We use social media for a lot of things: watching cat gifs, complaining to customer service accounts, posting dank memes. But have you ever used it to plan your funeral?
Jon Savitt did, getting the likes of Cinnabon, Chili’s, and American Airlines on board for catering and midair funeral arrangements. Planning your own funeral when you’re a healthy adult might seem odd, but when you consider that funerals have an average cost of over $8,000, getting a corporate sponsor makes a little more sense.
His dedication to planning his funeral digitally got us thinking: Outside of courting companies on Twitter, what else can you do to plan your funeral online?
how was ur day I got drunk and planned my funeral pic.twitter.com/rgiiEd7sKg
-- Jon Savitt (@savittj) August 14, 2016
Interesting? We thought so.
Possible? We decided to find out so you can take some of the pressure off of your family when the time comes.
Preparing your funeral
Sure, you could leave planning your funeral to someone else after you die, but this is your funeral we’re talking about. It’s a celebration of your life; you want to go out in style, and you don’t want to leave it to chance.
The best funeral-planning site I found was BeRemembered. It touts itself as being a social media site, and there’s definitely a lot of that: you share events, pictures, favorite songs, and more. Of course, they’re centered around the fact that you’ll be dead when these things are enjoyed. Your events are your bucket list and a timeline of things you’ve done in your life; pictures are there for you to be remembered by; and your favorite songs could be what you want played at your funeral.
You can also write private messages to send to certain people after your death, like a spooky email from beyond the grave, and submit "quotes and thoughts that have touched or inspired you" (or your own quotes! You’re quotable, right?). Funerals are all about remembrance, and BeRemembered allows you and your family to collect all of these items at one place for your funeral. An alternative would be Facebook’s "On This Day" feature, where days from years past will be shared so everyone can see that time you went to the Grand Canyon. You have a little less control over it and won’t be included with all of your other funeral preparation, but it might be a little easier (since I assume you’re already on Facebook).
One thing that you can’t specifically include with BeRemembered is a eulogy; while the individual parts of your BeRemembered account can add up to a nice eulogy, if you want to write your own you’ll have to do it outside of the site, and there aren’t any good alternatives specifically for this. If you want to take care of your eulogy digitally, a nice email or a Google Doc beforehand will have to do.
Back to your funeral: you can write what setting you want (somber and quiet or joyous and loud?), the types of food and music you want there, and even where you want it to take place (after you’ve done your research on funeral homes, which we'll get to soon). You then assign a "Guardian" to carry out your wishes. All of your photos and life events and other text can be downloaded by your Guardian for use at your burial, wake, or memorial service.
Not sure what songs you’d like played at your funeral? Wondering if a burial or cremation is the right path for you? Don’t know what should be included in a eulogy? Have no clue what the general price list is when it comes to funerals? I didn’t either, but BeRemembered comes with a pretty extensive resource center for questions you didn’t even know to ask.
Now I know that "Brokedown Palace" by the Grateful Dead is a popular funeral song, and that’s a real gamechanger if you ask me.
Granted, BeRemembered doesn’t offer anything that’s legally binding, but it could play an important role in your funeral plans. Let’s say you’ve chosen a Guardian well, and said Guardian doesn’t want to desecrate your memory and go against your wishes for certain music, food, and atmosphere. Well, that’s a lot of planning to do, and if you want a specific sort of burial, your family will have to prepare financially for your last wishes. BeRemembered is a good option for keeping all of those wishes in one place.
When it comes to obituaries, the first thing you probably think of is newspapers. But the obituary is basically forgotten with the next day’s edition. Don’t worry, though: there’s a digital answer to this, too. Legacy.com partners with newspapers around the country to host your obituary online for years to come after it’s been in the physical paper. Major papers like the Los Angeles Times and the Atlantic Journal-Courier are available, and you can search for your local paper. The amount of time a listing will stay online depends on the paper – the LA Times says "indefinitely" while the AJC archive goes back to 2001 – but it’s another way to keep your memory alive.
Finding a funeral home
We’re big plans of comparison shopping online. Who doesn’t want to see different prices to make sure they’re finding the cheapest price whatever they’re looking for? That’s true even for funerals, when you want the best deal on funeral expenses (while making sure it still fits with your plans for where and how you’ll spend the rest of eternity, obviously).
Basically, you want a Kayak for your casket.
Parting gives you just that. Type in your zip code and you’ll get a map of funeral homes in your area. You’ll see the average and lowest prices for different services like traditional funeral or cremation memorial, and choosing a funeral home breaks down their prices for services so you can see exactly what you’re paying for, and how much.
Note that while you can prepay for your funeral, there are risks that come with it – the funeral home can go out of business before you die, or your loved ones might pay for another funeral if you haven’t told them you’ve prepaid. Look up your state’s protection guidelines (here’s New York’s as an example), and consider setting money aside in a separate account that can be used for your funeral rather than prepaying.
Knowing your options when it comes to a funeral home comes back to the cost. There are ways to pay for it, of course, whether it’s Jon Savitt’s attempted corporate sponsorship or (more likely) the death benefit from your term life insurance policy, your family’s own savings, or even a last-resort final expense insurance policy. But your family might have other expenses in the future, whether it’s a mortgage or college payments, and keeping your funeral affordable is important. Using Parting, you can compare local funeral home prices and make a choice to put into your funeral plans – using yet another digital tool.
Handling your estate
Having a will is really important. A will outlines exactly what happens to your money and your possessions after you die. When you think of a will, though, you probably think of a thick stack of papers read by a lawyer. Or, if you’re thinking of a high-tech will, you might picture a VHS tape for a video will of dubious legality.
Why would you need a will? Take life insurance as an example: you pay for a policy, and if you die during the term then that money (the death benefit) goes to the person you named as your beneficiary on the policy. Barring any peculiar scenarios – like you left the money to a minor or your beneficiary dies before you do or you accidentally put your secret lover’s name on the policy – it’s pretty straightforward who the money goes to.
But what if you do have one of those strange events? Or what if we’re not even talking about your life insurance death benefit? What if it’s a different sum of money, or your house, or your family’s prized jewels?
A will makes it much easier to avoid any ambiguity as far as who gets what when you’re gone, and there’s good news: writing your will online is pretty simple these days. We’re big fans of Willing. It’s easy to use, you don’t have to go see an expensive lawyer, and it’s legally binding.
Willing has a slick interface that’s as easy as using any app on your phone. Creating a will can seem difficult, but with Willing’s clean design and clear direction, you’ll know each step is and what exactly you’re delegating and to whom. No accidentally leaving grandma’s secret family recipe to your jerk cousin! After you go through all of the steps, print it out and get it signed by a witness and notarized. That’s all there is to it.
Having a will is like having life insurance – the sooner you get it done the better, because the last thing you want is an unfortunate event leaving your family scrambling to find out how to handle your money and possessions. Luckily, much like insurance, getting your will online has never been easier.
So there it is! Go from planning where your money will go to having the sendoff of a lifetime, all from behind a keyboard. We know death can be a little uncomfortable to talk about, which is why we had a little fun with this, but getting things in order before you die is actually pretty important. Your loved ones will be grieving, so the more things you can plan ahead, the better. Having a will and a plan in place will help ensure that your family can celebrate your life in a way that they – and you – want.