Planning ahead for death? Not many do, and they should

Preparing for DeathLeave a Comment

Preplanning funerals saves time, money and hassle for surviving family

This article originally appeared in the Denver Post on 8-6-15 By Tierra Smith

Few people plan or talk with their families about death arrangements and how they want to be remembered. Dolores Almanza isn’t one of them.

The 45-year-old Denver woman has preplanned her funeral and is paying for it with the intention of saving money in the long run and reducing the hassle for her grieving family.

“I don’t want my family to have to go through that,” Almanza said.

Last month, she invested in a plot at Seven Stones, a botanical-garden-enhanced cemetery just south of Chatfield State Park in Littleton that broke ground in April. She purchased a cremation plot for two people near a waterfall for $5,200 and plans to reserve the other spot for her 23-year-old son.

Almanza is ahead of the curve. Planning a funeral and burial takes time and attention to detail, and it’s more expensive than most people realize. Funeral planners recommend preplanning because for those who wait, their family members will have three short, tough days to make critical decisions.

“We know ahead of time it’s a lot easier to do,” said Jim Cavoto, vice president of sales and marketing at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. “The last thing you want to do is make arrangements for someone you love when you don’t want to be there anyway.”

According to a 2015 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association, only 17 percent of people under age 65 make prearrangements. As people grow older, they are more likely to make plans. After age 75, the percentage climbs to 34 percent.

Chuck Bowman, spokesman for NFDA, said people can arrange details from the songs they want sung to the dress they want to wear. NFDA’s campaign “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” explains to families how to have the conversation about death.

The funeral industry is about personalization, said Onda Vega, family care provider at Fairmount, which is the second-oldest cemetery in Denver.

“Everyone has been asking for less formal, less traditional options to celebrate life,” she said. “We are no longer in a cookie-cutter world. We no longer live in a world where average is acceptable. We expect personalization.”

Fairmount is going through a $5 million expansion to create a Celebration Life Center and add 4,000 square feet to its main office building.

In addition to funerals, the expansion will let Fairmount host more weddings, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs and other events, something it already has done for many years.
Cavoto said that his five children can’t agree on where they want to eat dinner, so they would have a hard time with funeral arrangements. He has purchased a family plot at Fairmount and often drives by his marker.

It’s a little weird, he said, but it’s a necessary step.

“(My children) would have a meltdown before they even know what to do with me,” he said.

National median costs for funerals

  • Funeral with viewing and ceremony followed by burial: $7,205
  • Immediate burial with a casket provided by the family: $2,505
  • Immediate burial with a casket provided by the funeral home: $2,995
  • Funeral with viewing and ceremony followed by cremation: $6,160
  • Immediate cremation with a cremation container/casket provided by the family: $2,200
  • Immediate cremation with a cremation container/casket provided by the funeral home: $2,300

Other costs:

  • Metal burial casket: $2,350
  • Cremation casket: $1,000
  • Alternative cremation container: $125
  • Urn: $285

Funeral and cemetery industry revenue (in millions)

Cemeteries and Crematories
1997: $2,988
2002: $3, 231
2007: $3,350
2012: $3,319

Funeral homes and funeral services
1997: $9,633
2002: $11,049
2007: $11,943
2012: $13,004

Source: National Funeral Directors Association

For more on this article, see

Leave a Comment

2 + 1 =