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What is Pre-Planning and What is a Pre-Planning Questionnaire?

Obviously, the term “pre-planning” can mean different things in different contexts.  One may “pre-plan” a vacation, or one may buy a home in a “pre-planned” community.  But on Family And Heirs, the term refers, as it very often does, to giving significant thought to the questions your family will have, and the information they will need to know, when you’re no longer here. 

Funeral homes and cemeteries provide “Pre-Planning Questionnaires” to their clients, but these often deal only with what are known as “Final Arrangements,” which generally relate only to cemetery, burial, memorial, and funeral arrangements. Generally, this includes “decisions about the type of burial, location of burial plots, cemetery committal services, cemetery perpetual care, funeral service arrangements including the location and type of service, casket, vault, as well as permanent memorialization” (per Cemetery.com).

Our online “Pre-Planning Questionnaire,” provided to all account holders on Family And Heirs, includes all these topics, but presents a far more comprehensive listing of questions.

But not only does our questionnaire go into far more topics, as discussed below, but you get the added benefit of having it stored and accessible online, so that the account holder can make as many changes, and as often, as he or she wants.  Contrast this to the paper questionnaires you’ll get at many funeral homes, which often only cover Final Arrangements, but which require you to make an appointment every time you need to make changes.  Suppose, for instance, that you decide to change your listing of suggested pallbearers, or you want to change your suggested obituary in some way, or maybe you want to change the church or the pastor, you can do this online at any time at FamilyAndHeirs.com – there’s no need to call the funeral home, make an appointment, come in on the scheduled day, meet with the Funeral Director, have him or her pull your file from the filing cabinet, and sit there and make the changes, and then do this all again when you want to change something else.

On our online Questionnaire, we start out by asking about whether you have completed a Durable Power of Attorney or a Power of Attorney for Health Care, whether you have an Advance Directive for medical care, and more questions, including whether you’ve given a Power of Attorney to anyone. 

We ask all the “funeral” questions, questions seeking your preferences for type of funeral or other memorial, whether you want to be buried or cremated, cemetery location or urn niche, who should officiate, and many, many more questions, many of which you may never have considered.

We ask if you have a Will or Trust, and the date of the current version, and where the original signed document can be located.  Of course, you can upload your Will or Trust to our Secure Document Storage, so that it will be immediately available to your family.  We'll ask the name of your lawyer, if you have one, and the name of your funeral director, if you have one.  

Our Questionnaire also covers all your assets and your insurance, with detailed questions, including where you have bank and stock accounts, the real estate you own, and whether you have any Public Storage spaces, and safe deposit boxes. 

You’ll also be able to add any information you want, including any special thoughts, or your wishes that certain things go to certain people. Please understand that writing, “I’d like the piano to go to my daughter, Cathy,” does not have any legal authority – you’d need to write it into your Will or Trust to be sure – but it does tell your family your wishes, and they can certainly agree to honor your wishes.

We’ll also inquire about any charities to which you wish to make donations, provide a listing of the people who will need to be notified, including your lawyer and doctors, and accountant/tax preparer, insurance agent, and others.

And we’ll ask about re-homing your faithful dog or loving cat.

The answers to these questions typically won't be found in anyone's Will or Trust.  So even though you have a Will or Trust, you'll need to answers these questions and convey those answers to your family.  Your family may know you want everything to go to your spouse, or maybe half to your spouse and half to your kids, but do they have any idea what you want written on your grave marker?  Do they have any idea that you'd like a certain hymn sung?  or an old story you'd like shared in the eulogy?  

On FamilyAndHeirs.com, the Pre-Planning Questionnaire is only part of the information package you will be leaving for your family.  We also provide Secure Document Storage, where you can upload all the vital documents your family will need to have, like your Will or Trust, your Deed or Lease, Your Marriage Certificate (or Divorce Decree), your Military DD214.  You can even upload some special letters or photographs.  

You can, of course, put off completing our Questionnaire and uploading your documents until just before you die, but how will you know when that will happen?, and how do you know you’ll have the clarity of mind to do so at that time?  These are things that are best done in advance.  But you are fit, vigorous, and strong, and maybe you’re thinking, “This needs to be done, but I’ve got a whole bunch of years left before I need to focus on this.”  You may be right.  We hope you are.  But you do know that a whole lot of folks do die suddenly and unexpectedly.  And if they haven’t set things up for those who remain, they leave their families in great turmoil.  It’s bad enough that they’ve suddenly died, but no one knows anything about what they wanted or what assets they had, or who needs to be notified. Sometimes, they don’t even know where the Will is located.

Here are some of the reasons why it is useful not to procrastinate:

Waiting until your health suffers to preplan. Planning your funeral while you’re healthy lets you make thoughtful arrangements without time pressure.

Not sharing your plans. If you don’t communicate with family and give them access to your plans, they won’t be able to carry them out and may make arrangements that aren’t aligned with your final wishes.

(Abbreviated list from Nerdwallet.com, “Funeral Preplanning for Yourself: How to Do It and Why It Matters” ).

Everyone should, of course, ask all our pre-planning questions to their dad or grandma, but they just don’t.  It’s too difficult a conversation to have.  It’s just too awkward to say, “Let’s sit down and talk about your death.”  Everyone knows they need to do it, but there is never a good time.  And if you can get a few questions in, the conversation will soon turn, and most will go unanswered.  Relieve yourself of this difficult conversation by letting us ask the questions.  

That’s why you either need to open an account yourself, or your kids or grandkids need to give you a FamilyAndHeirs.com Gift Certificate.  Either way, it’s just $49 to open an account..   

 

 

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