Don’t worry! I am not sick or have anything planned, but I did go shopping for caskets last night with my wife. We don’t plan that far ahead either. We were helping my mother pre-plan and pay for her funeral and my father’s. You see, he has been suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for the past 2 years and finally got to the point where he could no longer stay at home. He was admitted to a nursing home in early October.
Long Term Care
According to my mother, my dad felt that long term care insurance was too expensive, and I can understand the sentiment although I don’t have any details about premiums or the decisions that he made many years ago. So now, we are looking into Medicaid to pay for the costs of the nursing home. Currently, it is being paid out of pocket by my mom, but she still has the possibility of living another 20+ years. We can’t have all of her money going to pay for medical expenses.
According to the Medicaid rules for our state, mom is allowed to keep a house to live in, a car to drive, and about $115,000 in assets (not sure of the exact number so don’t hold me to precise details). The rest of her liquid assets has to be spent down or somehow shielded within certain guidelines. We are working with a lawyer that specializes in elder care law and estate type issues so we feel confident that all will work out.
So that is what we were doing last night. My mom is allowed to use some of her assets to pre-pay for funeral expenses for my dad and her. That is where the casket shopping came in. My wife and I were there to help provide moral support for my mom as she went through the process.
Too Many Choices
Let me tell you, there are a lot of different choices when it comes to caskets plus other decisions to be made. I can’t imagine going through it all after a loved one has died. You could choose from wood, steel, or stainless steel. There were different types of woods and different finishes and different thicknesses of steel. Prices could range from $600 for a wood/cardboard casket to over $10,000! Plus decisions had to be made about the type of vault in the ground as well as all the services provided by the funeral home.
It was somewhat overwhelming at first, but I think we ended up in a good place. We tried to balance respect for the dead (seems sad to be buried in a cardboard box) and choosing a decent casket and burial vault considering the fact that the casket ends up in the ground and no one will even see the vault. You don’t want to spend too much money knowing that my mom could live another couple decades, but you don’t want to be insulting and cheap either. Tough decisions.
In the end, my mom paid just under $11,000 for each funeral. This includes all the funeral home services, along with the burial vault and the casket. They already had paid for the burial plots years ago. There is still a fee to be paid at the cemetery for opening and closing the graves which will be about $1000 each.
The money was placed in an irrevocable trust which I thought was good (apparently it is state law) because my mom was worried having heard stories of funeral homes going bankrupt and losing the money. But these funds locked in the price for all services and are even transferable in case the funeral home goes out of business (unlikely since they have been around since the 1920’s).
Like I said, I think we ended up in a good place, but it wouldn’t be my first choice of how to spend an evening although it did get me to start thinking about some of the things I might want for my own funeral (my wife said I would get the cardboard and she would go on a cruise). Hmmm, I wonder what she meant by that?