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13 Jun 2021

Have you ever thought about what songs you’d like to play at your funeral, or who you’d like to speak? More and more of us are wanting to have a say in how our lives are celebrated when the time comes, and plan ahead to make things easier for our loved ones at a tough time.

Keep reading for some helpful tips and advice about why you should consider pre-planning your funeral. We’ve got a checklist of what to consider – including who’s going to pay for it all and whether financing your funeral with Cigna Funeral Cover could work for your loved ones.

Why should I pre-plan my funeral? 

Although each family’s situation is unique, there a few common reasons why people choose to pre-plan their funerals.

It can make a difficult time easier for your family

The loss of a loved one is always an emotional time. Sometimes it can feel difficult to even figure out where to start with the practicalities of making decisions and planning a funeral. Leaving your loved ones a plan can give them space to focus on grieving and celebrating your life.

Your wishes can be respected

Whether it’s a certain outfit, music, photos or stories, many people have an idea of how they’d like their life to be celebrated. If you’ve ever thought about something you’d really like (or dislike) at your funeral, a clear plan can help make sure these wishes are respected.

You want to help out financially

For those in the position to do so, some Kiwis like to take on some of the financial responsibility for their own funeral. By considering the likely costs, you’ll be able to make a plan about what sort of financial support your loved ones may need. This could be money set aside or an option like life insurance or funeral insurance.

You can tailor it to your loved ones’ needs

Only you will know what’s best for your family, so whether you want to plan every last detail or just provide a rough outline, it’s your choice. If you’d like to leave some flexibility in your plan for your loved ones’ wishes or find it difficult to decide what will work best, you can just plan the things that feel important to you. It’s good to remember this plan might not be needed for many years, so you may want to review the plan from time to time.

So how do I actually go about pre-planning my funeral? 

There are three key steps to pre-planning your funeral arrangements.

Think about the big things first

There are a few big decisions you can make ahead of time that will save your family a lot of guesswork later. Making these decisions will not only make it easier for your family to make the arrangements, they’ll also help you get an idea of what your funeral is likely to cost. Keep reading for our checklist of what to think about.

Record your wishes

You need to do more than just think about what you’d like – you need to communicate or record your wishes so your loved ones know what they are. Whether you go the old fashioned route and use a pen and paper, or go digital and share your Google Drive or Dropbox folder, it’s important you share your plan with the right people so they can access it when the time comes. It can be really useful to keep all the important documents together, like your will, insurance documents, a list of who should be notified, and the plan you’ve made for your funeral. 

Consider your budget and payment options

When you pre-plan your funeral, you’ll start to get an idea of how much your end of life costs could be. This can make it a good time to talk to your loved ones about who’ll cover the cost of your funeral and consider what options are available. 

In the next section, we’ll get into more detail about how you can make pre-funeral arrangements

Pre-planning checklist

Research funeral homes

For many people, deciding where you want your funeral to be held is a good place to start when pre-planning. Think about:  

Location and size of services available

You may want to choose a funeral home in your local area, but if you have plans to be laid to rest in a different part of the country, it could be worth looking into options in that area. If you plan to use the funeral home’s facilities to hold services, have a look at the photos or visit in person to see if the space feels right to you.

Reputation of the funeral home and staff

Many funeral homes will be able to share testimonials from families who’ve used their services, but it’s also worth looking for independent reviews online or talking to people you trust about their experiences. It’s important to choose a funeral home that is run by people who’ll put your loved ones at ease, who you can trust to make things easy.

If they will accommodate cultural or religious beliefs

Most funeral homes will be happy to accommodate any particular religions or cultural requests you may have, but it’s always worth taking the time to learn about your funeral director before making a decision, to see if they’ll be a good fit for your needs.

If they have the latest technology  

Coming together in person may not be an option. Some families are spread out across the world and others may simply find it difficult to be there in person, for health reasons or other challenges. Many funeral homes have the equipment to record or stream the funeral so loved ones can watch online if they can’t be there in person. 

How you would like to be laid to rest?

In New Zealand, the most common options are burial and cremation. Some people have a clear idea of where they’d like to be buried, perhaps to be near family or a meaningful location. If you choose to be cremated, you might like your ashes to be scattered in a somewhere special or kept in a particular place.

If you’re considering options a little less traditional, one option is a natural burial. Great care is taken to be as eco-friendly as possible and native trees are planted on each plot. Some people choose to donate their body to science to give back to the community and help researchers and medical students learn.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to make sure your family know what you’d like to happen. You could start the conversation over a cuppa, or leave it for when the time comes by writing your instructions in your will.

What kind of funeral do you want?

