My Dad’s Estate Plan: Good But Not Great

I remember a phone conversation I had with my dad on Jan. 15, 1991. His 47th birthday was the day before and I had forgotten to call him. It was also the first day of the first Gulf War. As I sat on the floor of my college dorm hallway on the community phone we talked a lot about the “Shock and Awe” campaign we were witnessing on the news. We also talked about our usual: cars (mine just died), Cleveland sports (dismal), and the Cleveland weather (even more dismal.)

That was our last conversation. Three days later my dad died of a massive heart attack.

I went through my own shock over the next weeks. I really wasn’t prepared for losing my dad at that time. But who ever really is? My older sister Stacey and I flew to Cleveland the next day. She went with my uncle to pick out my dad’s gravesite – something I couldn’t bring myself to do.

I remember so many details about those few days. Phone calls from my dad’s friends telling me stories about how proud he was of me. I remember the biggest floral arrangement: blue carnations from my dad’s employer K-Mart. We called it the “blue-light-special.” I remember my uncle sharing my dad’s will and that he left all of his personal belongings to me and my sister.

My dad had wanted to be cremated, but my Catholic grandparents chose to have him buried instead. The funeral cost more than $10,000 because my grandparents only wanted “the best” for their youngest son. Of course, this was paid from the insurance proceeds that he left Stacey and me. So as a 19-year old I paid for a very big party for my Italian family—most of whom I had never met before.

I realized later in life that at 47 my dad did a good job creating his estate plan. He had a Will and he had life insurance. The only thing he didn’t plan for was his funeral.

So on Black Friday just over five years ago, my husband and I went to Mountain View Funeral Home in Queen Creek where we planned and paid for our funerals. It might seem like a strange holiday purchase as I was only 41 years old at the time. I had learned at a much younger age, however, how important that piece of an estate plan really is.

Plus, I’m frugal. I got to lock-in 2013 prices for cremation of my remains. And my family won’t spend an excessive amount on a funeral because they are purchasing something on emotion.

I encourage you to plan your funeral if you haven’t taken the opportunity to do so already. It can be emotionally overwhelming but trust me, your family will appreciate this final gift. It’s the difference between a good estate plan and a great one.

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