Preplanning 101 – Everything you need to know

Posted on January 27, 2022 by Rev. Pam Reidy under Pre-need
Leave a comment

For some people preplanning their after-life care seems morbid and possibly even foolish; for others, it is seen as a gift they give their survivors.  Still, for both groups, questions about the process abound. In today’s blog, I interview Miles staff member Amber Ditomasso, CPC, Funeral Director and Certified Preplanning Consultant, who answers the most frequently asked questions about preplanning.

Pam: What is the difference between preneed, imminent need and at-need funeral care.?

Amber: Preneed arrangements occur any time before the death occurs, an imminent need arrangement generally takes place when a death is expected soon and at-need funeral arrangements take place after the death occurs.

Pam: Why would someone want to preplan their funeral care?

Amber: After a death occurs, many decisions are required before services may commence.  By preplanning, an individual ensures that these decisions are not left to loved ones, giving loved ones the ability to focus on their grief.  Additionally, their survivors can feel confident they are fulfilling the wishes of the deceased.  Another benefit to preplanning and prefunding funeral arrangements is that the funds become protected assets should a Medicaid spend down become necessary.

Pam: Describe the typical person who preplans funeral care.

Amber: Funeral preplanning is generally recommended as part of a complete estate plan, but actually anyone who is interested in having their affairs in order should consider preplanning.  Many parents opt to preplan so that the process is not left for children to worry about. Still, children often find themselves planning for their parents when they become unable to plan for themselves. Funding final arrangements could prove to be a financial burden, so many people preplan and prefund so that the funding is not left to loved ones. Prefunding funeral arrangements allows the family to protect assets and lock in the cost of goods and services at many funeral homes.

Pam: What does a Certified Preplanning Consultant do and what training do they receive for certification?

Amber: “Funeral consultants work with individuals and families to plan funerals, memorials and other end-of-life events. A funeral consultant also connects clients with vendors while negotiating affordable rates for products and services.” (NFDA) In Massachusetts, and in many other states, a preplanning consultant must be a licensed funeral director.  In addition to the education and practical experience needed to obtain this license, a Certified Preplanning Consultant must complete a course of study in preplanning through the National Funeral Directors Association, or NFDA.  According to the NFDA, the CPC course includes Funeral Preplanning Principles, The Funeral Rule,  Ethics in Preplanning, Funding Options, Contract Standards, Attentive Listening Skills, Marketing Principles,  Customer Service Excellence, Consultative Sales and Creating Meaningful Ceremonies.

Pam: What happens at a meeting to preplan and who should attend?

Amber: At an arrangement conference, the preplanning consultant discusses and reviews the service options available, the manner of disposition, (earthen burial or cremation) pertinent cemetery or church details, and the vital information needed for legal documents such as the death certificate and permits. The consultant will also answer any questions and guide you through the funding process. Obituary details may be recorded, as well as any songs, hymns or poems desired for a service.  If possible, the person for whom the plans are being made should attend.  In their absence a family member or personal representative may plan on their behalf.

Pam: What information or documents should be brought to a preplanning session?

Amber: Vital information, such as birthdate, place of birth, social security number, parents’ names and place of birth, education, and occupation information is good to have at the pre-arrangement conference to avoid delay with processing legal paperwork when the death occurs.  Additional information includes veteran documents, cemetery deeds, and financial information if planning to prefund.

Pam: Can insurance policies or other revenue sources be used to pre-pay a funeral?

Amber: Insurance policies can be used to fund a funeral after death, but they cannot be used to “pre-pay” in order to lock in costs.  If the family is spending down for Medicaid, however, there is a way to assign the ownership and/or beneficiary of an insurance policy so that the policy is no longer considered an asset.

Pam: What happens to the funds between the time it is given to the funeral home and it is needed for funeral expenses?

Amber: Funeral funds provided to a funeral home to pay a preneed arrangement must be placed in a third-party escrow account.  The funeral home has the option to use a bank trust or an insurance escrow.  This protects the consumer because they have the option to change funeral providers if they move, or if the current funeral home goes out of business.  The escrow agent will pay out to whichever funeral home provides the services.

Pam: Can one pre-arrange a funeral without pre-paying the full amount?

Amber: One may pay for their arrangements over time if they are unable or choose not to fund the arrangements in full.  Most funeral homes will not guarantee any costs unless the arrangements are paid in full.

Pam: What if I change my mind on things I have pre-arranged?

Amber: The arrangements and merchandise selections may be adjusted or changed by the purchaser or personal representative.

Pam: Can my survivors change plans I have made?

Amber: Survivors may change plans within reason, but if fully funded, it may be difficult to change from a traditional service to a direct cremation, especially if the decedent was present for arrangements and specified specific services.  Minor adjustments may be made to accommodate specific situations.

Pam: What happens if I move to another geographic area?

Amber: Plans are portable and follow the individual to another area.  The escrow company will pay the entity providing services.

Pam: What if the circumstances at the time of death make it impossible or inconvenient to carry out my wishes?

Amber: Within reason, arrangements may be changed when needed.  For example, Covid made it practical and necessary to postpone or change services.

If you are interested in learning more, have questions about preplanning after-life care or would like to schedule an appointment, please email Amber, Mile’s Funeral Home Certified Planning Consultant:

[email protected]








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *