Complete End of Life Education & Resources
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Final Gifts by Maggie Callanan - What people do as they die. Great gift for someone sitting bedside.
Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rules - Know your rights
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Boomers discovering how much they don’t know
Until now, no comprehensive education about the many issues involved in the end of life has been available in our society. The myths and misconceptions arising from ignorance and fear often hinder or prevent people from making vital decisions relative to their inevitable demise before it’s too late. This failure forces their loved ones to make these decisions for them in a time of grief, exhaustion and confusion.
Every day people show up in emergency rooms, incapacitated, without a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will or Heath Care Surrogate. Their spouses may assume that they have the right to make decisions for their loved one, and/or carry on their business matters as usual. Not so, according to the legal system. What, for example, if your mother-in-law has ideas that differ from yours about what should happen to her dear child, now lying unconscious in a hospital bed? The “guardianship” process, deciding who’s in charge of a suddenly incapacitated person’s affairs, can take three months and cost between 4000-6000 dollars right off the bat.
Additionally, about five thousand Americans die each day, many of whom have not provided sufficiently for their demise. “We’re not just referring to a will or estate plan here,” explain Caryl Dennis and Parker Whitman, co-authors of a new E-book CD, Transition Planning: Complete End-of-Life Education & Resources. “We’re talking about preplanning for things that our loved ones will face immediately upon our death, choices like burial or cremation, which funeral home, what sort of memorial service, and so on. Most people don’t realize that the average ground burial and funeral in the United States today costs between $8000-$10,000, which has to be paid when services are rendered, if not before.
“They’re also unaware that, without the proper documents, their beneficiaries can become embroiled, potentially for years, in complicated, time-consuming probate proceedings, costing thousands of dollars in legal fees.”
Many of the 78-million “baby boomers” are currently, or will soon be, dealing with their aging parents’ end-of-life issues and recognizing their own lack of preparedness. High-profile right-to-life cases like Terri Shiavo’s, and unscrupulous “deathcare” establishments like the infamous non-functional crematory in Georgia, have received a great deal of public attention in the past few years. Many consumers have become aware that some in the funeral industry take advantage of the bereft. Pre-planning – although not necessarily pre-paying – isn’t just desirable, it’s essential. Understanding your options can save you a lot of money and trouble.
So why do we procrastinate on such important issues? “The fear of death is a powerful hindrance to dealing with the practical aspects of the end of physical existence,” says Ms. Dennis. She and Mr. Whitman contend that exploring “Nearing-Death Awareness” (actions of the dying reported by Hospice workers world-wide), “Near-Death Experiences” (reported by over 12 million Americans who have died and been revived) and “After-Death Communication” (it’s estimated by researchers that 50-100 million Americans have experienced some sort of spontaneous contact with deceased loved ones) can help people overcome the fear. “There’s a whole lot of evidence clearly suggesting the existence of an ‘after-life’ world, and indicating that physical death is as much a beginning as an end.”
Ms. Dennis realized, after helping her father through his transition in 2002 and while embroiled in getting her mother’s affairs in order, that she knew as little about end-of-life paperwork as she did about the dying process. That realization inspired her to research end-of-life issues with the same fervor with which she had investigated the subjects of her previous books and projects (see www.RainbowsUnlimited.com). “It was like a maze”, Dennis exclaimed. “It made me dizzy! But I was determined to sort it all out. I decided to gather and share as much information as I could about all the end-of-life issues.”
Planning ahead, Dennis points out, can save you and your family a lot of money and trouble. “Isn’t it worth the effort to protect your loved ones from the trauma of having to make complex decisions hastily, at a time when they’re extremely vulnerable? We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to be informed, make our own decisions, plan ahead and put it all in writing.”
Dennis and Whitman convey their message by offering a lively, highly informative presentation – entitled Exposing Common End-of-Life Myths – that includes some of the original cartoon illustrations from their new CD.
