Are You Ready For Both Death And Taxes?

The old adage “nothing is certain but death and taxes” is very true. Since income taxes occur on an annual basis we think about them frequently. Our own death, however, we seldom think about or plan for. That’s a problem.

One of my clients recently passed away leaving his wife and two adult children. The events that transpired could have been avoided with some pre-planning.

“John and Mary” never really talked about what they wanted in the way of final arrangements. With John’s sudden passing there were many decisions that needed to be made in a short time frame. Cremation or burial, open casket, closed casket or no casket, private services or public services, low-cost approach or more costly approach, above ground or below ground or indoor or outdoor final resting place were just a few of the important decisions.

All the decisions were overwhelming for Mary so she relied on input from their 2 kids. “John Junior” encouraged mom to take an economical approach, while “Susie” felt that Dad deserved more elaborate final services. The tension caused by this debate only worsened Mary’s mental state. Making any decision at a time of great loss is not easy.

Another old adage is “Good, Better, Best never let them rest, until the Good is Better and the Better Best”. If you cherish your loved ones and want to make things easier for them at your passing, you have several choices in pre-planning your final services.

Option 1 “Good”

Make a written list of what you do want and do not want as far as your final arrangements. The more specific you are, the fewer decisions your loved ones need to make. A difficulty with this approach is that there may be decisions you may be unaware of.

Option 2 “Better”

Go to a local mortuary/cemetery and educate yourself as to the myriad of decisions that need to be made. Talk with the facilities counselor and they will make a list of your choices. This will serve as a testament as to your wishes at that given point in time.

There are two issues with this approach. The first is that your requests do not have to be followed and can be altered by your family at your passing. The second is with inflation prices that you were quoted at that time will be higher at the time of your passing. Be sure to have adequate resources to provide the services you want.

Option 3 “Best”

In consultation with a mortuary or cemetery counselor make your decisions and also make arrangements to pay for the services while you’re still living. Final goods and services can be prepaid in a trust account or funded with deposits to an insurance company that specializes in this type of contract. The benefit of this approach is that as prices go up, you are assured by the mortuary, that the benefits of the policy will provide for all the goods and services that you selected. It could be worth your while to talk to several facilities since costs and quality can vary.

Craig Peterson, Manager at East Lawn Memorial Park in Sacramento recommends that you review the ”Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases” as a starting point in the process. This booklet is provided by the Cemetery and Mortuary Association of California and explains the basics of what one should know about final arrangements to make better decisions. There are similar publications in every State.

Peterson also said “That based on over 29 years of experience, the best approach is to talk to your family about your wishes. In turn find out what your family thinks: what they may want or need to ease their grief, and make your decisions of what you want. Lastly, have a plan as to how to pay for the final arrangements before the need arises.”

If you follow Petersons’ advice, your family will be less stressed at a very difficult time in their lives.

About the author

Michael Chamberlain, CFP®

Hello. My name is Michael Chamberlain CFP®, the principal of Chamberlain Financial Planning and Wealth Management. Our firm is “fee-only” with offices in Sacramento, Campbell and Santa Cruz California. “Serving clients from the mountains to the sea.”

Our mission is to help clients realize their full potential today while planning for an abundant tomorrow through comprehensive financial planning and collaborative decision-making.

As an experienced investment and planning professional, I have had the privilege of being interviewed by and contributing to hundreds of articles in such publications as Money Magazine, Financial Planning Magazine,,, Nerdwallet,, Yahoo Finance and more.

I hope that you spend some time at the FiGuide site and learn more about the financial matters important to you. To learn more about our firm, visit our website or give us a call at 800-347-1340.

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