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Challenging yet key estate planning focus: funeral considerations

Although death is a reality of life that visits every family in Arkansas and elsewhere, the subject is understandably not always easy to bring up and openly discuss when it is focused upon a loved one.

And yet there comes a time when, indeed, the topic must be raised. Increasingly more families are realizing that it is far better to broach the subject in a timely and dispassionate way rather than seeking to deal with worldly arrangements in the immediate wake of a passing with no plan whatever in mind.

Here's something to consider, though, as passed along in a recent NPR piece that discusses funeral home contacts and relevant consumer information: Getting timely and accurate price listings and attendant data can be a frustrating and even gut-wrenching experience.

Notes the NPR: "The funeral industry has been consciously nontransparent since at least the 19th century."

What that means for many people is that they encounter stark difficulties in readily obtaining information they need relative to a loved one's death. Notwithstanding a so-called federal Funeral Rule that has long existed, research indicates that a "culture of secrecy" permeates the funeral industry and that many operators -- one estimate posits about 25 percent -- willfully withhold information they are under a mandate to provide.

The NPR piece chronicles the efforts undertaken by one man -- ironically, a seasoned consumer advocate -- to procure relevant pricing information from local homes in order to prepare for his father's passing.

Just getting a list of offered services and linked prices took him an entire work day.

As a result of such an industry reality (caveat: NPR does point to some evidence indicating that things are getting better generally), the article offers up some sensible planning tips that might reasonably be discussed with a proven and client-empathetic estate planning attorney.

Foremost among them is to plan early, "when you're not under pressure to make a decision." That makes solid sense, and is advice that experienced planning counsel often offers concerning estate planning in a general sense and across all dimensions.

And it is certainly salutary for family members to timely meet and openly discuss planning wishes and arrangements needed to implement them.

Being proactive and transparent in such a matter can greatly promote a family's peace of mind and help it responsibly prepare for the future.

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