Funeral pre-planning offers peace, growing in popularity

Anne Meredith of Maresh-Meredith Funeral Home meets with a customer to talk about pre-planning funeral arrangements on Aug. 19 at the funeral home at 803 Main St., Racine.

RACINE COUNTY — “The worst day of your children’s lives is the day you pass away, so why would you leave them with that task (of planning your funeral)?”

Anne Meredith asks this question frequently. She prearranges funerals for Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home, 803 Main St., which is a job she said involves a lot more than just picking out caskets.

“They’re sharing their whole life,” Meredith said of the process. She said pre-planning allows for “personalizing and selecting the funeral of your choice and your budget.”

According to several local professionals involved in the funeral industry, more people are prearranging what happens after they die, whether that is by setting aside money to cover funeral expenses or planning a funeral service down to who will sing what solo.

“I have seen more and more pre-planning; I just don’t see enough of it,” said Steve Bedard, supervisor of Mound and Graceland cemeteries in Racine. “Everybody pre-plans for everything else but not this that is going to happen.”

Meredith, who has also seen an increase, attributes it to baby boomers who are proactive about planning ahead and more awareness of the benefits.

She gives presentations to local organizations about those benefits of pre-planning, something she called “an awareness campaign.”

“Nobody wants to go up to a casket room at the time of Mom or Dad’s death,” Meredith said. “This is so much nicer.”

Meredith meets with interested individuals at their homes or in her office. She comes prepared with binders of casket choices, a green folder to record vital information and a booklet to write down final wishes, family records and memories.

“It’s really tough when I have four kids here arguing over ‘Mom wanted this,’ “ Bedard said. “You get to make the decision as to how you want things; the family doesn’t have to guess.”

Money can be set aside in an irrevocable insurance trust, Meredith said, which allows price guarantees on the funeral goods and service. She added that the money does not have to be used at Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home but does have to go toward funeral expenses.

“You’re getting something for the future at today’s cost,” she said.

For veterans, planning ahead can be key to ensuring eligibility for burial in a veterans’ cemetery, as discharge papers aren’t always easy to find, said Marian Lewandowski Jr., bureau director of cemeteries and memorial services for the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs.

Nearly 10,000 people have preregistered at the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 21731 Spring St., Union Grove, Lewandowski said.

“It reduces the stress on the family at the time (of death),” Lewandowski said of preregistration. “Now we, as a cemetery, already have all the documents. We have already pre-approved them, checked their eligibility, so we can schedule their service.”

“We don’t like to face our own mortality,” Meredith said. “But it’s the greatest gift you could give your family.”

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