Leave a legacy of love


We prepare for almost everything in life. To cover for the possibility of accidents and sickness, we have insurance. To get married, couples spend months to years to ensure everything goes right. To safeguard our children’s future education, we start an education fund. To live life to the fullest, we have bucket lists. But hold up, are we forgetting something here?

The irony is while we’re busy preparing bucket lists, we seem to forget or ignore the reason why we have them in the first place; that life is finite. Everyone who is born will eventually pass; it’s not a possibility, but an eventuality.

If the thought troubles you, it should. Irrespective of your position in the family – whether you are a husband or wife; father or mother; or even son or daughter – your passing will be the one single event that impacts your family and loved ones the most, both emotionally and financially. So why are we ignoring it? What do we need to do?

The answer is simple: you should pre-plan.

What is Pre-planning ?

To put it simply, pre-planning (sometimes also called “pre-arrangement”, “pre-arrangement planning” or “pre-need planning”) means setting up your funeral arrangements in advance before the need for these services occurs, either as a funeral insurance or pre-need funeral contract. The concept may seem novel and even morbid. However, pre-planning is not actually something new.

It is not unusual for funeral homes in western countries to carry pre-planning services aside from immediate need (or as-need) services. Customers would engage funeral homes in preparing pre-planning contracts to ensure when the time comes, these arrangements would be set in motion with little or minimal concern from the bereft family. Loved ones can mourn and say their goodbyes in relative comfort and peace.

In western societies, the idea to prepare for one’s eventual demise has been around for over a century, especially during Victorian times when mortality rates were higher and life expectancies were shorter. In 19th century Britain for instance, there existed concepts such as “Burial Clubs” which were operated by churches, trade unions and other associations. Members of burial clubs – mostly consisting families from lower classes – would pay weekly fees to help cover for eventual funeral expenses in the same way modern funeral insurances function.

5 main advantages of pre-planning

For Yourself

When the unthinkable happens, the financial responsibility of your last rites now falls on your family. The average funeral is priced upward of RM20,000 excluding burial plot or columbarium costs. Without any pre-planning or funds set aside, imagine the financial stress such an event places on your family. By pre-planning, you can prevent this by assuming the responsibility yourself.

By pre-planning early, you will be able to look around and compare services and prices before committing to any decision; instead of waiting until a crisis occurs when your family will be pressured into making unnecessary choices during a stressful and emotional time. You will also be able to involve your family members in all your decisions.

Through pre-planning, you will get to decide and have final say on every detail of your final send-off without burdening your family with questions and doubts as to what your final wishes are. This way, both you and your family are assured that everything will be taken care of, exactly as you have decided without leaving any reason for dispute.

Through pre-planning, you can enjoy the option of paying over time through an instalment plan compared to having to pay a huge lump sum in an immediate situation when death occurs. This helps lighten your financial burdens and you will be able to plan your commitments easier.

One of the costliest and most often ignored events of a person’s time on earth are end of life affairs. It is only sensible to prioritise pre-planning to complete your financial planning in life. By pre-planning, you will enjoy greater peace of mind knowing all your affairs are in place and the knowledge that your family will one day receive the greatest gift of love in your absence.

For Your Family

Upon a person’s passing, there are over a hundred decisions to be made in the first 24 hours. All of these decisions would be further complicated and delayed if your family does not know what to do or who they should turn to for advice on such matters. If there is a pre-plan in place, your family will know who to contact for assistance.

When death occurs, most families tend to be unfamiliar with what needs to be done. During such vulnerable times, they may find themselves pressured into making unnecessary costly decision based on emotions. If pre-planning has been already done, this will circumvent such occurrences as every important decision pertaining to one’s final wishes has already been decided and paid for.

With pre-planning, your loved ones can be thoughtfully allowed to grieve and mourn without having to concern themselves with finances and logistical details of arranging a funeral. This way, they can be allowed to focus on remembering and healing.

With pre-planning, your family won’t be forced into a corner with very little room and time to manoeuvre during a very stressful and emotional time. This way, they won’t be compelled to produce a large amount of money to finance a funeral.

The cost of dying, like the cost of living, rises every year. By pre-planning today through a pre-need funeral contract, you are essentially locking in today’s prices against future inflation. Your family would be protected from being forced to pay inflated as-need prices when a death occurs in the future.

