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To the Editors of American Demographics:

Do you have any information on the subject of prearranged funerals and cemetery plots?

Eddie Seal

Prime Succession, Inc.

Birmingham, Ala.

Dear Eddie:

In 1999, a survey sponsored by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) found that while 84 percent of Americans agreed that it is better to prearrange the details of one's own funeral than to let others make those decisions, barely a quarter (26 percent) have actually done so. The survey of 1,000 adults age 30 and older revealed that women are more likely than men to prearrange such specifics (29 percent versus 22 percent). Not surprisingly, older adults are significantly more likely to preplan the final event than are younger folks. In fact, fully 43 percent of respondents in the FAMIC survey age 55 and older said they have made at least some arrangements for their funeral, compared with 27 percent of adults between 40 and 54 and just 15 percent of those under age 40.

When it comes to making those arrangements, Americans are very likely to tell another person their wishes; 92 percent of adults who admit to some prearranging have done so. Many choose a cemetery (73 percent) and a cemetery plot or grave space (70 percent). Other preplanners leave directions for their funeral in a will (64 percent), some set aside money for it (58 percent) and others select the funeral home (54 percent). Few Americans say they have selected an inscription for their tombstone or the type of flowers they want surrounding their casket; 28 percent and 8 percent, respectively, have done this.

The survey also reveals that more than half of those who have made prearrangements (54 percent) have also prepaid for some portion of their funeral. Aside from stashing money under the mattress, prearrangers can put funds into a funeral trust, a financial instrument in which a person buys funeral goods and services in advance by depositing money into a trust to be paid to the funeral home at the time he or she dies. The future deceased can also purchase a life insurance policy specifically for funeral goods and services; such as a policy which directs payment of death benefits to the funeral home. According to the Brookfield, Wis.-based National Funeral Directors Association, an estimated $21.2 billion had been paid in advance for funeral arrangements as of 1996 (the most recent year for which figures are available). The organization estimates that $10.2 billion is held in trust by funeral homes, and the remaining $11 billion rests in pre-need insurance policies.


The average funeral these days costs $6,130 — and that doesn't even include cemetery charges such as grave space or a tombstone.


Casket $2,330
Professional services $1,213
Vault $950
Embalming $420
Funeral at funeral home $350
Visitation/viewing $275
Hearse $185
Transfer of remains to funeral home $154
Other preparations (cosmetology, hair, etc.) $150
Service car $85
Acknowledgment cards $18
Total $6,130
Source: National Funeral Directors Association


To the Editors of American Demographics:

I am interested in learning more about divorce in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans who said they were divorced increased nearly 30 percent between 1990 and 2000. Is the divorce rate growing or slowing down? Also, do you know what percent of marriages go forward with a prenuptial agreement? As the divorce rate rises, does the rate of prenuptial agreements rise as well?

Mark DiDomenico

Sara Lee Coffee & Tea Foodservice

Bensenville, Ill.

Dear Mark:

You're absolutely right. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans who are divorced rose to 21.6 million in 2000, up 30 percent from 16.6 million in 1990. However, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which tracks the rate of divorce, found that divorces have actually dropped in recent years to 4.0 divorces per 1,000 people in 2001, down from 4.7 per 1,000 people in 1990 and 5.2 in 1980.

How can these two opposite trends occur? Rose Kreider, demographer in the Fertility and Family Statistics division of the Census Bureau, says the primary reason is simple: There are more people in the United States today than there were 10 years ago, whether they're divorced, married, single or widowed.

One thing to note about divorced people is that there is a good chance they will tie the knot again. According to a report released by the bureau in February, 20 percent of men and 22 percent of women have been divorced, yet it is estimated that only 8 percent of men and 10 percent of women are currently divorced. Roughly 12 percent of adults are currently on their second, third or fourth marriage.

As for prenuptial agreements, that's another kettle of fish! No concrete numbers appear to be available on the frequency with which betrothed couples get prenups. But there is anecdotal evidence that the contracts are growing in popularity, especially as more people are giving matrimony a second, third or fourth try. According to the NCHS, more than 40 percent of all unions today are second-order marriages, where at least one person has been married before. Among these couples — who are more likely to have children from a previous relationship and possibly to have assets that are not equal to those of their future spouse — there is a good chance that one or both of the partners will ask for a prenuptial agreement. In their book Attacking and Defending Marital Agreements (Section of Family Law, American Bar Association, 2001), Laura Morgan and Brett Turner report that about 20 percent of those involved in their second-order marriages obtain a prenup compared with just 5 percent of couples who are having their first go-around.


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