Websites where you can plan your own funeral

Charles Cowling

A cheerful email arrives from Sue Kruskopf, telling me that I ought to know about her do-it-yourself funeral planning website My Wonderful Life, of which she is the co-founder. It was “created after the death of my co-founder’s husband. It is free and you can not only plan your own funeral but leave letters to loved ones as well as music memories and photos. There are also many other features all in a very easy to use website. Members have even commented that they enjoyed filling out their book online.”

Actually, I did know of it vaguely. I last visited when it launched, maybe two years ago, and was impressed by the focus and marketing nous of the two women who run it. They’re in advertising, so they ought to know a trick or two. I hadn’t been back, nor had I given it a thought, since. You get like that with these e-start-ups: here today, phut tomorrow. I’m still mourning the loss of the online memorial website Eternal Space. It cost millions of $ to develop and went down days after going up. God, it was awful. Heaven only knows how many memorial websites have foundered, all memories drowned in the aether. Talking of which, have you seen Virtual Heaven? There’s another that won’t be around long. Don’t confuse it with Hoofbeats In Heaven, which is for dead horses.

The funeral planning website Your Death Wish sank shortly after being upstarted by some debby English journalist who, true to her trade, reckoned a little research would go all the way and make her a bob or two. That’s what it cost her.

But My Wonderful Life is very much still with us. It is unquestionably healthy. Is it any good? Yes, I think it is. There’s some wonky stuff, like their definition of a green funeral. You wish it contained more information, of course, you always wish that. But it’s clever and well thought out and, yes, useful. If you want to sit down with a bottle of good, red wine and plan your last chapter, if this is your way of doing it, it’s as agreeable a way of doing it as any. What’s more, it looks like being here to stay. Charles Darwin would be proud of it.

What else is there out there? Accompanied by my trusty sidekick Senor Google I had a gander and found just two others. First is My Finale, My Way. For $19.99 you get to fill out a worksheet, which doesn’t look like much return on $19.99, the minimum charge I would ever levy to fill out a worksheet. Dammit, MWL gives you a yummy book with your name on the cover like you’re a real author. For nothing. My Finale makes it difficult to evaluate its usefulness because, unlike My Wonderful Life, it doesn’t give you a video tour.

Another planning website I was aware of when it launched (before cocking a sceptical eyebrow and forgetting about it) is Once I’ve Gone. But it’s not gone, it’s still with us, very much so. It’s developed and beautified itself and, like MWL, offers a useful video tour before you commit. It even offers you the chance to nominate someone you’re going to haunt (it’s got a sense of humour). It, too, wins a Good Funeral Guide Charles Darwin Award. Well done, Ian!

How do they do it? Financially, I mean. Neither My Wonderful Life nor Once I’ve Gone charge a penny for what they do, neither can I see that they make anything from advertising. I’d like to know the answer to that, because sound finances underpin sustainability. So I am going to send them a link to this blog post and put it to them, and invite them to tell us anything else they think we ought to know about them. Keep a watchful eye on the comments.

Ian, Sue, tell us more, please.

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