2021.15 Plan: After All is said and done: Graceful Exit

I want to pick up the thread of preparing for that inevitable and inescapable day! The first post about this was to do with writing a Will and today’s post will focus on what we can do to prepare for the inevitable and in a way, continue to demonstrate our love for those who will be our survivors, and ensure a graceful exit for oneself.

So we’ve attained all the top qualifications and certifications, bought houses in all the best locations, own the most expensive cars, worn the best clothes and accessories, travelled to the most exotic destinations, attended the best parties and ate the most delicious delicacies and meals.  Gratitude for the grace to have been afforded all of it!  But what happens when the end comes? 

Have you thought about how you would like to be buried – the how and the cost? 

Sadly, the pandemic saw a wave of sudden and unexpected deaths, with lots of people and families unprepared for this, families had to mourn the loss of their loved ones while at the same time having to figure out how to fund burying them; with a lot of families having to take to go fund me to raise burial funds. The first time I received an appeal to contribute to a burial, I thought to myself I don’t want that to happen when I die/don’t want my family to be in a position where they would have to do that (I am not in any way berating those who were forced to resort to this, as we all always think, there’s still time when in reality we never know when the time would come, as the pandemic has unfortunately shown us all), yet I knew I didn’t have any funds put aside for my burial or didn’t even know how to do so, except that I had over the years come across several leaflets talking about funeral insurance (which I had discounted of course)!

That therefore got me thinking I am going to get funding sorted for my own funeral, but of course a year on, nothing had been done! As we usually do, I had prioritised other things above this thinking, I’d do it tomorrow and tomorrow had dragged on into a year. I am however grateful that I am afforded the time to finally get to work on this and the next step will be for me to take action, now that I have the information to hand. I however thought I’ll share some of the information I have found.

I found that the most common burial alternatives are the traditional burial in the ground or cremation[1].  Other alternatives I have discovered are mummification, space burial, tree burial, etc. – check out this link which contains details of some mind-boggling and some, intriguing burial alternatives. If any of these are of interest, you need to make sure it is permitted in your country of residence.

 I also found that the most basic of cost of a funeral are:

  • Funeral director fees
  • Coffin/Casket[2]
  • Burial plot
  • Burial service
  • Extras which are dependent on the scale in which you want it to happen are:
    • Funeral flowers
    • Wake
    • Hosting your guests after the burial

The average cost of a funeral in the U.K. in 2021 according to Sunlife (who have been tracking the cost of funerals since 2007) is £4,184 this being a 1.7% increase from 2020 and a 128% increase from 2004, so clearly the cost are rising from year to year.

Possible preparations that could be made while one is still alive, to cover one’s own funeral cost include:

  • Arrange for the cost to be paid out of one’s estate on death – with this option, you have to wait for the probate process to be complete[3] before funds are accessible. 
  • Funeral Insurance – here’s some comparable of what might be paid out based on premium paid
  • Pre- paid funeral plans – with these, you pre-pay for your funeral; here’s some information from the Money saving expert website and here’s some information about a Muslim – specific pre-paid funeral plan.  One advantage of having a funeral plan is that the cost is not included in your estate for the purpose of inheritance tax calculation (as expense has been incurred before death).  Some prepayment plans exclude the cost of the burial plot, so if using this option, it is important to ensure that it includes all elements of the cost of a funeral.
  • A prepayment plan (or any of the other options) may not be required if you have sufficient funds to pay into a joint account held with the survivors who would be responsible for your funeral arrangements,  and even if you don’t, you might decide that periodically paying into a joint account is the best option for you.  The rationale behind a joint bank account is that, as at the time I am writing this, in the U.K. when one of the joint account holders die, ownership of the funds automatically becomes that of the surviving account holder, which then means your survivors would be able to immediately access funds to pay for your funeral.

Islam requires that Muslims be buried as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours (with few exceptions to this requirement) so Muslims who want to be buried according to Islam should bear the need for immediate access of funds in mind, when making the decision about what preparation to make for their funeral cost.

Also, it is important to bear in mind the increasing cost of funerals, when deciding on the amount to put aside.

Historically, African kids have mostly been responsible for burying their parents. Some of that tradition still exists in Africa, but for those of us in diaspora, a key message I want to leave is don’t assume your kids will foot the bill (like we did or plan to do for our parents). Our kids are of a different generation and culture and in the Western world, nobody is going to offer them the financial support that is often afforded bereaved relatives back home, so do prepare! Consider options that are available and put something in place, so your children don’t have to, in addition to dealing with the loss, also have the burden of trying to raise funds to cover the cost of your burial.

There are possibly other options worth exploring, so do your own research, but don’t do nothing.  Continue to show your love for your children and other survivors, even when you exit.  I wish and pray a graceful exit for all.

[1] Under Islamic law cremation isn’t allowed for Muslims

[2] There are varying views on whether Muslim are allowed to be buried in a coffin or not.

[3] If the deceased left a will, grant of probate shouldn’t take too long, but if not it could take several months to obtain administration rights

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