Make it Easier for Them
Funerals require planning, and there are many reasons to do it in advance.
First, it allows your family to spend what is always a fragile time together, rather than on the phone discussing details with a funeral director.
In addition, pre-planning locks in the cost of a funeral. The arrangements can be paid in advance, usually in installments, thus preventing the family from having to pay a large expense on short notice.
(Paying for arrangements in advance is also a legitimate way to spend down an estate if someone needs to rely on Medicaid.)
Making arrangements in advance is strongly recommended in situations if someone has no family, no family in the area, or no one they can rely on to make arrangements when the time comes. It is particularly important if someone is entering a nursing home or elder-care residence.
This last concern was highlighted by the fate of an 83-year-old Jewish woman who died in a Brooklyn nursing home in April, 2020. It was three weeks by the time her family was informed she had died. By then, she had already been buried — in a $15,000 Catholic service, despite the fact that she already had a plot in a Jewish cemetery, next to her family.
The fact that she died during a wave of Covid-19 deaths certainly added to the delays and confusion, but it was not the sole cause.
She was vulnerable because she had no other funeral arrangements in place, and the nursing home had no record that she had family, or even that she was Jewish.
This case highlights the importance of making sure all paperwork documenting arrangements or burial requests is in the hands of anyone who might need them.
This documentation should be stored with other ICE (In Case of Emergency) information. All documentation should also be on file with the person’s emergency contact, their next-of-kin, healthcare proxy, doctor, lawyer, and care facility, if they live in one.
Without proper management of these papers, anyone, whether they live in their own home or in a nursing home, whether they are destined to die in the midst of a chaotic pandemic or in a more peaceful time, may fall victim to such an end.
Over the years, NASCK has dealt with many such cases, people who “fell through the cracks,” and were taken care of in ways that were inappropriate, or which they would have objected to.
Very often it turned out that they actually had relatives who would have cared for them had they known. Instead, they became m’sei mitzvah, people at risk of losing the merit of being buried as a Jew