Planning a Funeral
Planning a Funeral
A relative or a close friend has just
passed away and you have been asked
to make the funeral arrangements.
Where to begin?
In the best case scenario, you will
have discussed their desires in
advance. Which will make many of the
upcoming decisions easier, such as: burial,
cremation, preferred music, type of service, even preferred music. If their final
wishes have not been expressed to you; then you can approach family members
and close friends about the choices they think would be appropriate. Create a
checklist so you do not miss any details.
Among the many issues at hand when a loved one dies there are two important
ones to decide: planning for the timely disposition of the body and commemorating
the life that was lived. When you can separate those two activities, you have a
great many more options.
There are a variety of considerations when planning a funeral. We are attempting
to present them in a cohesive manner to help make your planning go smoothly.
You should decide if there will be a public announcement in the newspaper,
whether a written mailing to certain friends and associates seems better, or whether
phone calls and the local "grapevine" will be sufficient notice.
Write the obituary
With a mobile and dispersed society, friends and relatives are likely to be scattered
far and wide. They may never see the obituary in a local paper and may not be
able to attend the memorial or funeral service. It is suggested to gather names from
Christmas card lists, phone books, and internet contacts to send announcements
that may also inform those interested in a memorial donation, to causes that the
If no pre-arrangement have been made then contacting family, gathering
information, getting everything together quickly is important. Budget and final
disposition method are decisions that need to be made expeditiously, but they
should not be rushed and poorly thought out.
Contact Family Members (Immediate)
Ensure that all sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and
grandparents, have been contacted directly. Ask them to pass the word to other
family members such as aunts, uncles, grand children and other close friends. Ask
for suggestions, of any else to contact, such as clubs and organizations that the
deceased may have belonged. If a religious person, contact their church. If
someone is known to be the Estate Executor, it's a good idea to include them in
planning, or at least continually update them during the funeral planning process.
Gather Important Documents
One of the most important documents is the Death Certificate. We suggest you
obtain at least 10 notarized copies, as you will need several of them, for a variety
of reasons. There is a list of other important documents below.
Disposition method and other costs from the service will dictate the budget.
Average funeral cost is $7,000 for burial, with cremation a less expensive
alternative usually $1000 or less. Sensible, considerate, and economical choices are
important. Many people have burial insurance to cover those costs.
Decide on the Final Disposition
The Disposition choice is one of the most important considerations. Most people in
the U.S., choose Burial, but there are other options such as Cremation,
Bequeathal, Burial at Sea or others. Some decisions are dictated by one's
religious beliefs, as cremation is frowned upon by some religions.
Prearrangement may take most of the decision making out of your hands, left with
only the task of ensuring that everything goes according to plans. As Pre-planning
your funeral is increasing, many people have prepared their own final wishes, and
even paid for them in advance. It is important to check for this information. Many
people mistakingly put their final wishes in their will, which won't be addressed till
It is becoming more common for people to have made Pre-Need arrangements
with a local funeral home, crematorium or final wishes planners. This takes most, if
not all of the financial concerns out of the planning process.
Many people have entrusted a family member with, or have written down their
final wishes. Laying out the way they would like to be disposed of at the time of
their death. The requests may be very simple or extremely elaborate. Budget is
truly the only restraint.
Earth Burial is the most common form of disposition in the U.S. If you choose
burial, you will need to choose a cemetery, a casket, and a monument of some
sort. Burial usually requires some sort of procession and a committal service at the
graveside. (See: Burial (Earth)
Choosing a Cemetery
Considerations include; the burial plot, the vault or liner, opening and closing of the
grave and perpetual care. (See: Cemeteries)
Choosing a Casket
Funeral Homes include the casket of your choice as part of the funeral package, or
you can purchase your own. They are available in a variety of styles and qualities.
Choosing a Monument
Monuments can be a simple or as elaborate as you can afford. Monument
companies can handle most requests. Some cemeteries and or funeral homes have
their own monument capabilities and can offer complete service. Also, some
cemeteries have restrictions on type or size of marker or monument, be sure to ask
before ordering. (See: Markers & Monuments)
Eco-funerals or Green Funerals are on the rise around the world, due in large part
to raised awareness of environmental concerns, and conservation efforts. (See:
The deceased being cremated is once again becoming a more viable option to an
increasing numbers of people. You will need to choose a Crematorium, many work
directly with the public, provided you have all the required paper work. Cremated
Remains (Cremains) are usually stored in an urn, scattered or buried. (See:
Choosing an Urn
Most people store cremains in an urn. They are available in all shapes and sizes.
The increase in cremation has caused many companies to start producing
innovative creative ways to store a loved ones remains, even making it possible for
several family members to share the remains between them, without having to
shuffle the remains in a single receptacle. Most crematoriums have them available
or you can purchase them elsewhere.
Donation to Science
Many people find that donating the body to science is another option. Many
medical schools will pay transportation and final disposition, usually cremation.
Some will even return the cremains upon request. It is important to get a written
agreement, since certain circumstances may deem the body unacceptable.
Another important consideration is whether or not the deceased is an organ donor.
If so time is of an essence. (Contact local hospital if more information needed)
Many families have found it therapeutic and loving to take charge without the help
of a funeral director. Having something to do takes away the sense of helplessness
survivors often feel at a time of death. There are a variety of ways to deal with
care of the deceased. The most common method in the U.S., is using the services
of a funeral home. However Home burials are on the rise.
Choosing a Funeral Home
Many funeral directors will assist with memorial service planning whether using the
funeral home location or not, but there will be a charge for such services. Be sure
to get an itemized list of services from at least two Funeral Homes, comparing
costs can be very helpful. (See: Funeral Homes)
More families are choosing Home Funerals, as a way to show greater respect for
their loved ones. Caring for their own dead is a more personal way to go through
the process of mourning. Most states allow it so it is once again, becoming a viable
Many funeral services may be dictated by one's religion. If the deceased belongs to
a church, you will need to contact the church for possible recommendations
regarding their specific practices and availability to perform a funeral service or
memorial service. A memorial mass is even now acceptable to the Catholic church.
(See: Religious Traditions)
A "funeral" service is with the body present and is usually planned within a few
days of death, sometimes in great haste.
A "memorial" service (without the body) can be delayed as long as you want, to
meet the convenience or needs of the family. Scheduling the event in two or three
weeks lets out of town guests more time to make arrangements for attendance. By
not feeling pressured to have a service right away, there is time for thoughtful
Multiple services may be appropriate in some situations. A simple graveside service
for the immediate family at the cemetery, followed by a public memorial service
for community and friends.
(See: Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service)
If the deceased lived alone, someone will need to care for their pets until they can
find new homes for them.
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|The First Things to Consider
|How to Dispose of the Body
|Choosing How to Care for the Body
|Funeral or Memorial Service
|How to Notify Others of the Death
|Important Paperwork to Gather
Charge or Credit Accounts
Any Outstanding Bills
Military Discharge Papers
Automobile Title & Registration
Any other relevant financial or
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