Fett brings comfort and ease to end-of-life decisions

Photo by Robert Williams
Denise Fett serves the communities of Frazee, Perham and Detroit Lakes as an advance funeral planner assisting families with end-of-life plans and preparations from finances to funeral services.

By Robert Williams


Denise Fett serves four funeral homes as and advance funeral planner under the umbrella of Vertin Companies in Breckenridge that include Furey Funeral Home in Frazee, David-Donehower Funeral Home and West-Kjos Funeral Home in Detroit Lakes and Schoeneberger Funeral Home in Perham.

Fett meets with people to make plans that range from finances to their final wishes in a way that takes some of the stigma out of those tasks.

“What I like is when people leave and they’re like, ‘that wasn’t so bad,’ or ‘I thought this was really going to be sad,’ and we laugh and talk,” she said. “Death is part of life and it isn’t a morbid thing. It can be okay. I appreciate when they leave and they’re comfortable.”

Fett’s job provides benefits to families so that arrangements for funeral services are done ahead of time in hopes of taking some of the pain of dealing with many specifics during the time of grieving. It also provides individuals a chance to have their own wishes known ahead of time, along with a way of communicating that to close family members.

“It gives you some control, otherwise somebody else is going to make all your arrangements,” said Fett. “All of it is a gift to their family and loved ones.”

Some of the concerns addressed are types of services or gatherings, celebrations of life and smaller details like who is going to be selected to read at a service to where a cemetery plot is located.

“Sometimes we don’t talk about that in families and people don’t really know,” she said. “The other biggie, to start with, is cremation or a full burial.”

A former mortgage lender, Fett sees similarities between her former career and advanced funeral planning.

“I’m sitting behind a desk across from people serving a purpose,” she said. “I love that. When it was banking, I helped them buy a house that was good. This is a different purpose and a whole different field but I’m still helping people.”

She also has a personal comfort from experience working around funerals as an organ player during services.

“I was around funerals,” she said. “For a lot of people, walking into a funeral home or walking into a church for a funeral is really difficult.”

Providing comfort from making those visits comfortable to easing families into a viable plan for themselves or a loved one is imperative.

“It’s something I can do for someone in a time of need that they don’t have to think about,” she said.

Many customers decide to make their own plans after having to deal with the death of a family member.

“I have a lot of people when they come in who have just gone through arrangements with a parent and then they’ll come in and make an appointment,” said Fett. 

Some people recognize the ease of going through the funeral process from a parent or family member who had their wishes planned out, while some are drawn to make their own plans due to a family member that had no plan.

“Even as far as decisions, you think about a wedding,” Fett said. “There are a lot of decisions and people take months to plan, but there are just as many decisions to make for a funeral and you only have three days. Besides that, your emotional grief. You’re in that acute loss period between the death and when you start grieving. Sometimes, you can’t even think straight. When you’re in the midst of grieving, it gets foggy.”

There are other financial options to offset end-of-life costs, which can add up quickly in regards to hosting a luncheon, flowers, obituaries in newspapers, cemetery plots, urns, etc.

“There are fees to everything you do,” said Fett.

Once an estimate of those costs is created, the money can be put aside in an irrevocable insurance trust with Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company that can be used by any funeral home and the trust can grow in value over time in order to counteract inflation. 

“It’s a fund and organization that was created in 1981,” said Fett. “One of the benefits is any funeral home in the United States has access to the fund for that person. Then, there’s growth. Will it keep up with inflation? We don’t know, but it has. It is transferable and protected, so it has to be used for funeral purposes.”

The account is like a life insurance policy, but for funeral services only. Withdrawals are not allowed. One other use is in the event of a person needing long-term care or Medicaid assistance. 

“They use your money first down to a small portion of cash that you’re allowed to keep,” said Fett.

For example, if a person is in a nursing home that costs $10,000 per month and the account holds $100,000, 10 months would be covered with a few thousand dollars leftover on the side.

“If you don’t have any money set aside in an irrevocable fund, you have nothing for your funeral,” she said.

There is no target demographic for Fett’s services.

“Anybody can do it,” she said.

She does see common age groups, namely people in their 60’s and 70’s.

“Then there are some people that wait,” she said. “I’ve had people in their 80’s and 90’s say, ‘I think it’s about time.’”

Having to be involved in the funeral planning of a family member tends to drive people to want to take care of their own arrangements. Communication can sometimes be difficult, something that Fett strives to make easier.

“So many people say they talk about it, but it just needs to be done,” said Fett. “Most adult children are happy their parents have a plan but don’t like the details because it makes it too real.”

Fett also strives to allow people to showcase their own individuality and not just stick to what is expected of funeral services.

“I like to have people think outside the box, like urns,” she said. “You don’t have to buy an urn. Some people use grandma’s old cookie jar or a fisherman might use a tackle box. It’s something to celebrate them.”

Besides meeting with people, Fett joins with funeral directors to hold public seminars for senior groups and other community groups to discuss funeral planning and open a dialogue about relevant topics.

The best way to reach Fett for an appointment or group seminar is to contact the funeral homes directly via phone or website.

Furey dove release remembrance event July 28

RSVPs requested by Wednesday, July 20

Furey Funeral Home will be holding a special summertime remembrance event Thursday, July 28, at 5:30 p.m.

The dove release will be a first-ever event of this type done at Furey Funeral Home and was planned for July because the December services of remembrance were canceled the past two years due to the pandemic.

Reserving a spot is requested to help determine how many doves will be needed for both hand-held releases and basket releases.

Anyone is welcome to attend to watch the event and stay for refreshments and visiting. Even those just thinking about attending are asked to reserve a spot by contacting Furey Funeral Home before Wednesday, July 20.

The event is limited to 50 doves.

RSVP with your name, number of family members attending and the name of the loved one you are remembering by telephone to 218-334-2461 or via email info@fureyfh.com.

Furey Funeral Home is located at 33832 State Highway 87 in Frazee.