Because most people don't like to think about death, they usually don't make any preparations until it's too late.
As a result, the spouse usually rushes to a funeral director to make the arrangements, and sometimes people don't get what they want and excessive amounts are spent.But now, more and more people are opting for prearranged funerals, caskets and vaults with the main objective of relieving the survivors of the responsibility of making the arrangements under the stress of a sudden death.
Funeral directors wrote 1 million pre-arranged funeral contracts in 1987 and probably will write 1.3 million this year, according to Ted Stevens, manager of the Pre-Need Department for McDougal Funeral Home.
Stevens said it doesn't matter if the purchaser is young or old, more people are buying the prearranged funerals because laws have been passed to protect both parties. Today's prearranged funeral services are handled through irrevocable trusts or underwritten by insurance agents, and the services provided are guaranteed to be provided.
A native of Bingham Canyon, Stevens started with McDougal 45 days ago with the express purpose of upgrading existing pre-arrangement funeral plans and selling new ones.
For example, some people turned $1,000 over to McDougal several years ago to cover their funerals, casket and vault, but by the time they died, the amount wasn't sufficient to cover the expenses.
Relatives went to the funeral home thinking the services had been paid for, but the $1,000 had to be supplemented, much to the chagrin of relatives, Stevens said. His job will be to make contacts with people who have prearranged their funerals and modernize them to keep up with inflation and determine if they want to upgrade the amount.
Not employing the door-to-door selling approach, Stevens said he first explains to a customer (and they are usually listening because they want to) about the peace of mind they are providing by a prearranged service.
The next step is to obtain information about the purchaser's life and relatives for an obituary for the newspaper. This information can be updated when relatives die, children are born or other events occur.
A third step is explaining the services offered by the funeral home, the facilities for the funeral itself and the vehicles carrying the casket and relatives to and from the cemetery.
The next explanation is about the casket and vault. Even if the casket company goes out of business before the purchaser dies, the prearranged funeral means the relatives will have a casket of comparable or better quality at no extra charge.
Next, Stevens explains the cost of the pre-arranged funeral. Although money is important, Stevens stressed that it isn't a dollar and cents program, but "we are selling arrangements."
He said purchasers can make monthly payments, but 60 percent pay in a lump sum.
Stevens believes that if funeral homes don't start looking at prearranged services, they won't be around long because an increasing number of people want the peace of mind in knowing their funeral won't be a burden on relatives.