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Pre-Need Versus At-Need Contracts

January 24th, 2012

Determining if cremation arrangements made on a pre-need basis is more advantageous than those made at-need is a question with which many death-care providers must often contend. The pervasive question posed by many families is, why should anyone have to pay for something that will not be needed for quite some time, especially in an economy that imposes severe financial constraints. The answer, of course, will be dependent on a thorough understanding of those factors associated with pre-need from both perspectives, the cremation provider and the family.

From a cremation service provider’s point of view, pre-need arrangements secure future business. Regardless of the services selected, the knowledge that these services are earmarked and paid for does provide a measure of financial security for the death-care establishment. The more experienced death-care specialist should be able to write additional pre-need contracts through referrals made by families, and if pursued astutely, these may bring in even more pre-need business. With continued persistence, most well-established funeral service providers can secure a substantial portion of their pre-need business in this manner. Of course, the provider must first take into consideration the future cost of doing business in order to calculate the appropriate fees and prices to charge.

Because pre-need arrangements are not often associated with emotional and psychological stresses that are present when a loved one has suddenly died, the arranging family member is usually more at ease during the entire conference. In a much calmer ambience that is less time-restricted, one can easily explore the diversity of the establishment’s services. More significantly, when devoid of those emotionally crippling effects that are associated with the death of a family member, well-run pre-need conferences are intended for the complete satisfaction of both parties: the provider and the buyer. Family members are encouraged to spend the necessary time and energy with matters that will ultimately make the entire process a successful one. Such a luxury is virtually non-existent with at-need arrangements. At the end, however, the value of the pre-need contract must be recognized by both signing parties. The family member must walk away with feelings of satisfaction and the provider must also recognize the value in the contract.

In contrast, at-need usually brings out comparative price-shoppers, whereas pre-need prices are more readily accepted on their own merit. The public-at-large seems less interested in bickering with prices when the services are intended for an unknown future date than they are when the services are needed at the moment. The unexpected and unplanned death of a loved one often stirs an emotional upheaval and is oftentimes accompanied by financial unpreparedness, and sadly, today’s economy places the average family in that predicament. This is, perhaps, one of the best reasons why pre-need makes so much sense.

Locking in today’s prices for future services and paying for them over time can be a great advantage for many families. Providers, on the other hand, must benefit just as well. Securing business for the future only creates a solid financial foundation if it is well thought out. Offering everything at ridiculously low prices for the sake of engaging in pre-need is counter-productive and will eventually drive the provider into the pitfalls of financial despair. This must be avoided at all cost.

When pre-need pricing is shrewd and competitive, and when an active staff is enthusiastic and willing to follow every lead, more pre-need policies will prevail. This measurable success will prompt many establishments to develop a selling strategy that promises to increase the future number of pre-need contracts written. This way, both the family and the provider share a symbiotic relationship. The days of sitting around and waiting for at-need business, whether in a funeral home setting, a cemetery, or crematory facility, is very definitely antiquated. Cremation service providers can procure future business by reaching within the community with creative strategies. Many places that can provide potential leads can be found throughout the community, such as social outlets and centers, churches, temples, mosques, assisted living residences, and nursing homes are but a few of the many institutions from which pre-need business can be generated.

Pre-need arrangements also offer individuals the unique opportunity to plan their own death-care handling, either alone or in the presence of other family members. This way, the burden of decision is left directly up to the person, thereby further reducing the burden of decision-making at the time of need. Because selecting their final disposition is such a personal matter, the mere act of participating in their own finale strengthens the foundation between the individuals involved and solidifies the bond between them. Pre-need contracts can be written between many individuals; such as husband and wife, mother and son, brother and sister, or any possible combination. The additional time allotted to decide, along with a flexible payment plan, should make pre-need very worthwhile.

In these times of demonstrated social creativity, individuals are showing deep interest in making an exit statement at the time of their deaths. This can be accomplished in many different ways. Combined with inventions of modern technology, individuals can now express themselves even in death. Of course, in order to ascertain that their wishes are carried out, the best way is through pre-need. Detailed instructions can be included with your pre-need arrangements and any funeral service provider will honor the contract in your absence.

I recall a specific incidence during a cremation inurnment ceremony that was held in Virginia Beach some years ago. The decedent had left instructions in a pre-need contract that asked for the release of one-hundred helium-filled balloons just prior to placing the urn in the columbarium. I drove miles to rent a helium tank two days before and spent countless hours filling them. As a small, independent funeral home, there was no one else available.

After having made all the preparations, I realized that releasing so many balloons would probably violate the airspace above. Sure enough, after contacting the Virginia Beach Police Department on 18th Street, and after speaking with local airport authorities, the air tower controller (ATC) supervisor gave us exactly fifteen minutes to release all the balloons on the morning of the funeral. The balloons had to climb twenty five hundred feet above ground level (agl) in order for us to be in compliance with the ATC. The balloons must have reached the safe zone because we never heard from them.

As our society evolves further and the diversity of our cultures continues to influence each of us, the need for self-expression will also grow. Individuals will want to be remembered in some unique way, thus paving the way for the proliferation of the pre-need contract. Pre-need is perhaps the last bastion in the implementation of these creative requests. In today’s death-care market, more and more service providers are coming in contact with the insatiable need to outdo the previous one. No longer are simple direct cremations considered the norm. Nowadays, an elaborate compilation of death-care requests continues to infiltrate the pages of many written pre-need contracts. More and more individuals are teaming with family members and friends in order to express the details of their sensationalized death-care specialties.

By honoring each and every request, barring those that fall well outside the legal parameters in any jurisdiction, those who have successfully climbed the ladder of creative sophistication through outlandish after-death requests will most likely be remembered the longest. The age of the drug culture and sexual revolution already paved the way toward implementing individual creativity. However, individual expression must be allowed to evolve. The death-care industry offers society the best means for further evolution of society via death-care planning.

As death-care providers, we owe it to the industry we serve to use all of our talents to pave the way toward all kinds of societal growth. In the collective sense, we must continue to encourage the writing of pre-need contracts for reasons that stem from pure social progressiveness, professional continuity, and individual expression. When we give of ourselves without hesitation, the people we serve will always gain from our dedication and commitment. It is not our decision, nor is it our responsibility to pass judgment in matters about which we are involved. It is, however, our expressed professional and moral obligation to educate those individuals who seek our professional leadership. We must not stand in the way of societal growth. We must, nonetheless, promote society and individual growth by any means possible.

Guiding Light Cremations is ready to provide all the answers you may have abpout Pre-need. Our multi-talented Pre-Need Counselors await your call and will be eager to help you prepare for the future. The first move is yours…….and you can simplify matters by calling 954-381-8888. Make a sound decision now and save against future fees by locking into today’s prices and fees.

Geronimo Mena, Jr. LDD
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Cremations

Guiding Light

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