Eric Douglas Published

Planning Funeral Arrangements Makes Situation Easier

A funeral director discussing arrangements with a client.
Discussing funeral arrangements is never easy, but as WVPB News Director Eric Douglas found out through personal experience with his mom, it is much easier to do it in advance than it is after a loved one has passed away.
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Discussing funeral arrangements is never easy, but as News Director Eric Douglas found out through personal experience with his mom, it is much easier to do it in advance than it is after a loved one has passed away. 

As part of his series “Getting Into Their Reality: Caring For Aging Parents.” Douglas spoke with Tom Nichols, the owner of Bartlett Nichols Funeral Home in St. Albans, to understand the process. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Douglas: Do you have any tips for how you talk to your parents about arranging for their funeral?

Nichols: Most generally, the parents come in first and make arrangements so their kids don’t have to deal with it. But like you said, as you see them getting more ill, you take it upon yourself to try to come in and see what to do, and how we need to do it if something would occur, death at home or something. We just kind of guide you with some options.

Douglas: What do you need to do? What are the options?

Nichols: We will ask what type of arrangements you’d like, whether it be burial or cremation or whatever else you may have in mind. Say we’re doing a burial, we’ll go over a general price list, show you our charges, then we’ll go over caskets and then a vault if you need a vault. Once we get that type of thing out, and then we get figures and things, depending on how you want to pay, there’s two options. Some funeral homes use insurance to put your money into and most people use a trust account. If you give me $1 or you give me $10,000, we register it with state of West Virginia.

Douglas: Some people will worry, how do I know the money is going to be there if it’s five years from now, 10 years from now? This is all secured, the funds are secured and there’s a whole system in place for that?

Nichols: Once we put your money in that trust, it’s locked in and secure. It can’t be used until time of death, then we are allowed to use that money. We have to register those monies with the attorney general and they oversee your monies to make sure we’re doing a proper and correct thing. 

Douglas: I actually got a letter, just a month or so later from the Attorney General’s Office saying this money is secured. I had no idea that was a thing.

Nichols: Once we register, then you do get a letter. It can be two weeks to four weeks, on average, you will get a letter from the attorney general. It just tells you we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing by registering it. And then when death occurs, then we do a death report, and that also goes to to the attorney general. If the money was in there five years and it drew interest, we have to show them that. And if there’s a refund coming back to you or not, just because money’s in the account, we can’t keep all of it. Because the interest is what goes with the inflation. And if it’s more monies than what you paid, or what today’s price is, then we refund back to the estate.

Douglas: What if the price has gone up, and it’s more than what I put in there? 

Nichols: Then the funeral home eats that charge. You don’t pay the difference or anything because you paid it in full. We take the chance on taking that loss. 

Douglas: After I went through this process with my mom, it was a relief. I don’t even have to think about it. I literally just have to make a phone call. 

Nichols: Then usually you will meet one more time to go over times and things, what day you want to try to set schedule and your services and things and then of course coordinate with your minister and the cemetery. That’s really all you’ve got to do. 

Douglas: I assume just about every funeral home does this kind of service. 

Nichols: As far as I know, we all do. A lot of times we’ll do pre-arrangements for if your mom or dad went into a nursing home and they’ve got a little bit too much money, that they’ve got to do a spend down to meet Medicaid or Medicare limits. That keeps mom and dad qualified if they’re in a nursing home or facility.

Douglas: When I took my mom in, she ended up choosing some things I didn’t imagine she would choose. I don’t know that I would have thought to do that if she hadn’t been there to make those decisions. 

Nichols: She told you that’s what she wanted. And you don’t have to second guess.