December 24, 2018 Beyond The Dash

Is it Wrong to Make Funeral Plan Before Someone Dies?

Considerations for end-of-life planning

Is it Wrong to Make Funeral Plan Before Someone Dies?
When a loved one's death is imminent, you might feel pressure to begin making funeral arrangements. Should you? (Getty Images)

When someone is dying, many practical issues arise for all who are supporting them. Who should be notified of the prognosis? What end-of-life care is needed? What will happen to those who depend on the dying person? And there is also the question of memorial arrangements. Many people wonder whether it's appropriate to begin making funeral arrangements for a loved one while they are still alive?

Is it wrong to begin making final arrangements for someone who is expected to pass away soon?

Like most things in life, it depends.

There is no rule of thumb when it comes to planning a funeral in advance. All families have unique circumstances, beliefs and needs. Here are some things to keep in mind when making this important decision:

  • Prognosis

A doctor's prognosis informs their patient of the likely course of their ailment. When someone is dying, it will include the length of time they can expect to live, which is usually expressed in a range. The doctor might also provide instructions for care, and an idea of what deterioration to expect. 

If time with the person is quite limited, don't waste precious moments with them making funeral arrangements, unless being involved in the arrangements is important to them. Instead, use that time to share memories, support and love. 

Sometimes there are months or years left to share with one who is dying. During this time, it's a good idea to ensure the dying person's wishes are legally documented, and understood. There is no need to start casket shopping unless there is a strong desire to get as many details taken care of as possible. 

  • Wishes of the dying person

If the prognosis is months or years, with a reasonably high expectation for quality of life and mental capacity until the end, they may begin to make their own funeral preparations. Sometimes a dying person will want to be involved in every aspect of documenting their final wishes and ensuring they are executed properly, sometimes even going as far as to write their own obituary. Close friends and relatives should be supportive of this, help with arrangements as much as is needed and assure their loved one that their wishes will be carried out in full.

If the dying person doesn't take the initiative on funeral plans, however, there's no need for funeral plans until the person has passed. 

If the dying person is suffering from dementia, unconscious or unable to competently discuss end-of-life care or funeral arrangements, check for written records of their wishes, and honor them. If no wishes have been provided, funeral planning may begin as soon as those handling the arrangements are ready.

  • Family preference

If the dying person is close to the end and a funeral is fairly imminent, families sometimes make the decision to begin planning the funeral. This proactive planning can help ensure there is less to do when the death occurs and grief is fresh. However, funeral planning is never easy, and may be even harder to do while the dying person is still living. Where no indications have been made by the person who is dying, those tasked with planning the funeral can make the call about when to begin preparations. 

There is nothing wrong with choosing to make arrangements in the final days of a loved one. Choosing to wait before making plans is a valid option too. How to proceed is up to you and your family's preferences.

  • Financial benefits

There may be financial benefits to pre-planning funeral arrangements. Almost all funeral homes are available 24/7, but planning in advance may save your family some money on arrangements. Having the time to carefully select the services needed will help avoid unnecessary purchases when you are most vulnerable. 

Advance planning can also give you peace of mind, and help you avoid an unexpectedly large funeral bill at the time of death. It also means that you can discuss the arrangements with the dying person in advance so that you ensure their final wishes are honored.

The final decision

When you plan in advance of a death, you won't have to make end-of-life decisions at the time of death. Ultimately, these decisions are highly personal. It's important to consider the wishes of the person who is dying, and let them take the lead if possible.

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