How to plan for passing away

What steps should you take to prepare for your funeral and other money you leave behind?

Jeremy Hobson: Alright, now we're going to talk about something that most of the time, people just don't talk about. That would be the financial details that have to be sorted out when a loved one passes away.

LA Times Consumer Columnist David Lazarus joins us now to discuss. Good morning David.

David Lazarus: Good morning.

Hobson: All right, well let's start with the funeral -- the first thing that you have to deal with when a loved one dies. What do you do about the cost of something like that?

Lazarus: And it's not a small cost. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a funeral can run well over $10,000 -- that's with all the trimming. Look, the smart play is to think ahead. You can pre-pay your funeral if you want to kind of know that you're going to have all the bells and whistles; you can have a life insurance policy that will cover that cost; or you can just set a little bit of money aside. Bottom line: you don't want to dump all that on your loved ones after you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Hobson: OK. Well, what about -- speaking of loved ones -- the issue of inheritance? This is something that really causes problems in so many families. How much do you leave to this kid, how much do you leave to that kid?

Lazarus: It turns into a cage match sometimes; it can get real ugly. I was speaking with an estate attorney the other day who was telling me some horror stories about people who either haven't left anything to people, or didn't leave enough planning ahead and left people to fight over it.

One of his points was, it's not a matter of greed when people start going after different things, but more it's trying to make a connection to the loved one who has gone -- but that can get very ugly.

You know, the bottom line here is this is all about planning, once again. And you want to be careful about dissing those who will survive you. Think about Leona Helmsley, for example -- when she died, she left $12 million to her dog. I mean, that's a lot of money.

Hobson: What are you supposed to do, though, if you are one of the children of the deceased. Are you supposed to treat the negotiations you'll have to go through as if you were dealing with a business, or are you supposed to do it as if you're dealing with a family member?

Lazarus: It's very tricky, Jeremy, because more often than not, it's a very emotional time, it's a very vulnerable time. And as I say, people want to make that connection -- so in a sense, it's every person for him or herself. And that's where things get really nasty.

So what you want to do, bottom line: try to be mature about these things. Try to be cool and collected. But don't leave it for everyone else to fight it out -- it's up to you, the dying person, to make the plans ahead so that this kind of thing doesn't happen.

Hobson: L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus. David, thanks as always.

Lazarus: I'm leaving you my cat.

About the author

David Lazarus is an American business and consumer columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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