As deathcare professionals, we know that pre-planning is an essential aspect of end-of-life preparation. However, the question remains: when is the most appropriate time to discuss pre-planning with clients? To gain expert insight, we reached out to four trusted funeral professionals that partner with Cadence. In this blog, we'll explore their opinions on initiating pre-planning conversations and their advice for navigating client hesitancy.
“When we are arranging an at-need funeral we often hear the statement from the deceased surviving family member, “I really need to make sure I get some things sorted out for myself too.” It is a realization that they don’t want any extra stress on the ones left to make the arrangements when they die.
As funeral professionals we acknowledge the benefit of preplanning, however we suggest that pre-arranging for oneself while arranging an at-need funeral isn’t often the best time to make those decisions. We find that a client will often follow up with us about 2 months to one year after the death to arrange for themselves. That period of time allows the person to start the grieving process and reflect on their own wishes.”
“For us, we typically allow families to invite the conversation. If and when they are ready to discuss, we are always open to furthering the conversation and assisting them to the best we can.”
“Oh, there's never a bad time to discuss pre-planning with your clients. This is something that every single one of them will have to address at some point— It can't be avoided. No one should be jumping into the planning process without having done some research, and comparison. By bringing up the topic before it's needed in a critical way you give them the opportunity to look at this with a clear head, and without the pressure of immediate need.
More than 10% of Canadians die before the age of 60 so this is not an issue that should be addressed only after they have been retired for 15 years. When you are the expert, your clients are leaning on you for guidance. This may be a very difficult conversation for them to start, on a personal level. When you ask a question, you can give them the space and permission to explore the topic, maybe for the first time.”
“Whenever they are ready; death is not a favorite nor popular topic for discussion. When someone is ready to chat, then it is the right time. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but also a worthy and valuable one. The best time to have such a conversation is when death is not pending and people are not under the stress that comes with a pending death. In my experience, the pre-planning taking place when all is well allows people the time to give a greater amount of consideration and reflection on what their wishes would entail.”
“Often the sudden unexpected death of a loved one, friend, or acquaintance can be the catalyst to start thinking about planning for oneself. That realization is an eye opener for clients. It is a reminder to not put things off until they have the motivation or time to arrange at a later date.
A diagnosis of an illness can also trigger a person’s thoughts to pre-plan their final arrangements. Receiving a diagnosis can be a sobering reminder that a person will have family members they are leaving behind, and they want to make sure their loved ones have all the tools they need to plan with as little stress as possible.”
“When individuals discuss pre-planning, there are usually two major events that really force start the process; the death of a loved one/someone they know that was not prearranged, or a change in medical status be it a health scare or a new diagnosis. Another strong case is when families are on the fence. If they know someone that has prearranged, it seems that they are more likely to proceed with the process themselves.”
“Watching and being part of the death of someone important, is a reality check. If that person had pre-planned for themselves, then things run smoothly, and the surviving family wants that experience for their own loved ones. If the death had no planning in place, then they were witness to the decisions, confusion, financial expectation, and pressure the family had to address. A health scare or diagnosis is also another prompt for some to look at their wishes, and once we all reach a certain age, we do attend more funerals than weddings, which may be cause to begin planning.”
“In my experience, the majority of pre-planning takes place when the person begins to experience the death of a family member and/or their peers. There are also those that wish to make things as easy as possible for their loved ones, so they go to work on getting their final wishes organized.”
“Many people never want to think of their own death, and the fact that there will be family and friends mourning the loss. I think that is where the reluctance sits when we ask people if they have decided to make their own pre-arrangements. When we arrange with a family at-need and a preplan is on file, the difference is night and day. There is a sense of relief and comfort that comes with a prearranged funeral.
I often tell people that you put plans in place for various types of insurance “just-in-case” you have a car accident, house fire, theft etc. Those things may or may not happen, but we all are going to pass away at some point. Why not also put a plan in place so your family has your guidance when they need it most?”
“The best advice we can give someone is that they need to make an informed decision that they are sure of. Really think about what services you want whether it’s full traditional, a celebration of life, or direct cremation, and try to find a service provider that fits your needs best. Learn about the provider and what they offer, then compare. Find the one that will suit your needs best.
We understand that pre-arranging can elicit a variety of feelings, a lot of funeral professionals feel the same way. If you are not 100% ready, the next best thing is to just inform your family of your wishes. Write them down. If the time comes that your family needs to arrange, at least they will know what you want to happen.”
“The very best thing to do is to make it a topic of conversation. People are not terribly eager to tell you about their own plans voluntarily, but chances are you have a friend or family member who has done this already and their first-hand knowledge and experience are invaluable. I also suggest looking at multiple sources for information. That could be different funeral providers, a government website in your province, or a blog.
There's never a time when you're too young to plan what you want. It's very much like ripping off the Band-Aid — once you spend some time discussing this topic and moving forward, you realize it wasn’t as difficult as you imagined, and it's completely done. The only thing that your family would need to do is notify the provider when services are required. You give them a gift.”
“My advice for those who are hesitant and/or unsure about pre-planning would be to take the steps to at least have the conversation with loved ones. Sitting down and pre-planning with a funeral home where they can note their wishes in a [continuously updated] file would be an asset that the family will not regret. Even though the conversation regarding one’s death and final wishes can be difficult, it is a valuable discussion to have as it will aid and ease the burden on their loved ones at the time of death.”
Through engaging conversations with four trusted partners of Cadence, we have discovered significance in the timing and emotional state of the client when approaching the subject of pre-planning. By initiating discussions with compassion and understanding, we can alleviate future stress and burdens for both clients and their families.
In partnership with funeral professionals, we can empower individuals to take control of their end-of-life decisions, while also offering invaluable support to their loved ones. Our Legacy Planner is designed to provide assistance throughout a lifetime to ensure final wishes are documented and honored. This tool seamlessly integrates into our Executor Assistant, a digital service designed to offer practical aftercare to families through personalized checklists, streamlined processes, and certified support.
Cadence is here every step of the way. Book a free consultation with a Cadence representative to discover how we can elevate your offerings through the pre-planning process and beyond!
Interview conducted with the following funeral professionals: Morgan Edwards, President & Funeral Director, Saskatoon Funeral Home | Tyler Poletti, Funeral Director, Northwest Funeral Alternative | Kate Taylor-Young, Director of Preneed Services, Eirene Cremations | David Polzen, Funeral Director, Saskatoon Funeral Home