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Pre-planning for final arrangements

Posted: September 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Rick Payner shows an 18 gauge steel casket. Caskets can be customized with “memory corners,” small sculptures representing a person’s interests. Rick Payner shows an 18 gauge steel casket. Caskets can be customized with “memory corners,” small sculptures representing a person’s interests.
Rick Payner shows an 18 gauge steel casket. Caskets can be customized with “memory corners,” small sculptures representing a person’s interests.

Death is inevitable, yet not everyone plans for funeral services.

Not only is pre-planning a way to make sure burial wishes are honored, it can take a tremendous load off grieving relatives, noted Rick Payner, Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary family service counselor.

“When families walk through our doors, a death has occurred, and it’s often the worse day of their life,” Payner said. “Their heads are spinning and they don’t know exactly what to do, so a family might end up overspending because they don’t want to look cheap or didn’t know what their loved one wanted.”

The process for pre-planning at Eternal Valley can range from filling out an online application at or coming in to talk to Payner in person.

“It’s done in a conversational way. I ask leading questions and listen for the answers,” Payner said. “We want to capture the essence of what every person is and the best person to talk to is the person that the service is for. Everything is customized.”

Points to consider when pre-planning include:

--Final arrangements. Do you want to be buried or cremated?  Cremation is generally half the cost because there is no real estate involved as in a burial. Coffins and urns can range dramatically in style and price, as well.

--The tone and atmosphere of the service. Will it be traditional? Celebratory? Consider your unique interests and personality and the level of guest participation you’d like to have.

--Recording your wishes. Just as you keep your will and financial documents updated, you should review and update funeral and cemetery plans on a periodic basis.

--Sharing. Designate friends and family members to receive packets outlining your service and burial selections. (If you’ve worked with a funeral planner, your plans will be kept on file).

--Payment. Funding options can range from making monthly payments on funeral services to pre-paying the entire cost. Making financial arrangements in advance allows clients to lock in current pricing.

Funeral insurance is another option, which can help pay for some of the services and financial expenses along with it.

Generally, according to Payner,  funeral insurance covers picking up the body, the casket or urn, flowers, and embalming or cremation, the things that do not take place outside in a cemetery.

“This is not an inexpensive undertaking, so it should be planned for. A lot of times, in the middle of night, you’ll see commercials on TV that state the average funeral cost is about $8,000. Maybe if you’re in the Midwest. Southern California can be more expensive, especially for burials,” Payner said.

Talking to elderly family members about pre-planning can be awkward initially, but it’s an important conversation to have.  Starting that dialogue can take place in a casual situation, such as over dinner or another family gathering, or in a more formal setting, depending on your family’s style.

Tips for a pre-planning conversation include:

-Set a time. Schedule it as an appointment with your loved ones. Tell your parent or loved one that you want to ensure their final arrangements are carried out according to their wishes and that you need their help to make that happen.

--Ask questions such as “What type of funeral would you like to have?” and “Have you ever thought about where you’d like to be buried?”

--Funeral-related opportunities, such as attending a funeral or watching funeral scenes in movies or TV shows, can help break the ice. Talk about the pros and cons of the services you saw or attended.

As Payner pointed out, pre-planning isn’t just reserved for seniors.

“Life is very uncertain. We deal with children that have passed away to people that have lived a full life and everything in between. It’s always a good idea to plan for,” he said. “It’s funny, we insure cars because we might an accident and homes because we might have a fire, yet death is something we know will absolutely happen someday. It is definite.”

Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary is located at 23287 N. Sierra Highway, Newhall. A free pre-planning tool is available online at For a personal pre-planning consultation, call Rick Payner at (661) 259-0800 or (661) 993-7736.


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