Talk of the Town: Make your final wishes known before it's too late

We spend most of our lives preparing in some way for the future.

We plan for our next job, we plan for our education, we plan for our vacation, for that new car and, the biggest of them all, we plan - and then plan some more - for our retirement.

Few of us think of planning for our final wishes. Most of us don't even want to think about dying.

Would your loved ones know your wishes if you died today? If you chose cremation, do you or your loved ones know what it involves? Do you want a direct cremation or do you want a cremation with a church service or a memorial service? Do you want your ashes scattered, buried in the ground or placed in a niche? Even with a simple cremation, what are you getting?

It would be helpful to know all these things before you go to a funeral home.

When seeking a funeral home, keep in mind that no two funeral homes are alike. However, the same state rules and regulations govern every funeral home in Arizona.

The Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers requires that you receive the pamphlet entitled " A Consumer Guide to Arizona Funeral Information." The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) as well as the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers requires that you receive a GPL (General Price List) before discussing any funeral arrangements. It is always your choice, and the funeral director is there to help you carry out your wishes and the wishes of your loved one.

It is always a good idea to check with more than one funeral home when planning funeral wishes. Don't just ask the cost of certain service, but ask them to itemize and explain at least two different services for you. You be the judge of what you want. I have found that it is always better to visit a funeral in person than just calling. When you visit a funeral home you get to see their operation and get a feel for the staff.

Most funeral homes offer some type of pre-planning funeral programs. Ask them what type they offer and see if it's good for you. Some even offer discounts if you pre-pay for your arrangements.

Please remember to ask which items the program actually guarantees when pre-paying. Most people think that once you pre-pay for funeral services that everything is guaranteed and that the family won't have to pay for anything when the time comes. However, the funeral home has no control over certain items, such as the cost of death certificates, obituaries and death notices, taxes and other third-party items, so the funeral home cannot guarantee these items.

Just as no two funeral homes are alike, no two families are alike. Everyone has their own way of dealing with grief. Most funeral homes can help you personalize your services in a way that best memorializes your loved one. And most funeral homes also offer some type of grief support. Always ask.

Being a funeral director involves more than just sitting back watching television and waiting for the phone to ring. Most states require that you attain at least an associate degree in mortuary science and pass The International Conference of Funeral Service Exam-

ining Boards Inc. National Board Examination.

As with the State of Arizona, most states also require that you pass its own set of examinations covering its laws and regulations governing the funeral industry.

Check with a couple of funeral homes, talk with your family and loved ones now and let them know your wishes.

Don't make them have to guess, at one of the most difficult time in their lives, what you would have wanted.

Pre-plan now. List all the small details and keep them in a safe place so your family members will know where to find them.

The package should include copies of discharge papers (DD214) and your birth certificate.

Even if you don't pre-pay your final wishes, you still should pre-plan.

Clent Walker is a licensed funeral director and general manager of a local funeral home.