The Well-Planned Life: End of Life Planning

For all the complicated emotions that arise when one thinks of end-of-life planning, it's important to remember the goal of that planning—to reduce, as much as possible, the grief and stress your survivors will feel by making clear decisions about these matters now.


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There are still a few options left for those who want a traditional burial. At places like Mililani Memorial Park and Mortuary, at-need plots start at $4,500, grave markers at $900 and funeral services at $4,800. Though prices vary when it comes to finding a casket, Lewis says the cheapest one you’ll find in town starts at $3,750, for a total price tag of about $13,950.

You might be led to believe if you buy these services in advance, you’ll save money, but, according to Lewis, that’s not true. “A preneed price figures in that this person might live for another 20 or 30 years, and what will the cost be at that time in the future,” says Lewis. “So they’ll put in a built-in cost for preneed.”

Sometimes these decisions must be made fast when a loved one suddenly passes away, but Napoleon and Lewis recommend you put on your consumer hat and shop around and find the best price.

“I always tell families to call around and check other places,” says Lewis. “Even when they call to ask for our prices, I tell them to check elsewhere before making a decision.”

Another helpful tip they pass along is to know your rights. By federal law, as a customer, you are entitled to see a price list of any mortuary, cemetery or crematory’s services. “If you go in (a mortuary) and ask for a general price list for their services, they have to give it to you,” Lewis says. “If anyone walked into this office, and we started talking about anything related to funeral arrangements without giving a general price list, that’s a violation that carries a fine of up to $10,000.”

Lewis also notes that there are no regulations regarding how much burials, cremations or any other services required can cost, so research and shopping around is key to avoid being taking advantage of.

If cash is limited, or you want to be sure no one is burdened with having to shoulder the cost of your burial, consider looking for a preneed burial insurance policy. “When mortuaries sell a preneed plan, here in Hawaii the way the law is structured when you pay them for the service, they only have to put 70 percent in their trust to pay for your services later. So they pocket 30 percent,” says Lewis. “If you purchase the insurance, if you pay 100 percent in there, then that money is there. If there’s any money left over it goes to the survivors.”

Alternative Memorials   

It’s not written in stone, no pun intended, that one has to have a traditional burial or cremation as their memorial. In fact, there are many new options for people who would like a different approach than the standard headstone in a cemetery.

Become Multifaceted

Would you like to join the ranks of Michael Jackson and Ludwig Beethoven? Believe it or not, you can have your remains, or parts of them, compressed into the size, shape and color of a precious stone. The Mainland company, LifeGem, takes the carbon from you or your loved one’s cremated remains and compresses it into a uniquely colored diamond. Prices start at $3,499 for a .2- to .29-carat diamond. Visit or call 866-543-3436.

Become a part of a reef

For those who have spent a fair amount of time in the ocean and would like a little something different than having their ashes spread at sea, Eternal Reefs, out of Atlanta, Ga., can help you become a part of an artificial reef. Workers take you or your families’ cremated remains and incorporate them into the cement mix they use to build the domed-structures known as “reef balls.”  They can range in size and price from 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide at $3,995, to 4 feet high and 6 feet wide for $6,495. For more information, dedication placements and pricing, visit

Return to nature

Though they don’t exist in Hawaii, some states have cemeteries that allow bodies to be buried without a casket. The claim is it’s much cleaner and better for the environment to be buried in a biodegradable casket, or nothing at all, than to have a traditional burial or cremation. Check out Florida’s Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve, where the plots are free, but the opening and closing of the grave will cost $1,800 to $2,800. For more information, visit


Life Insurance

With so many different insurance policies to consider while planning for the inevitable, the one that sticks out the most is life insurance. But how big of a policy should one get, and what happens when the policy is redeemed?

“Basically, we feel that life insurance is the foundation of financial security,” says Bolan. “You can use the money for whatever you want, and that’s how we determine an insurance need by asking what are you trying to accomplish.”

Ideally, the insurance money is good for paying off debts such as a mortgage, making sure your spouse has enough to live on and supporting children.
Bolan sells two types of life insurance: term insurance and permanent insurance. “With term insurance, you are essentially renting your insurance,” he explains. “It provides temporary security, but you don’t build any equity or cash value.

“Permanent life insurance provides a lifetime of protection, and builds guaranteed cash value over time. Permanent life insurance is popular with my high-income clients who want to supplement their retirement planning through the cash value in whole life policies or have a permanent insurance need such as estate taxes.”

Though you may buy a policy for a certain reason, uses for the insurance payouts are completely up to the survivors of the deceased. While alive, you can state your wishes in a will, but the insurance company does not police the use of the funds once they are released. The best way to make sure your assets are spent according to your wishes is to have an irrevocable trust. A revocable trust, by comparison, can be changed at any time; for example, its president and CEO can be replaced. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed once signed. The trust can then function without any diversions to pay off estate taxes, for example.

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