Final Wishes Planning

Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota Leaders Guide Kristine Bjelde Gerontology Doctoral Candidate Debra Pankow, Ph.D. Family Economics Specialist T...
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Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota

Leaders Guide Kristine Bjelde Gerontology Doctoral Candidate Debra Pankow, Ph.D. Family Economics Specialist

Target Audience Adults of all ages

Time ■ 45 minutes to three hours, depending on activities chosen ■ 20 minutes: My Last Wishes Planning Form and/or

Writing My Obituary activity

Goal To increase an individual’s awareness of funeral planning, advance directives and estate planning

Objectives As a result of participating in this program, learners will: ■ Recognize the need for preplanning their own funeral ■ Increase their knowledge about funeral planning terms and

arrangements ■ Understand costs and implications of planning a funeral ■ Become aware of rules and laws regarding funerals and burials ■ Understand funeral and burial alternatives ■ Become a better consumer in planning a funeral

Participant materials are on the CD and are downloadable from the Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota Web site at: North Dakota State University Fargo, North Dakota 58105 AUGUST 2006

Fact Sheets

North Dakota Law

■ Tributes to a Loved One

■ Advance Directives for Health Care to%20a%Loved%20One.pdf ■ Family Funeral Plots

■ Creating a Meaningful Funeral htm Freedoms%20for%20Creating%20Meaningful%20 Funeral%20Ceremonies.pdf

■ Indigent Burials Burials%20in%20North%20Dakota.pdf

■ Make a Will Make%20a%20Will.pdf

■ Pre-need Funeral Contracts

■ Grief Information/Related Web Sites lanning%20and%20Related%20Web%20Sites.pdf

Federal Trade Commission Resources

■ Funeral Planning/Related Web Sites www.

■ Terms Associated with Funerals and Burials ning%20and%20Related%20Web%20Sites.pdf 20Associated%20with%20Funerals%20and%20 Burials.pdf

■ Social Security Benefits Security%20Benefits.pdf

■ Planning for a Funeral Planning%20a%20Funeral.pdf

■ Veterans Resources Veterans%20Resources.pdf

■ Prices to Check in Planning a Funeral 20to%20Check%20in%20Planning%20a%20 Funeral.pdf

■ North Dakota Funeral Homes funeralhomes.htm

■ FTC Funeral Rule

■ Cremation Information/Related Web

Sites Cremation%20Information.pdf

Additional Web Site Links

■ North Dakota Crematories


money/finalwishes/Crematories%20in%20North% 20Dakota.pdf

(click on Estate Planning Guide and What is a Will?) ■ (a legal information Web site that


includes information on making a will, choosing an executor and choosing a guardian for children and a will preparation software package for purchase)

■ My Last Wishes (funeral planning form) My%20Last%20Wishes.pdf


■ Writing Your Own Obituary

(Legally Secure Your Financial Future) Writing%20My%20Obituary.pdf

■ Advance Directives Quiz (How Much Do You Know

About Advance Directives for Health Care?)

■ Prices to Check in Planning a Funeral LSYFF%20Advanced%20Quiz.doc 20to%20Check%20in%20Planning%20a%20 Funeral.pdf

■ Organize Your Important Papers doc

■ My Last Wishes Member Handout


Participant Evaluation Leaders materials are on the CD or downloadable from the Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota Web site at Leaders Guide PowerPoint

Activities, Roll Call Ideas ■ Leader can read aloud the following quotation:

“Dying is one of the few events in life certain to occur, yet one we are not likely to plan for. We spend more time getting ready for two weeks away from work than we do our last time on Earth.” (Source: Time Magazine, September 2000). Leader then can ask the participants if they agree with this quotation. If they agree, why do they think this is so? Take five minutes or so for a short group discussion.

Before the Program ■ Read through all materials. ■ Decide what you will cover. Highlight those areas. ■ Make presentation materials or borrow from the county office. ■ Make copies of any handouts for participants from the CD or

downloadable Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota Web site listed above, from the Web links listed in Final Wishes, the other Web links listed here or the Leaders Guide. ■ Find out what grief support resources are available in your

community/area. ■ Decide on a roll call idea, such as the one listed above.

