Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness
NONE of us like to dwell on death — be it of our loved ones or ourselves. But not discussing plans and wishes in advance can add an extra layer of trauma to bereavement. A recently published report commissioned by investment company Royal London reported issues encountered by 500 people who had experienced bereavement. The research found 69% of people who lost a partner were financially or practically unprepared for the loss.
“It would have been really useful if there had been a list of phone numbers to use, or knowing what my partner wanted,” one respondent said. Another advised couples to “try and put things in order”, with one in six people interviewed saying they did not know what to do about the funeral.
While the study was undertaken in Britain, it is likely that similar situations exist here — with the recently bereaved trying to navigate the unfamiliar world of funeral planning while they are least able to cope and make decisions. And with many funerals costing €5,000 or more, the decisions made can have a considerable impact on family finances.
Nobody wants to worry about budgets or feel like they are cutting costs while saying goodbye to a loved one. But equally, the deceased would not wish for their family to struggle financially because of their funeral.
A way to avoid this is to pre-plan your funeral. There are a number of different ways of doing this. You can simply write down your wishes regarding burial or cremation, funeral director, celebrant, readings, flowers, gravestones, etc, and keep it somewhere safe. Some Irish funeral homes will allow you to record your preferences with them or you can go to www.thinkingahead.ie. This site, an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation, offers advice and a guide for discussing and recording preferences in the event of emergency, serious illness, or death.
Or you can choose to go a step forward and prepay for your funeral. Many Irish funeral homes will allow you to do this directly with them, choosing the plan you want and then putting aside money in a secure bank account to pay for this. This gives peace of mind that your family will not have additional financial stress after your death. Contact your funeral home of choice to proceed.
Whether you are planning ahead for your own ceremony or arranging to say goodbye to a loved one, there are ways to reduce the overall costs. Many funeral homes offer a bundled, all-inclusive service and it can feel easier to accept a package at a stressful time. But you are still paying for all elements in the package. Go through it item by item to check what you actually want — you may find the casket choice or flower arrangements in the package are not at all what you had in mind.
One way to reduce funeral costs is cremation instead of burial. Costs associated with cremation are considerably lower than a traditional burial. Even if you go on to bury the ashes it still works out less and many people choose instead to spread the ashes at a place of significance to the deceased.
If you find yourself struggling financially after a loss, help is available. The Bereavement Grant, a once-off payment to help with funeral costs, was discontinued in 2014 but the Department of Social Protection still provides a number of once-off payments to help out families. For widows/widowers/surviving civil partners with dependent children the Widowed or Surviving Civil Partner Grant is a once-off payment to help with the cost of the funeral. In addition, if someone dies from an accident at work a Funeral Grant is available under the Occupational Injuries Benefits scheme.
If your situation does not qualify you for either of these but you are struggling with funeral costs, you may be eligible for an Exceptional Needs Payment. You can apply for this with the Department of Social Protection, ideally before the funeral but they will accept applications afterwards. These payments are decided on a case by case basis, for further information go to www.welfare.ie.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved