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SOUTH SHORE: Going in style

Published on: July 3, 2018

Plan ahead to save thousands, major headaches on funerals


As Jeannie Hogan looked around the room at her recent speaking engagement, she knew some in the audience might be uncomfortable. After all, death isn’t anyone’s favorite subject.

“Talking about sex doesn’t get you pregnant, and talking about dying won’t get you dead,” she said, introducing her topic, “Going in Style, not in Debt.”

Jeannie Hogan, of Riverview, is passionate about helping folks learn the importance of preplanning funerals and the pitfalls of waiting until the last minute. Her presentation, “Going in Style, not in Debt,” can be made to any church group, club or civic organization. To reach her, email

She emphasized the importance of preplanning  funerals for your loved ones, the perils of waiting until they pass away or you, yourself, dying without a plan in place.  

“It’s an emotional time, and everyone is very vulnerable,” Hogan said. “The worst thing anyone can do is go to the funeral home alone, when someone close had just passed away. Funerals are big business, so it’s important to plan one when you’re calm, not grieving.”

All funeral homes have a general price list and per federal law, they must provide it without requiring they be given any personal information.

“All say pretty much the same thing, but pay close attention to pricing,” Hogan said.

Reading through a funeral home’s menu of services can be daunting, she cautioned.

Prices can vary vastly between funeral homes for things like basic funeral services, embalming (not required by law except under certain circumstances), transportation, cremation, caskets, a police escort, even refrigeration of the body. Then there are the additional costs of grave markers, an obituary, flowers, a pastor, guest book, memorial cards and more.

On top of these expenses, cemeteries have their own costs for plots, mausoleum spaces, grave vaults and opening and closing the grave. Once again, prices vary greatly.

Many funeral homes no longer offer prepayment plans, so it’s important to make sure those that do guarantee their pricing. You don’t want the people you leave behind to have to make up the difference between what you prepaid and any price increases that occurred after you signed the paperwork, Hogan said. 

Regardless of whether you can prepay or not, preplanning is essential.  

“People just don’t want to face it,” Hogan said. “They don’t have a clue about what to do, so unfortunately they wait until they can’t wait any longer.”

Because of that, folks often die without a plan in place, leaving their families to face the potential of huge debts. Making decisions at the time you’re trying to bury someone is ill-advised, Hogan said. 

“It’s also important to know when a person dies, they become the personal property of their next of kin, so having your wishes in writing is better than relying on anyone’s memory or their own personal preferences,” she said. “Get it all down on paper, talk with anyone who might be involved in making decisions, and let someone know where to find (your list). Whatever you do, don’t put it in a safe deposit box, where it would be very difficult to access.”  

 “People need to do their homework,” said Tony Zipperer, owner and funeral director of Zipperer’s Funeral Home in Ruskin. “Regardless of the kind of funeral they desire, it’s best to call around and plan ahead.”

Hogan agrees.

“When people are distraught, it’s very difficult for them to think clearly,” Hogan said. “Planning ahead can save many headaches and thousands of dollars.” 

For further information on this subject and other pre-death needs, email