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Burial preferences: How to communicate them

Have a family burial plot and casket burial become a thing of the past? Not yet, but more are looking for other options. For instance, 80 percent of boomers are opting for cremation. Many are leaving more preferences for their memorial service and final resting place as well.

A company founded by a man who lost both of his parents in childhood proposes a new concept. Instead of paying for a plot in a crowded cemetery on a busy road, Better Place Forests allows ashes to be spread in a grove of protected trees or under a chosen tree. For loved ones, it becomes a place of peace, privacy and reflection when visiting.

In this type of family plot, it is even possible to create something akin to a living family tree. Each person has their ashes scattered under a different tree in a grove protected in perpetuity by a land trust.

Evolving grief planning

Do not overlook grief and funeral planning. You can start by expressing your end-of-life care preferences in a living will or health care directive. Communicate what happens next – where the memorial service occurs, whether to have an open casket, music or burial location – through a letter of instruction and conversations with children or close friends and relatives.

Taking a family member to see a tree or a special spot where you have reflected over the years could be a starting point to discuss a final ceremony. When this is not in a traditional cemetery, it is prudent to review rules or laws that dictate spreading ashes/remains. As one example, Rocky Mountain National Park has a permit application for scattering ashes in the park.

Another family may choose somewhere with significance, for example a large field rock on an overlook where a child played prior to a tragic death. Now, the parents hope to have their final resting spot in the same location. Ownership may become an issue when property has been in a family. A trust or family limited liability company (LLC) may help ensure that the special spot remains accessible to future generations.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is one way to identify potential issues. Once you know what the issues might be, you can create strategies to ensure that your wishes are followed.

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