Smart Death: Tech tackles the business of the great beyond

    Rachel Zeldin

    Rachel Zeldin

    How a “Yelp for funerals” can help lower the costs and hassles associated with the end of one’s life.

    Any decent date night starts with a Yelp visit. Reviews for every cocktail lounge, restaurant, and flower shop in the city are easily searchable, with hours, prices and menus all in one place. Selection is made with near complete information, and services compete based on price and quality.

    Shouldn’t planning a funeral be the same?

    The Knot…but for funerals

    Philadelphia startup, led by Drexel University alum Rachel Zeldin, is positioning itself as the homepage for death. It has information on thousands of funeral homes sortable by location, along with clergy, monuments, florists and casket providers.

    For $35, you can hire a personal funeral concierge to price shop on your behalf, providing a customized list of options. With the average cost of a funeral reaching $7,500, not including burial, Zeldin says consumers should take a more active role in creating the end-of-life service they want, and that fits their family’s ability to pay.

    “I think people should approach funeral planning the same way they would approach any other major purchase, which is, understand what your budget is, and stick within that, and don’t feel guilty about it,” says Zeldin. “You know, if you can’t afford a Mercedes, then don’t buy a Mercedes.”

    Getting those affairs in order

    For those of us not yet dead, but looking to streamline estate settling once the day does arrive, several tech companies can help get you started.

    One of the biggest names is, a “secure, digital archive of everything your loved ones will need should something happen to you,” according to the website. Users upload documents ranging from wills to insurance policies to advance directives, then invite loved ones to access the account.

    Everplans also has state-by-state guides for organ donation, probate and death certificate forms.

    Death, taxes and Comcast

    Even the most Type A dead person will leave work behind for loved ones. Settling an estate, cancelling utilities, and transferring accounts can turn into a full time job, requiring dozens of hours on the phone and countless trips to a notary.

    Attendant does it for you. The New York-based startup offers a range of options, including a basic plan ($299 and up) that will notify social security and credit bureaus, cancel online and social media accounts, and handle utility and telecom services, like Comcast and Verizon.

    For a few hundred dollars more, a personal Attendant will end credit cards, update insurance claims, and even end that gym membership. Attendant, which says it averages 35 hours of work per client, takes what’s called selective power of attorney, giving their staff the legal ability to tackle whatever services you spell out.

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