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Make your final wishes known outside of your estate plan

When a loved one dies, it always eases the burden on surviving family members if they know how that person wanted to be celebrated (or not) and how they wanted their body to be handled. It's also helpful if that person set aside enough money for the funeral, burial, cremation, memorial or other events.

It may surprise people to hear that the average price for a traditional funeral here in Maryland is over $10,000. A direct cremation can also run well into the thousands of dollars.

People often detail their wishes in their estate planning documents. However, unless someone else has access to those immediately, your loved ones may not know what your wishes were until after they've had to make all of the arrangements.

That's why it's important to detail your final wishes in a separate document that your loved ones can get to immediately. Make sure that you tell them where it is and that someone is able to access it.

In this document, you can provide as much detail as you like. However, you should start by designating whether you want to be buried or cremated. Many families already have a plot. If not, where do you want to be buried? If you want to be cremated, who do you want to take responsibility for your ashes? Do you want them kept somewhere special, interred or scattered? Do you want a small ceremony with family or a large, joyful celebration of your life?

There are actually websites that let people keep this information online. These can be helpful in ensuring that you think of everything. Just make sure that a family member or loved one knows how to access it.

Your estate planning attorney can provide guidance on how to designate your final wishes and provide the funds needed to carry them out so that your loved ones won't be battling over them and trying to scrape up the money. They will appreciate your consideration for them as they honor your life.

Source: The Balance, "How to Make Your Funeral Wishes Known to Your Loved Ones," accessed Sep. 28, 2017

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