Funeral Planning Checklist

Funeral Planning Checklist for Families

The death of a loved one is always difficult, compounded by the desire to plan a funeral that represents our love for the individual and adequately celebrates their life. From choosing affordable burial caskets to designing the service, there are many things about funeral planning that we may not be aware of and many practical decisions that are required. 

However, even though the occasion may be sad, you are still a consumer, and wise planning can ensure that the funeral is a fitting celebration of your loved one’s life.

To ease what feels like an impossible feat, we’ve broken down this funeral planning checklist into three main components: Actions to take immediately after death, primary arrangement decisions, secondary arrangement decisions, and tasks to delegate. 

You can find an easy-to-copy-and-paste version of our funeral checklist below. We will also go into some detail, but check out our tips for planning a funeral for more information. 

Immediately After A Death

[ ] Notify the proper authorities

[ ] Notify insurance companies and other agencies

[ ] Enlist the help of others

Primary Arrangement Decisions

[ ] Cremation or burial

[ ] Embalming or not

[ ] Funeral casket selection

[ ] Burial plot selection

[ ] Location of services

Secondary Arrangement Decisions

[ ] Distribute necessary paperwork to the appropriate parties

[ ] Burial clothes or jewelry

[ ] Arrange for visitation

[ ] Order any special flower arrangements

[ ] Decide if the funeral will be an open or closed casket

[ ] Choose memorial cards and make proper information available

[ ] Choose those who will deliver eulogies or particular messages

[ ] Choose casket pallbearers

[ ] Choose special music, photos, or other props

[ ] Make the funeral director aware of any special seating arrangements

[ ] Choose and order a grave marker

Tasks to Delegate

[ ] Making calls to family, friends, or coworkers.

[ ] Answer incoming calls

[ ] Arranging food for guests

[ ] Arrange food for the reception

[ ] Arranging pick up and accommodations of out-of-town family

[ ] Receive guests and offer appreciation on behalf of the family

[ ] Arrange graveside transportation

[ ] Assure that the obituary is placed 

Immediately After A Death

Specific logistical actions will need to be done before making funeral arrangements. Acquiring these critical documents is crucial to make the rest of your funeral planning seamless. 

Notify the Proper Authorities

If a death occurs in your home, it will be necessary to notify the appropriate parties. In some cases, it may be required to call the coroner. In most instances, however, you must inform the proper authority to transport your loved one to the funeral home. 

Calling 911 will engage the proper people to care for your loved one. If the death was expected, it might be a call to the funeral home or mortuary. 

You will also need to acquire a death certificate. The funeral director usually handles death certificates. You should follow up to request at least ten death certificates for the agencies and institutions listed below. 

Notify Insurance Companies and Other Agencies

After you have received the death certificates, you can contact the appropriate agencies. For example: 

You will want to find out if the deceased had funeral insurance, typically through a life insurance policy, that could mitigate some funeral costs. 

Enlist the Help of Others

Many people will want to be able to show that they care in practical ways. Letting them handle some of the calls will lighten your load and give you more time to devote to the many needs. Our list of tasks to delegate to others is a great place to start when enlisting the help of friends and family. 

Primary Arrangement Decisions

There are specific funeral arrangements you will need to make first. These decisions will affect other aspects of your funeral planning process. We’ve outlined some of the most critical choices below, including final disposition and different ways to care for remains. 

Cremation or Burial

A traditional burial is what most people think of when planning a funeral service. Burials allow families and friends to visit their place of rest in the future and often are a valued source of closure. 

Traditional cremation is a cost-effective way of doing the final disposition. Cremated remains also allow for more flexibility in the timing of the memorial service. Many choose to scatter cremated remains in a meaningful location, but before doing that, check with local laws and acquire a burial permit, if necessary. 

Embalming or Not

Embalming may incur more cost, but not embalming necessitates the burial sooner. Most states require a body to be embalmed if the burial takes place more than ten days after death. 

Funeral Casket Selection

There are many choices in caskets and casket adornments. Styles, as well as the casket materials, will all be a consideration. 

It is important to note that while a funeral home may have a selection of caskets for sale, it is your right to order one directly from the company, saving on markup. Additionally, purchasing caskets online and having them shipped to the funeral home is possible.

Burial Plot Selection

Choosing a final resting place can affect many other funeral service decisions. For example, if a plot has not been selected and purchased previously, you will need to choose one. 

Location of Services

Funeral services typically occur at the funeral home, a holy church, a temple, or the gravesite. However, memorial services and celebrations of life can take place anywhere. Consult a trusted religious leader for suggestions on funeral service locations. 

Secondary Arrangement Decisions

Once you have made the most important decisions about your loved one’s final arrangements, you can move on to the secondary choices. These will mainly include options for personalizing your service or memorial and making it a special day.

Distribute Necessary Paperwork to the Appropriate Parties

Beyond the logistics of contacting insurance companies and government agencies, other parties will need to be informed. For instance, you will need to cancel subscriptions, have mail forwarded, and reach out to employers about outstanding paychecks and benefits.

Burial Clothes or Jewelry

The clothes chosen for burial should reflect your loved one’s personality. If you opt for a green burial, it will be essential to ensure the clothing is biodegradable. Check final wishes to see if there were any jewelry the deceased would like to be buried with or wear. 

Arrange for Visitation

When planning a viewing, you must ensure family members and close friends know where and when that will occur. 

Order Any Special Flower Arrangements

Large flower arrangements range from $50-80. Shop around to different florists to help reduce funeral costs. 

Decide if the Funeral Will be an Open or Closed Casket

Choosing between an open and closed casket is a very personal decision. Consult with your family and your loved one’s final wishes to determine which is right for you. 

Choose Memorial Cards

Memorial cards can be a meaningful keepsake for your family and friends to keep after the funeral service. These are also often called prayer cards. 

Choose Who Will Deliver Eulogies

It’s a good idea to seek out those who knew your loved one best to say a few words at the memorial service or funeral. Eulogies can be a meaningful tribute to someone’s life. 

Choose Casket Pallbearers

If you choose to have pallbearers carrying the casket, make sure they follow pallbearer etiquette

Choose Special Music, Photos, or Other Props

Music, photos, memorial videos, and other media are great ways to remember your loved one. Try selecting music that they loved or meant something to them. Religious songs are also popular. A photo slideshow or video playing during the ceremony is a great way to reflect on someone’s life.

Make the Funeral Director Aware of Any Special Seating Arrangements

Typically the front rows of a funeral are reserved for immediate family. However, if you want to make a standard seating chart or provide special accommodations to family members with limited mobility, you will need to inform the funeral director. 

Choose and Order a Grave Marker

Grave markers are usually placed several weeks after the burial. These should include the deceased’s name, birth and death dates, and any other information you’d like. 

Tasks to Delegate

The tasks you delegate to family members and close friends should be straightforward and able to be handled without much of your input. Trusting those closest to you will be essential in getting through this difficult time. 

Some actions we recommend delegating to friends and family include:

  • Making calls to family, friends, or coworkers.
  • Answer incoming calls
  • Arranging food for guests
  • Arrange food for the reception
  • Arranging pick up and accommodations of out-of-town family
  • Receive guests and offer appreciation on behalf of the family
  • Arrange graveside transportation
  • Assure that the obituary is placed