My husband and I just finished watching the entire Six Feet Under TV series last week via Netflix. I really enjoyed watching it, but of course you can’t watch 5 years’ worth of a show about death without thinking about death now and then. The show brought back memories of my mother’s death, and our experiences with a very nice funeral director.

Funerals are just one aspect of estate planning that most people prefer to avoid thinking about, but it’s also one area where it’s possible to cut expenses while still having things nice and respectful. Funerals can get pretty pricey depending on the options you choose, so it’s important to be informed. A traditional funeral & burial without too many frills can run $10,000. Cremations can be significantly less expensive, but only if you do not have a viewing, since viewings require embalming. The time to become informed is now, because let’s face it, if you’re the person planning a funeral because someone you love has died, you’ve probably got other things on your mind. Like grieving.

One option that I learned about via the show is green burial. According to the Green Burial Council, a green funeral involves “burial that can take place without the use of formaldehyde-based embalming, metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults. It’s essentially the way most of humanity has cared for its dead for thousands of years up until the late 19th century.” In theory this could also be a less expensive option than traditional burial, since all of the things that are being eliminated are part of the cost of a traditional burial. (For example, a concrete liner or vault — required in many cemeteries — adds to the expense.)

The show also mentioned “pre-needs” multiple times. Pre-needs are basically funerals where you plan ahead of time what you would like for your funeral. In the show at least, the pre-needs were also pre-paid, which is another option. Planning ahead of time can save your estate money (if you plan it that way) because the people you leave behind won’t be left wondering what you might have wanted. It can be overwhelming to wander a funeral home looking at the various options, especially when you have no idea what the person who died might have wanted. It can feel tasteless to ask about pricing at a time like that, but it’s best to do so anyway. You should know what you are getting into cost-wise, and know that prices can vary greatly between mortuaries. (What costs $1500 at one home might cost $4,000 or even $10,000 at another.) There is nothing wrong with calling around to ask about costs before choosing a funeral home.

Personally I believe that funerals are for the living, but many times the living have no real idea of what to do, or worse, they have conflicting ideas. Why not talk about it now as part of your estate planning process?