Funeral Purchase Pre-Need or At-Need

What is Better to Buy the Funeral Pre Need (Now) or At Need (Later)?


The question of whether to buy pre-need or at-need is perhaps the most common one that is asked of those who are considered experts in the business of helping people plan for funerals and memorials. And the answers usually center around this broad theme: buying pre-need is usually considered a sign of great maturity and responsibility, while at-need is a sign of the opposite – a sign that could end up costing the victim a lot of money.

Well, an honest answer to that question will be based on the fact that, actually, the issue is more complicated than that. Much more complicated in fact. It is quite possible for an emotionally sound, financially responsible person can made a very wise decision to hold off on buying anything related to his or her funeral, burial and cremation, until he (or, rather, his family) is at need. Likewise, it is also possible that an immature person could make a wasteful decision to buy “pre-need” much more than he, or his family, really wants.

So this article will not take the usual approach to answering this important question. Rather, we will address the question scientifically, by simply listing “pros” and “cons” of buying pre need and the same with at need. We hope this discussion proves helpful in your family’s specific situation.

Pros of Buying a Funeral Pre Need:

Buying a pre-need funeral plan or burial plan can be a source of peace of mind for yourself or your family. This will be especially true when one understands the total price that is paid – something that may not become apparent fully until one looks at statements from the funeral home as they pile in month after month showing the total paid. So, pre-need plans can sometimes feel like a financial boon – a decidedly wise thing to do – in the end.

Stories abound of mothers and fathers who began paying, say, $10-15 per month to a funeral home when they were in their 20s or 30s, when their children were just 5 or 6 years old, and were able to simply leave written instructions with their families for what to do upon their death. The total amount due for the funeral (often up to $12,000 or more) was paid before the parents were 50 years old. This contributed to a great deal of good will and peace at the moment of death, when all arrangements had been made and paid for. All family had to do as they mourned their beloved loved one was to simply call the funeral director to whom the pre-need amount had been paid, and finalize the need for arrangements.

Cons of Buying a Funeral Pre Need:

Buying pre-need can often lead to peace of mind as we saw in the pros section above. But it can also lead to confusion and even wasted money. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a pre-need situation, and disappointing stories are more common that we might like to believe. For starters, a funeral home or cemetery that sold the pre-need plan many years before may go out of business before the “at need” period arrives. In such a case, there are plenty of legal safeguards enacted by legislators who wanted to assure good regulatory protection for “pre-need” buyers. But even these safeguards are not guaranteed to be effective. All states differ in this regard, so, before purchasing anything on a pre-need basis, it is best to consider what your state has to say about the transaction. It is also best to consult government sources directly rather than to rely solely on information provided by your funeral home or cemetery.

Additionally, there have been many reports over the years of people who wanted to save their families a lot of time, energy and money by buying pre-need funeral and burial packages, only to do a bad job of communicating about the purchase to those who would be charged with carrying out the plans. In these cases, the family members – not realizing that a pre-need plan had been purchased, ended up buying an expensive at-need plan, thereby wasting the deceased person’s well-intentioned purchase. Often the discovery of the pre-need plan did not happen until decades after a death, when it was simply impossible to secure any sort of financial recompense for the pre-need purchase. This is particularly what can happen in the case of broken families in which a person may buy a pre-need package in support of one set of family members only to forget to mention the purchase in his or her later years when he or she is involved with a different set of family members.

The main lesson to be learned in this story of the cons of pre-need buying of a funeral or burial is this: if you intend to buy such a plan, make absolutely sure that you communicate its existence clearly to all who may be involved in the carrying out of your plan.

Pros of Buying a Funeral At Need:

At-need buying is the perfect choice for anyone who is planning a simple funeral and burial, possibly even a cremation. If whoever will be charged with paying for your funeral and organizing the services can be counted upon to resist the temptation – very strong in most funeral director’s offices – to purchase anything but the most basic of services and funeral goods, an at-need funeral or burial can cost as low as $3,000 (sometimes even less). At-need buying can also be good when a person is entirely uncertain as to what his or her desires are. For many who relish every moment of life, the thought of devoting even a moment to plans for what will happen to his or her body after death seems to be a waste. The option of at-need buying is the perfect one in such cases. Lest critics of such a person be prone to accusations of selfishness, at-need buying does afford at least one element of planning: life insurance or burial insurance. Provided with a sufficient amount of such coverage, those who are charged with carrying out the plans of a deceased can exercise their duties with much ease, perhaps even a little gusto.

Cons of Buying a Funeral At Need:

And, finally, we turn our discussion to the cons of buying at need. The most significant of at-need funeral plan drawbacks is simply that at-need funeral home clients are much more susceptible than otherwise to the aggressive sales tactics often employed by funeral directors and their counterparts in the cemetery side of the industry. In our age of co-dependence in modern society saying no – especially to someone who is only trying to help you do “what is best” for your loved ones memory – is much more difficult that it might seem. At-need funeral and burial buyers are very much at risk of falling victim to attempts of sales people to capitalize on this human trait. From a consumer advocate’s prospective, it is very important that a person considering an at-need funeral purchase, head into the buy with as much of a plan as possible. At-need buying can be a successful, economical experience if the buyer is as well prepared as possible heading into the sales meetings with the funeral home or cemetery staff. One good way to reach this preparedness, experts suggest, is to simply bring someone to the meetings who is not necessarily attached emotionally to the deceased.