Notes on the Program This is a basic introduction to final wishes planning in North Dakota. Participants will be at different levels of understanding. Try to pick facts that fit your audience, your time frame and your participants’ knowledge level. The Leaders Guide suggests several “optional resources” that will require you to take the time to download them from their Web site ahead of time to use or make copies.

Evaluation — one per participant ■ Have participants fill out evaluation form and leave with presenter.

Return all evaluations to county Extension Service office.


Slide 1 A funeral is a time to say goodbye, but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone special. At some point in our lives, we most likely will make or assist in making funeral arrangements for a loved one. This can mean making a great number of decisions at a very difficult and emotional time. To avoid having our loved ones burdened by making many difficult decisions while under emotional stress, we can do a number of organizing details ahead of time. Today’s lesson offers some ideas for how you can go about making some decisions in advance, but not necessarily paying for them in advance. By doing some preplanning activities, we also can ensure that our funeral will be exactly what we wish it to be.

Slide 2 Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends. In fact, for many Americans, a funeral often is the third highest single-item purchase expense, following a family home and vehicle. A funeral is one of the most expensive purchases a consumer ever will make. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000 to $8,000. Extras, such as flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards, plot marker, etc., can add thousands of dollars, so many funerals today run in excess of $10,000. The average cost of a traditional funeral in Fargo is $10,000. Putting your preferences in writing is a good idea. Give copies to family members, your attorney and your funeral home, and have one in a handy place at home. Don’t designate your preferences in your will because a will often is not found or read until after the funeral. Also, do not put the only copy of your preferences in a safety deposit box, as your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened. Keep all important papers at home in a secure place where they can be accessed easily. Death doesn’t always occur from 9 to 5 on Wednesdays. Also, upon death, these boxes are sealed. They are opened only to those whose name appears on the contract. Preplanning relieves your survivors from the stress of making difficult decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions. It allows them to make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements,


such as type of funeral, burial location, music, flowers, eulogy, pallbearers and cultural traditions. Handouts: Distribute copies of My Last Wishes and Ten Freedoms for Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies (optional) for preplanning one’s own funeral arrangements. Read/discuss handouts if time permits.

Slide 3 The trend toward pre-need planning — making funeral arrangements in advance — is increasing. Why preplan a funeral? ■ Consumers can compare prices and services ■ Permits a funeral to be a wise and well-informed purchasing decision,

as well as a meaningful one ■ Look at it as an extension of will and estate planning ■ Some people may decide to not only prearrange their funerals, but

also to prepay some or all of the expenses involved

Preplanning + Prefunding = Prearrangement Preplanning for your own funeral involves: ■ Comparing prices ■ Discussing plans/leaving instructions with family and funeral home ■ Making decisions about funeral and burial goods and services that do

not require payment in advance Prepaying for funerals and burials involves: ■ Entering into a pre-need agreement or contract to pay in advance for

goods and services you will receive upon death ■ Third party, a trustee, bank or insurance company assumes

responsibility for the management of the funds ■ Keep in mind that through time, with prepayment, prices may go up

and businesses may close or change ownership. Further, in some areas with increased competition, prices may go down through time. Three options available: ■ Bank account (certificate of deposit, etc.) ■ Trust account ■ Insurance policy (many prefer this because of cost increase due to

inflation and no tax on interest earned)


Money you assign will be protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the insurance commission. You do not give the money directly to the funeral home to deposit into its account. Funds must be made transferable to the funeral home of your choice and you will receive 100 percent of what you deposited, plus interest, at the time of need. You can’t expect a guarantee from the funeral home that all expenses will be covered by prepayment with the passage of time as prices increase. Setting aside funds in a safe place to help defray the funeral expenses, such as the three options suggested here, is very important. This will permit at least a part of the funeral cost to be covered; sometimes the fund may end up being the exact cost of the funeral, and sometimes money may be left. You should consider that at the time of the funeral, family members may request more services and features than originally had been planned and what money was set aside for, so having funeral homes “guarantee” that all expenses will be covered is very difficult. Further, prices tend to increase for items such as flowers, organists, soloists, etc., through time. Compare prices of services and items offered by several funeral providers The trend toward pre-need planning — making funeral arrangements in advance — is increasing. Handouts (optional): Distribute copies of the handouts Prices to Check in Planning a Funeral, Planning a Funeral and Terms Associated with Funerals and Burials, or direct participants to the Final Wishes Web site for more information.

