Legal Issues when someone has Dementia – Consider whether to Pre-Plan a Funeral

This week’s blog continues the discussion of Legal Issues when someone has Dementia.  The introductory installment (April 30, 2015) put forth the issue of “Who can speak for someone with dementia?”  The May 14, 2015 installment discussed the situation where the person with dementia has Advance Directives in place.  The May 21, 2015 installment discussed the legal issues in determining whether a dementia sufferer can choose to have new Advance Directives prepared.  The May 30, 2015 installment discussed options in preparing a Health Care Power of Attorney.  The June 4, 2015 installment discussed how to decide whether to prepare a Living Will.  The June 11, 2015 installment discussed some of the basic issues in preparing a General Power of Attorney.  The June 18 installment discussed the importance of making the General Power of Attorney “durable.”  The June 25 installment discussed the importance of NOT making the General Power of Attorney “springing.”  The July 2 installment discussed revoking prior Powers of Attorney.  The July 9 installment discussed Do Not Resuscitate orders.  The July 16 installment discussed the Right of Disposition designation.  The July 23 installment discussed the Will (or Last Will and Testament.)  The July 31 installment discussed beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities, etc. Today’s installment will discuss whether to pre-plan a funeral.

Today’s installment continues the discussion of issues to manage when someone finds out that he or she has a disease that causes dementia.  These issues should be managed before the dementia gets worse, taking away the person’s ability to make decisions.

A person who finds out that he or she has dementia should consider pre-planning his or her funeral, if it is not already planned.

The person may be reluctant to talk about his or her funeral, but it can be a cathartic experience.  Nonetheless, some people feel that planning the funeral, like preparing a will, is tempting fate.  That’s okay.  While I think it’s a good idea to pre-plan a funeral, it’s not going to change how the person’s disease will be managed.  If the discomfort thinking about a funeral is too great, then the person should not do it.

There are, however, several good reasons to pre-plan one’s funeral.

First, pre-planning a funeral allows the person to have the funeral that he or she wants.  If the person doesn’t leave instructions, then his or her loved ones must make their best guesses on the funeral details that the person would have wanted.

Second, pre-planning a funeral allows the person to set aside money for the funeral.  With a plan for a funeral, the person can have confidence that the money set aside is the right amount.

Third, pre-planning one’s own funeral relieves the emotional burden of one’s family to plan it at the time of death.  Just as the worst time to shop for groceries is when hungry, the worst time to shop for a funeral is when grieving.  If my mother were to die (sorry, Mom,) I might feel the need to show the world how much I loved my Mom by getting her the platinum casket with the silk lining and the gold accents and spend tens of thousands of dollars for it.  My mother, might have wanted a simple maple casket costing much less.  Now, I know that my Mom has a funeral plan already prepared.  If she didn’t have a funeral plan, though, my grief might cause me to spend much more on her funeral than she would have wished and cause me to arrange a funeral very different than what she would have wanted.

In summary, I urge anyone with early stage dementia (frankly, anyone over retirement age as well) to consider pre-planning his or her funeral.  Someone with early stage dementia has more of a timing concern before the dementia advances, but any senior should consider whether to pre-plan his or her funeral.

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