No one likes to think about death — but everyone wants to bring meaning to the life they lived and ease the burden on the loved ones left behind.
“There are over 50 decisions that have to be made the first day following the passing of a loved one,” says Niki Smith of Smith Funeral Homes. “So pre-planning can bring you peace of mind and alleviate the stress for your family.”
Many people think ahead regarding the basic choice between a burial or a cremation, she says, but there is so much more to consider. “Sharing with people how you lived and what was important to you is so important. Not just to you, but to your family.”
Niki and her husband, Shane, manage Reynolds-Smith Funeral Home in Wilmington and L. Eugene Smith & Son Funeral Home in New Vienna. They are the third generation to serve Clinton County, carrying on a family tradition that is entering its eighth decade.
“The starting point with pre-planning is how to really personalize your service and make it meaningful to your life,” says Niki. Making personalized selections regarding speakers, music, readings, flowers and memorials allow you to express your personality and share significant facets of your life.
Shane says many clients request symbolic services that incorporate aspects of organizations they were committed to. “We have had services that incorporated Masons, Eastern Star, law enforcement and firefighters. And we have done many, many military services over the years.”
According to Shane, the funeral home frequently has people who want to incorporate their interests or hobbies, such as hunting or fishing, into their service. The client may want to display special quilts or other mementos of a life well-lived, as well as favorite motorcycles and cars.
Customization does not need to be limited to the service itself, says Shane.
“We have had horse-drawn carriages and favorite old pick-up trucks that transported the body to the burial site. With pre-planning, people can get as detailed as they want. They can make every decision or they can leave some decisions up to the family.”
The Smiths say there is no cost for pre-planning. Just call the funeral home to schedule an appointment to start the process, which can be done quickly or be spread out over time.
“Some people will sit down with us two, three or even four times over the course of several years before they make all of their decisions,” says Niki. “We add details as we go. We want to get to a point where they are comfortable.”
Smith Funeral Homes also offers a free pre-arrangement guide covering a number of topics that can get you started with pre-planning.
“The guide really helps people start thinking through the decisions,” says Niki. “They can use it as a discussion tool with their family. It helps put things in order and allows them to express their wishes. It provides insight into questions they wouldn’t necessarily know to ask.”
Once your decisions are made, you can start making financial arrangements as well. “Death isn’t a planned event, so it’s not a planned expense,” says Shane. “If the financial details are taken care of in advance, it can ease your mind and help the family, relieving them of the burden to come up with that money.”
According to Shane, Ohio law requires any prepayment for services has to be placed with third party or trust to ensure the consumer is protected. “We work with several different entities that are designed just for this purpose to accept payment for pre-arrangements. So you are not writing a check to the funeral home. You are writing it to the third party to keep it secure it until it’s needed.”
Most importantly, Niki advises, “Let your loved ones know what your wishes are, what has been pre-arranged and where the paperwork is.”
If you have the information on file with a funeral home, give your family the name of the funeral home.
If you keep the information at home, make sure someone knows where it is. Don’t put it in a safe – your family may not be able to access it. And don’t put it in your will.
Niki says, “Wills are typically not ‘read’ until up to four or five weeks after the funeral. If you put the information in your will, it might not be known in time.”
Smith Funeral Homes offer a variety of services including traditional services held in the funeral home or other location, visitation and viewing, graveside services, memorial services, military services and direct burials where there is no service or visitation.
To reach Smith Funeral Homes, call 937-382-2323 or email [email protected]