6 steps guide to pre-planning

It can be an emotional experience during pre-planning to come in terms with your own mortality. Yet, it can be rewarding feeling to have put your affairs in place which will enable you and your family will have peace of mind to live life to the fullest. Life every major decision in life, pre-planning is not an easy task. It is for this reason that we should pre-plan as soon as possible so that we can have the time and space to consider before committing to any decisions. Below are six easy steps guide to pre-planning which can help make your decision-making easier.

Bereavement care providers are extremely important resources in providing bereavement care services such as funeral planning. Funeral directors or life managing directors as we call them in Nirvana, are the experts who will be able to advise you on every matter related to pre-planning whether from its financial and budgetary aspects to intricate details such as caskets, ceremonial services and burial choices.

Take your time to ask questions at different bereavement care providers and compare prices, services and products offered. You should also not be afraid to relate your own personal needs to ensure the provider is able to work with you in fulfilling your requests and wishes. Ascertain as well the quality of the bereavement care provider’s after-sales service or extra amenities offered. Check its overall reputation as a good service provider is of utmost importance during times of emergency and sensitive need.

When pre-planning for yourself or your loved ones, it can be easy to get carried away in wanting the best. However, you should always be practical and weigh your options carefully. Speak to your loved ones as well to ascertain their wishes and keep an open mind in discussing budgetary concerns with them as well as with the bereavement care provider you choose to engage.

The best thing about pre-planning is how it can help you and your family save plenty of money in the long run through an inflation price lock and an instalment payment plan. That way, you and your loved ones will be able to spread out the payment through a long period instead of having to make a single large payment in an as-need situation.

In multicultural and multi-religious countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is important to determine the religious guidelines to be followed in the final rites are in accordance to your wishes. Having your decisions and final wishes expressed in black and white is sometimes useful to avoid family disputes later when you are no longer around, especially if members of your immediate family have adopted different faiths.

Aside from this crucial point, pre-planning gives you the opportunity to decide on how your send-off would be, in your own terms. The best way to consider this would be to think about other funerals or memorials you’ve participated in. Think about what made it meaningful; maybe there are elements you would like to adopt in yours. Perhaps there is someone you would like to present your eulogy, or there could be a particular personal touch you may want to add to the ceremony. All these little things may at times seem insignificant but could mean a lot in giving closure to your loved ones.

Deciding on how you would like to be laid to rest is one of the most important aspects of pre-planning to consider. The current two main options available in Southeast Asia are burial and cremation. Due to religious and cultural restrictions, sometimes only one of these options is available.

Either one of these two options entails further considerations; for example, if you choose burial, you may need to think about where and how you want to be buried. If you consider cremation, you may need to think about the options available for the subsequent deposition of ashes; do you want to choose to be interred in a columbarium or perhaps you may want your ashes scattered at sea?

The choice of final resting place can be a matter of convenience or even a unifying element for future generations. Most private memorial parks such as those managed by Nirvana take this factor into consideration by providing a well-maintained, landscaped and peaceful environment for the comfort of visitors as a way to encourage extended families to visit and gather in celebration of heritage and reunion.

In most Asian cultures, it is considered funeral etiquette for mourners to make a donation when attending the wake. The original purpose of this charitable practice is to help the bereft family defray the cost of the funeral.

With pre-planning however, this would mean the cost of the funeral has already been covered; as such, you may want to consider channelling such donations to a charitable cause of your choosing to preserve its original intent.

It is also considered a traditional gesture and mark of respect to send funeral wreaths and bouquets to the bereft family. Nowadays some people choose to notify mourners to defer this practice and request that the money reserved for such intents to be donated to charitable causes as it is considered a more meaningful tribute to the deceased and meritorious for all involved to benefit the needy even in death.

It makes good sense to ensure that your loved ones are aware of your wishes and pre-plan arrangements. Some may have chosen to state these intents in a will; but occasionally the reading of a will may not take place till after the funeral. It will be better to include them in a separate funeral plan so that your next-of-kin will know what to do in the immediate aftermath of your passing.

It is good practice to have more than one designee who is aware of your pre-plan arrangements. This way, your loved ones can immediately notify the bereavement care provider to handle matters and your family can be left in peace to focus on mourning.

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Alan Chee
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