For many, there comes a time when it seems appropriate to make plans for future funeral needs.
In West Virginia, it is legal for family to handle funerals and burials at home. But most people choose to work with a licensed funeral director to create their funeral and burial or cremation plans.
After establishing your budget, selecting the funeral options you want, based on the funeral home’s itemized list of services, items and costs, is the next step.
Then, pre-paying for the funeral/burial/cremation services you feel are important is an option that locks in today’s costs via a pre-need funeral contract. Paying now means the funeral home cannot charge more for what it will handle later.
There are multiple methods for paying for a funeral in advance: buying or transferring life insurance; placing funds in the West Virginia Pre-Need Funeral Trust (by a lump sum or in installments); or depositing money into a special interest-bearing account as allowed under West Virginia Code sec. 47-14-1, et seq.
The funeral director can explain the merits of each funding choice.
Using an existing life insurance policy to cover the costs involves making an assignment to the funeral home for all or part of a policy’s future proceeds. Another option is to take out a new policy for this specific purpose.
Funeral home staff are trained and licensed in making pre-need insurance sales. They are required to attend a yearly seminar to stay current in this area.
Depositing money into the West Virginia Pre-Need Funeral Trust Inc. is an alternative way to fund a pre-need funeral contract.
The funds in the trust are invested, so check on the type of investments, history of return and fees before deciding.
It is important to note that the funds held in this funeral trust are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or any federal or state agency.
The option of using a special purpose interest-bearing account held by a financial institution can work also. Confirm that the company is reputable and pays a fair interest rate.
Once completed, a copy of the pre-need contract must be given to you and sent to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
Reporting by the funeral home to the attorney general on all of the pre-need contracts in its custody, regardless of the type of funding, is required every two years.
Any complaints about a pre-need contract can be made to the Attorney General’s Office at 800-368-8808 or online at www.ago.wv.gov.
If appropriate, the pre-need contract can be transferred to a different funeral home as long as the second funeral home agrees to the terms of the contract.
Some choose to have no funeral and instead donate their body to science through the Human Gift Registry. There is one associated with each of the three medical schools in the state: Marshall University, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and West Virginia University. More information is available online for each medical school.
Preparing your own obituary can be a good idea to make sure that the people, events and accomplishments you think should be included will be.
Making all of the arrangements that you feel are appropriate will assure that your wishes will be honored and your family won’t have to figure everything out at a sad time. Pre-planning can be especially important for people who have partners or other important people in their lives who are not related to them by blood, legal adoption or legal marriage.
Help with legal issues is available from West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at no cost to residents of the state, age 60 and over. Call 800-229-5068 to speak with the staff attorney.