If you have particular religious, cultural or family traditions you’d like to incorporate into your funeral, it’s important to be clear about what these are.  Most funeral homes will be happy to work with you to plan a service at a church or community centre, a Tangi on the marae, a graveside funeral, or a wake in your own home. Think about who you’d like to lead any services: that may be the funeral director, a religious or cultural leader, a celebrant or even family members.

When it comes to caskets, there are options to suit all tastes, ranging from simple to ornate to modern – or even customised. It’s also worth considering whether you’d prefer an open or closed casket, or if you’d like your body to be taken to any particular locations on your way to your final resting place.

You could also plan what you’d like to happen during the service, but it’s up to you to decide how much detail to go into. You could consider:

  • Who you’d like to invite (or exclude) – it could be helpful to write a guest list with contact details to make it easier for your family

  • Who you’d like to be involved – who you’d like to serve as pallbearers, deliver eulogies or readings, sing or offer other tributes

  • Any special touches that are important to you, like pictures, flowers, music, stories or food

  • Do you have a charity you’d like your loved ones to support?

  • Whether there’s a particular outfit you’d like to be laid to rest in

Recording your wishes and getting your affairs in order

There are several things you can do to remove as much stress as possible for your loved ones.

Write a will

Writing a will is one of the most important things you can do so your family can follow your wishes when you pass. A will makes it clear who should inherit what, big and small. Consider not only big assets like houses and cars, but also things like family heirlooms, photographs or sentimental belongings you’d like your loved ones to keep. You can also use your will to leave money to charities, formalise your plan for your funeral and set out who should care for any pets or dependent children.

Keep your will somewhere safe and make sure the executioner of your will has an up-to-date copy. Without a valid copy of your will, there could be significant delays getting your affairs sorted for your loved ones.

Gather and store important documents

When a person passes away, there’s paperwork – so keep important family documents in a safe place or with a trusted friend or family member. This should include things like your birth certificate, medical records, deeds to your loans or property, any life insurance information as well as any instructions how to access your accounts or assets. Remember that best data security practice is to avoid writing down passwords, so be careful about where you store this information if you choose to do this. 

Consider who’ll pay for the funeral 

Now that you’ve got a plan and recorded your wishes, you’ll have a better idea of how much your funeral is likely to cost. As a ballpark, the average cost of a funeral in New Zealand is around $10,000. In some cases it’s substantially more than this. It’s also worth considering if there’ll be additional expenses like family travelling from out of town. If you’d like to take on some of the financial responsibility for your funeral arrangements, it’s important to understand your options.

Funeral grants

For low-income families, Work and Income offer Funeral Grants to help with some of the costs associated with the funeral. Children, partners and parents can apply, but eligibility depends on their income and assets, as well as your assets. The maximum funeral grant is $2,153.

Savings or investments

If you or your loved ones have funds set aside for a rainy day, this could be the time to use them. Just remember if you’d like your own savings or investments to be used, it could take months or even years for the legal processes to be completed and your assets distributed according to the instructions in your will.

Pre-paid funeral costs with your funeral provider

Some funeral homes give you the option to pre-pay some of the costs. If you know exactly what package you’d like to book, this can be an option to square off the financing while you’re still here. That said, it could be many years before the time comes, so before signing the dotted line it’s important to understand how much flexibility you have if the plan needs to change. 

Funeral Insurance

For people who’d like to make small, regular payments towards funeral costs, seniors’ funeral insurance can be an option to provide your family with a guaranteed payout when you pass. Funeral cover is designed to give you certainty about how much financial support you can offer your loved ones – with quick payouts, direct to your loved ones, that aren’t slowed down by the legal processes. 

How does funeral insurance work? 

 Cigna Funeral Cover is a great option for New Zealanders who want to plan ahead to cover the cost of their funeral, so that their loved ones can focus on celebrating their life rather than worrying about finances.

You can choose a cover level between $5,000 and $30,000. There are no medical checks required and your acceptance is guaranteed if you’re a New Zealand permanent resident aged 50-80. It’s up to your family to choose how to spend the Funeral Cover payout. It don’t have to go directly towards funeral costs, the money could cover costs such as flights for getting loved ones home for the funeral.

With Cigna, funeral insurance costs are fixed so premiums won’t increase as you get older. They’re calculated based on how old you are take out the policy – the younger you at when you join, the lower your fixed premiums will be for the life of your policy.

From day one of your policy, your family will receive a full payout of your chosen cover level if you pass away due to an accidental injury, regardless of the amount you’ve paid in premiums.

After 24 months you’ll be fully covered if you pass away due to an accident or natural causes, even if this relates to a pre-existing condition. If you were to pass away due to natural causes within 24 months of taking out the policy, we’ll refund 100% of your premiums paid to your family, so they still have support with funeral costs.

Get started with Cigna

Learn more about Cigna’s funeral insurance or get in touch for advice and a free quote today. Our friendly team are here to help Monday to Friday 8am-6pm or you can read more here.