Slide 4 For a traditional funeral service, the body is present. A traditional funeral service usually includes the following: a prayer service, visitation and funeral followed by burial or entombment; a funeral service with cremation following the service; or graveside services. A nontraditional service includes anything that deviates from the traditional service, and may include a nonreligious ceremony, a memorial service or another type of celebration. A memorial service indicates the body is not present.


Cremation alternatives include a traditional funeral service with cremation following the service, funeral home chapel/church memorial service without the body present at the service or direct cremation. With cremation, next of kin must sign for cremation to take place (cremation authorization form). Bequething services often are available when a human body is willed, bequeathed, deeded or donated to a medical school. In North Dakota, this is the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. You can include this designation on your drivers license in the state of North Dakota. A veteran’s funeral usually can be requested at most funeral homes, and may include special services (presentation of flag, honor guard, gun salute). A family may choose to have rites at a funeral service that would include a person’s membership in a Masonic lodge. A direct, or immediate burial, is available as an alternative to a traditional funeral service. This involves initial transfer of the deceased from place of death to the funeral home, transportation of the deceased to the cemetery and basic services of the funeral director and staff.

Slide 5 ■ Visit several funeral homes and cemeteries to comparison shop,

preferably before the need arises. ■ When comparing prices, consider total cost of all items together,

in addition to costs of single items. ■ Determine if the facility, atmosphere and staff suit your family

(can’t just consider price). ■ Can the service be personalized and your wishes accommodated? ■ Ask others who have used funeral services in the past. ■ Select a funeral director who is licensed and has a good reputation

in the community. ■ Ask if the funeral home is locally owned (if this is important to you).

In choosing a funeral provider in North Dakota, often the prices are fairly close to each. Getting to know that funeral home is important. Consider things such as: 1) This is who will care for my (wife, father, etc.); 2) Do I feel comfortable with this funeral provider? 3) Do I feel good about the staff’s morality? 4) Am I being treated respectfully? 5) Is this funeral provider professional, yet caring? Money is part of one’s decision in funeral providers, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. We are entrusting that funeral provider to take care of our loved one, as well as the immediate family, during this difficult time.


Comment: The Final Wishes Planning in North Dakota Web site has a list of more than 100 morticians that can be downloaded at:

Slide 6 In states such as North Dakota, where large number of older snowbirds leave for the Sunbelt to escape the cold winter months, families need to consider what should be done if an older loved one were to die while away from home. Funeral homes provide “professional courtesies” to other funeral homes out of state, so families should contact the funeral home in the state where the funeral service will be held. Dying away from home is referred to in the funeral industry as “ship outs.”

Slide 7 A person receiving Medical Assistance in North Dakota is permitted to set aside up to $5,000 for funeral/burial expenses. It is called a “designation.” Source: North Dakota Legislature, 2005 (HB1181)

Slide 8 Funeral homes must provide itemized prices for certain products and services, such as: ■ Direct cremation ■ Immediate burial ■ Basic services of funeral director and staff, and overhead ■ Transfer of remains to the home ■ Forwarding of remains to another home ■ Receiving remains from another home ■ Embalming ■ Other preparation of the body ■ Use of facilities and staff for viewing ■ Use of facilities and staff for funeral ceremony ■ Use of facilities and staff for memorial service ■ Use of equipment and staff for graveside service ■ Hearse ■ Limousine ■ Either individual casket prices or range of casket prices that

can be found Source: Federal Trade Commission, 1984


North Dakota rules require all products and services to be itemized individually. However, funeral homes in North Dakota also can offer packages at a discount. In Minnesota, all products and services must be itemized individually.

Slide 9 Another important consideration when preplanning a funeral is where the remains will be buried, entombed or scattered. In the short time between the death and burial of a loved one, many family members find themselves running to buy a cemetery plot or grave, often without careful thought or a personal visit to the site. That’s why buying cemetery plots before you need them is in the family’s best interests. Optional: Leader can use the following materials from the Final Wishes Web site for discussion, or suggest as additional reading for those interested: Cremation Information, Crematories in North Dakota, Family Funeral Plots and/or Indigent Burials in North Dakota. Discussion: Does anyone have any experiences to share about purchasing a cemetery plot or making cemetery arrangements? Cremation/scattering of ashes? Family funeral plots?

