Do’s and Don’ts for Making Irrevocable Funeral Agreements


Funeral planning can seem daunting. Preplanning funeral services when you are seeking to qualify for SSI/Medicaid can be even more overwhelming, but the process is important for financial reasons.

Preplanning with an irrevocable funeral agreement can help secure the services you desire, with some restrictions, and establish a funding vehicle that will pay for the arrangements and also meet the criteria for SSI/Medicaid.

Here are several do’s and don’ts to help guide you through the process:

Do gather any and all relevant paperwork that may assist with funeral preplanning. Relevant paperwork would include, but is not limited to:

  • Discharge papers from the Armed Forces
  • Deeds to gravesites
  • Funeral insurance policies
  • Medicaid eligibility determinations
  • Communications from Social Security

Discharge papers from the Armed Forces can help determine eligibility for certain veterans benefits, including interment in one of the many veterans cemeteries. This can help lower the costs of funeral arrangements and provide for a dignified service when death occurs.

Deeds to gravesites can help determine costs for opening and closing a grave. Funeral insurance policies will give an idea about the funds that are available for funeral planning. SSI/Medicaid eligibility determinations will provide information for the creation of irrevocable arrangements.

Don’t assume that because the funeral preplanning is being done while you are seeking to qualify for SSI/Medicaid it can’t be a dignified celebration of life. While irrevocable funeral preplanning does come with restrictions, there can still be gatherings, a respectable casket or urn and a funeral service. Talk to your funeral director about what you can and cannot include in the preplanned funeral.

Do discuss the preplanning with family. If it is your funeral that is being planned, describe what you would like during your funeral service. While you can preplan your own funeral, you cannot authorize your own burial, cremation or entombment. It is important that your family or the person who will control your funeral knows what your wishes are. Cremation or burial? Religious or secular service? Gathering with remains present or without? Your wishes on all of these important decisions should be made known. Preplanning is part of that process, and your funeral director can help guide you through that.

Do appoint a funeral agent if you have no living family who would handle your funeral arrangements. A funeral agent can be appointed by including specific language in a will or a codicil to a will or by executing a form approved by the New Jersey Cemetery Board. If you do not have a funeral agent, your funeral arrangements may be left to someone who may not know or abide by your wishes for burial or cremation. An attorney can help you appoint a funeral agent, or you can execute the New Jersey Cemetery Board form, which can be found here. Once you do that, include that person in your preplanning discussions.

Don’t wait. Funeral planning is important. It becomes even more important when a person is seeking to qualify for SSI/Medicaid. If you wait until the spend-down is complete and the money is gone, you will not be able to plan a funeral with any of those assets. This leaves the financial burden of the funeral to your family or friends. 

Talk to your funeral director for advice and guidance as you navigate the preplanning process. They can assist with the latest information about SSI/Medicaid rules concerning allowable funeral expenses and can help craft the funeral experience you or your loved one deserves.

Preplan Your Funeral

Preplanning a funeral allows you to communicate your wishes in advance and relieves those you leave behind from having to make difficult decisions at an emotional time.
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