Sometimes we get our finances to a good place where we feel peace but we may still have family members with financial woes. We may have convictions to help them but I find there is a fine line between helping & enabling.
A reader presented the following question to me, “how does one manage someone else’s issues so they don’t become YOUR debt?” To give a little more context they were specifically speaking about in-laws who may need help with the end of life expenses.
This is a really great question and I suspect may affect many of us. This article is geared to inspire thought on how to best help our families with end of life expenses. My article next week is geared at how to help family members in ways that aren’t enabling.
First Things First
Before we delve too deeply into this, I want to say that any financial help provided to family members, in my opinion, should not be considered a loan. I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say that owing or lending money to family is a sure way to spoil family dinners.
I believe there’s a lot of truth to that. Money can ruin family relationships. If we feel convicted to help any of our family members, we should consider it a gift. In essence, do not give a family member money that you aren’t okay with never seeing again. This is especially true for a family member who may not be financially responsible but keeps finding themselves in dire straits.
This way all expectations are removed for everyone involved.
However, I personally feel that any financial help provided to family members should be directed by the Lord. Pray about whether you are called to help or not. If yes, how much, when, and how often.
End of Life Help if an Insurance Policy is Present
End of life planning is something we all need to think about. The best way we can take care of our families is by planning for our own end of life affairs. Unfortunately, not everyone does this and so the question becomes, “what if it falls on us?”
When a loved one (blood or in-law) has not planned for their end of life dies, we may become responsible for the funeral and burial expenses.
If it’s confirmed that the member has a life insurance policy and the payout amount will cover expenses, I personally think it’s fine to pay the expenses while waiting for the payout. Typical life insurance policies payout quickly (30-60 days from the date the claim is filed) so that you can pay yourself back.
Additionally, you can always inquire with the specific life insurance company on their timeline. If the payout will occur within a month it’s fine to put the expenses on a credit card because you can pay it off before any interest will accrue. If it’s expected to take longer than a month, I would pay it out of savings so to not accrue any interest.
End of Life Help without an Insurance Policy
We should always have an emergency fund for unexpected events. I would argue that the unexpected funeral costs of loved ones constitute an emergency. Funeral and burial preferences are a personal affair; however, if one hasn’t pre-planned for it, they leave the decisions up to the family members left with the burden.
That being said, cremation is less expensive than burial. Additionally, having a simple ceremony or memorial is another way to keep costs down. If you or the deceased family member are members of a church, find out if you can utilize a room or a fellowship hall for the service.
If you are certain that some of your loved ones don’t have life insurance policies or funeral expenses pre-paid, and that this burden may fall on you, it would be wise to plan now. Once you plan for an event, it’s no longer an emergency. Don’t you love that as you think of more things, the more you realize you can plan for it?
Talk to Your Loved one Now & Begin the Prepay Process
While there is time, it may be wise to have a conversation with said loved ones to:
- Find out what their burial preferences are
- Discuss with them the costs associated
- Knowing the difference between cremation and burial may change a person’s mind
- Confirm if they have a life insurance policy, for how much and with which insurance company
- Help them set up a funeral prepayment plan
I’ve personally not set one up for myself but I know my parents have.
Check around with different funeral homes to compare costs. If your loved one is a veteran, they may be eligible for a free national cemetery plot. Take advantage of that!
If your loved one is not financially able to start a pre-payment plan and you want to see them receive a proper burial, you may want to pray about how you can help. If you feel convicted to help, perhaps you can prepay the expenses and/or start a savings account for this event.
Additionally, as you talk to the family member, you may want to have a set amount you are willing to assist with for their end of life expenses. If your specified amount will cover cremation and they want a burial, perhaps this is a good boundary to set. Let them know that if they cannot contribute, you’ll pay for a cremation, but if they want a burial, they will need to pay the difference.
The process begins with a conversation. If you know or even have a haunch that end of life expenses will fall on you for particular family members, it would be prudent to have a discussion now. It will give you some peace of mind about the matter.
Additionally, it may inspire them to make a plan. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to set boundaries. Either way, talking, planning, and saving now will undoubtedly alleviate stressors later on.