Slide 10 Question: Why would a person want to write his or her own obituary before he or she dies? ■ Family members are dealing with grief, and the job may be delegated

to someone outside the family who does not know you. ■ Family members don’t remember specific dates (employment,

retirement, previous deaths). ■ Family members don’t always know your membership in organizations

or community groups. ■ Your family may not know your favorite charity. ■ You know best what’s important to include and what is not.


Handout: Distribute copies of the handout Writing My Obituary. If time permits, participants may work on writing their own obituary. Discussion (optional): Leader can ask if anyone has had to write an obituary for a loved one. Ask if they had all the details they needed, or if it was difficult to write. Allow time for discussion or questions about writing an obituary.

Slide 11 As part of preplanning one’s own funeral, include information on anything special you would like included at your funeral or memorial service: ■ Video tributes — very popular right now ■ A picture board ■ A display of items used for a favorite hobby ■ A display of uniform/equipment

We may not have a lot of control over how we are remembered by others after we are gone, but we can ask that in lieu of flowers, we’d prefer memorials to a specific organization or for the funeral service, or a donation of money or time be made to our favorite charity or cause. Here are some ideas for paying tribute to loved ones after the service (often people like to do this on the anniversary of their death, their birthday, etc.): ■ Create a memory box with their favorite items ■ Donate a gift of money or time to their favorite charity ■ Plant a tree or rose bush in their memory

Handout: Distribute Tributes to a Loved One for more ideas. Discussion: Ask participants if they’ve heard of or used other tributes to honor a person’s memory.

Slide 12 We each grieve in our own individual way. How we handle the loss of a loved one depends on our background, how the person died, how close we were to the person, our age and many other factors.


A number of community resources and support groups, and online literature and support groups, as well as books, might be of assistance as we go through this difficult time. “Grief is universal. At the same time it is extremely personal,” by Earl A. Grollman Handout: Provide a copy of the handout Grief Information and Support Groups. Point out the Web site addresses listed for the various support groups. The leader also can provide information on any grief support groups available in the community or area. Question: The presenter can ask the group members if any have had experience with any of the organizations mentioned on the handout, or known anyone else who has used them.

Handouts (optional): Distribute copies of the handouts Make a Will, and Funeral Planning and Related Web Sites, which can direct consumers to articles on estate planning and writing a will, and a worksheet for your will at: end_life/ (click on Estate Planning Guide and What is a Will?). Note: If time permits, the presenter may choose to download What is a Will? and Worksheet for Your Will to distribute and discuss with the audience. (, a legal information Web site, has information on making a will, choosing an executor and choosing a guardian for your children, as well as a will preparation software package (for purchase). Also, a Web site called ( offers information on writing an ethical will, including sample ethical wills. It’s a way for parents to “bequeath their values,” not just their valuables. Additional handouts on Social Security benefits and veterans resources also may be distributed to the audience.


Slide 13 So, today we discussed several issues related to final wishes planning in North Dakota, including burials, cremation, advance directives, comparison shopping for funeral arrangements and writing my own obituary. For even more information about funeral planning in North Dakota, go to our Web site (listed on slide). Make sure you fill out the program evaluation form and give it to your program leader, who will return it to your local county office of the NDSU Extension Service.

References ■ AARP — End of life issues ■ Boulger Funeral Home, 123 10th St. S., Fargo, ND ■ Estate planning. Montana State University Extension Service ■ Funerals: A Consumer Guide, Federal Trade Commission ■ Funerals Consumers Alliance

■ Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home, 215 7th St. S., Fargo, ND ■ How to control funeral costs. (1995, August). Consumers’ Research

Magazine, 78(8), 24-27. ■ International Cemetery and Funeral Association

■ Making Health Care Decisions in North Dakota: A Summary of

North Dakota Law Regarding Health Care Directives ■ Legally Secure Your Financial Future. University of Idaho Extension

Service ■ National Funeral Directors Association

■ (a legal information Web site) at ■ North Dakota Funeral Directors Association ■ Social Security Administration ■ Stanton Funeral Home

■ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

For more information on this and other topics, see: County commissions, North Dakota State University and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Duane Hauck, director, Fargo, N.D. Distributed in furtherance of the acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, age, veteran’s status or sexual orientation; and are an equal opportunity institution. This publication will be made available in alternative formats for people with disabilities upon request, (701) 231-7881.