St. Petersburg Times, FL, February 24, 2004
There’s a crying need for funeral planners
Bereaved families deserve dependable, independent advisers to steer them through the maze of details and decisions
By Robert Powell, CBS Marketwatch.com
The sun will rise in the east tomorrow and thousands of Americans – about 5,000, on average – will die. Many will have departed without leaving a plan.
We’re not talking about a will or an estate plan but one that speaks to immediate issues that survivors are often left to grapple with on the deceased’s behalf: which funeral home, which cemetery or urn, what type of flowers, and which charity.
Many institutions provide elements of what might be called a death-planning program to seniors. Yet none provide an independent planner to consult in advance, for a moderate fee, on the potentially costly details that most avoid confronting.
The ideal would be akin to what exists in the world of financial and wedding planning; hiring an advisor to act in your best interest.
“We believe a turnkey approach to final planning is long overdue in this country,” says Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab. “And right now there’s no one offering a neat, complete package.”
The insurance industry for years has sold “preneed” funeral policies that defray the cost of burials or cremations, said Norse Blazzard, an attorney with Blazzard, Grodd & Hasenauer in Fort Lauderdale. Churches and synagogues likewise help seniors sort through some of the endless end-of-life details.
Many funeral homes sell prearranged services along with prepayment plans. They’ll gladly sell you a $10,000 bundle – including caskets, burial vaults, cremation receptacles, flowers and burial garments – before you need it.
The latter is such a lucrative business, the nation’s largest funeral home operator, Service Corp. International (SRI), is sitting on $4.7-billion in unperformed funeral contracts, according to Hoover’s Online.
Yet most suppliers of death-care products and services address end-of-life issues from economic self-interest, Coughlin says. As a result, most death-planning programs in the United States, including those offered by funeral homes, fall terribly short of the ideal.
A program of this sort is being offered in Canada by Everest Funeral Package. Launched last year by Mark Duffey, co-founder of funeral home operator Carriage Services, Everest received an endorsement from CARP, the Canadian version of AARP, and plans to offer its services to Americans later this year.
The company is selling a paid-upon-death $10,000 life insurance policy that covers the cost of a funeral and a qualified death-planning expert who, Duffey says, has no vested interest in which funeral home is selected or which casket is purchased.
Instead, the planner helps consumers figure out what they want. Would they prefer to be buried or cremated? Do they want visitation? Do they want a service? Which funeral home if at all? Once done, the planner records the information and stores it for the benefit of family members for when the time comes.
Yet Everest’s policies, based on age and health, come at a substantial cost. Its marketing material quotes $82 Canadian per month for life for a 65-year-old to buy a $10,000 policy, indexed for inflation.
Still, what’s unique about this program, Coughlin and Blazzard say, is that, unlike traditional death-benefit policies sold by life insurers, the person giving the advice is an independent expert in funeral services.
Here are the most important questions that Duffey says seniors need to address before their day of reckoning.
1) Do you want to be buried or cremated? If you choose cremation, you only have to consider how you want your remains disposed of – in an urn, a traditional cemetery or cast to the wind.
2) Do you want a visitation or not? If you don’t want a visitation, you can reduce funeral expenses.
3) Do you want a service and, if so, do you want your body present? If you don’t want a service, you can reduce costs even further. In some cases, Duffey says, seniors are choosing a direct cremation with a memorial service at a country club or a rented hall.
Another factor to consider involves doing your own consultation work: What do your family members want?
Empowerment notwithstanding, there are drawbacks and unknowns with Everest’s program. Despite its presumed acceptance, Everest’s experience in Canada is limited.
It also would be better if consumers could pay for comprehensive death-planning advice without having to buy yet another life insurance policy.
There’s a crying need for professionals who would charge affordable fees to spare surviving family members added stress following one of life’s most heartbreaking events.
Look for providers to emerge to serve a U.S. market that will only grow the closer 74-million baby boomers get to their twilight years. It’s almost as certain as death and taxes.