If you’ve drawn up a will, deciding who’ll get the house, the money and great grandma’s pearl brooch — you’re better prepared to meet your maker than 50 percent of your fellow Americans.

According to a recent study conducted by Rocket Lawyer, more than 50 percent of those surveyed did not have a legal will.

But even if you’re one of those who do have a will, that’s only the first step in planning for the inevitable.

Before the reading of the will comes the funeral, and while most people give careful consideration to how their worldly goods will be distributed, decisions regarding the disposition of their worldly remains are often left to their grief-stricken survivors.

With the cost of a funeral averaging between $6,000 and $12,000, it’s advisable not to leave decisions regarding a major purchase to family members who have to make quick decisions while under emotional duress.

And if you haven’t left instructions as to your wishes, including cremation over burial, choice of funeral home, cemetery or type of headstone, the burden of making all those choices falls to the survivors.

Leaving the funeral arrangements to your survivors is not only an emotional burden; it can be a financial one as well, if no provision has been made to cover the immediate cost of the funeral.

Most funeral homes offer both pre-planning and prepaid funeral services.

Downs Funeral Home, owned by Keith and Patricia Downs, offers a variety of plans and services.

“We encourage families to come in and see what is available,” said Keith Downs. “We get an idea of their price range and then go over all the different options. We do encourage people to shop around.”

Downs said many people in Marshall do preplan the type of funeral and services but while prepaid funerals do have the advantage of locking in the price, it’s not necessary to prepay for a funeral when preplanning. “People have a variety of ways of paying for funeral services. Some plan to use life insurance or proceeds from their estate,” he said. “However, prepaying does freeze the price.”

Location, family history and personal recommendations are the three criteria most people use in choosing a funeral provider. Keith Downs, who has 55 years experience in the business and is in his 14th year of operation as owner of Downs Funeral Home, said local ownership is an important consideration when choosing a provider.

“A recent study shows that with a locally operated business, approximately 70 percent of the revenue stays in town, versus 45 percent of corporately owned funeral homes,” Downs said. “Doing business with a locally-owned and operated funeral home like ours keeps the money here.”

When discussing prepaid funeral services, there are a number of issues to consider and questions to ask before pre-paying for funeral arrangements, according to ElderCare, a senior services consumer group.

Be sure you know what you are paying for. Are you buying only merchandise, such as a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?

What happens to money you have pre-paid? Some states have different requirements concerning the handling of funds paid for prearranged funeral services. What happens to the interest income on money that is pre-paid and put into a trust account?

Are you protected if the company goes out of business?

Can you cancel the contract and get back any money you have paid in if you change your mind about the pre-planned funeral?

What are the provisions if you move to a different area or death occurs away from home? Some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but often there is an added cost in doing so.

Make sure your family knows about your plans. Put it in writing and make copies to give copies to your family and attorney. Put one in place where it is likely to be easily found. Don’t put the only copy in a safe or a safe deposit box, as it might take several days for anyone to obtain access.

A will is not the place to state your preferences, because many times, a will isn’t found or read until after the funeral.

Downs Funeral Home 4608 Elysian Fields Rd, Marshall, Texas 75672 Phone: (903) 927-1700

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