeral home, and they’ll pay the funeral home that performs the service.

Pre-planning isn’t only for those older in age. People as young as 13 years old can start pre-arranging their funerals if they want, and they are more than welcomed to regularly change their minds on any part of their pre-arranged plans.

“I got a call from a guy who is statistically 20 years away from dying, and he’s changing the pastor he wants to do the service,” Ketternacker said. “We make notes, and when the time comes, we have a current wish list.”

Ketternacker encourages anyone who is thinking of making prearrangement plans to do it sooner than later, before they’re too old or too ill.

He recently helped a family — three sisters — when their mother was gravely ill and wasn’t expected to live much longer. As they began to talk and make the arrangements, Ketternacker said they had the best time talking about their mother, the memories they shared and were at ease making the decisions for her funeral.

“Three months later, their mother died and they were so grateful for having made the prearrangements,” he said. “They were devastated by their mother’s death, but were happy they came in ahead of time to make those hard decisions.”

A prepaid, pre-planned funeral plan isn’t as much a product as it is a preparation strategy. Families will know exactly what needs to be done, and you’ll know that your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones know exactly how to honor you.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.