9 Tips for Planning a Funeral
Planning a loved one’s funeral can be emotional, overwhelming, and exhausting. However, it’s important to honor the life and legacy of those closest to us, and the best way to do that is to understand what goes into the funeral planning process.
We’ve compiled a list of nine helpful funeral planning tips for making final arrangements for your loved one. Between these tips and other valuable resources, it’s our goal to make your funeral planning process as straightforward as possible.
1. Use a Funeral Planning Checklist
You need to make hundreds of decisions when planning a funeral. Having a thorough checklist takes the guesswork out of the funeral planning process. So it’s a good idea to have a handy funeral planning checklist like this one.
2. Enlist the Help of Family and Friends
Many people will silently wonder what they can do to help with funeral planning. Trying to figure out what someone can do to help plan funeral arrangements may seem monumental, but it’s not as tricky as trying to do it alone.
When preparing for a funeral, there are many ways family and close friends can help. For instance:
- Arrange for the pick-up of out-of-town guests.
- Arrange for the accommodation of guests.
- Take phone calls.
- Make arrangements for food.
- Coordinate funeral flowers from guests, friends, and relatives.
- Make phone inquiries to confirm the details of arrangements.
- Keep others informed of the plans.
- Confirm availability of church or other locations and present options for services.
3. Gather Documents & Notify Agencies
Having all your important documents together is crucial as they will be needed several times. For example, some different agencies and institutions will need to be notified upon the death of your loved one. The documents you accumulate will help when it comes to contacting these agencies, so let’s look at each category below.
Documents You Need
- Birth Certificate – A birth certificate verifies the deceased’s identity and helps define your relationship. You will also need proof of your own identity.
- Death Certificate – This document is typically handled by the funeral home or organization that has been in charge of the deceased’s remains. The death certificate will be used when making claims for your loved one’s benefits, so it’s essential to request at least ten.
- Social Security Number – If you do not have access to the deceased’s social security card, it must be ordered through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- Deed to Cemetery Plot – This document proves the right to use the grave space purchased if you plan a burial and the plot has already been acquired.
Agencies to Contact
- Social Security Administration – The SSA is typically informed when the death certificate is procured, but it depends on the survivors to confirm.
- Life Insurance Companies – A death certificate is presented to the insurance company to claim a life insurance policy.
- Banks and Financial Institutions – Funds from bank accounts release to the beneficiary upon proof of death. If you have a shared bank account, they will also need the death certificate to have the deceased’s name removed from the account.
- Credit Agencies – Sadly, millions of deceased people have been victims of identity theft. It’s essential to inform credit agencies of your loved one’s passing to avoid fraud.
4. Choose the Type of Disposition
The disposition of a body is how the body is taken care of immediately after death. There are a few options. Your loved one may have specified their desires in their final wishes, or you might be in a position where you are making that decision for them. Either way, let’s look at the options available.
- Burial – Burials are what we traditionally think of when discussing funerals. When buried, the body is placed in a casket along with any clothes, jewelry, or souvenirs.
- Cremation – Direct cremation is a popular and cost-effective alternative to traditional burials. With prices as low as $1000 in some states, many family members opt for direct cremation and hold a memorial service instead of a funeral.
- Green Burial – A green burial w]is when a body is not treated with chemicals and put in a biodegradable container. These green burials can vary from a casket made from organic, biodegradable materials to a tree pod.
- Alternatives – Some people forgo traditional methods and choose alternative routes, such as donating their bodies to science.
5. Know Your Funeral or Memorial Service Options
There are several ways to celebrate a deceased person’s life, all of which can cater to their personality and life. These celebrations of life can vary from formal to casual with just close friends. However, there are three main types of services available for final arrangements:
A funeral service occurs in a funeral home or church, and the deceased’s body is in a casket. Funerals can be open or closed caskets. Funerals are time-sensitive as the body is usually present.
Funerals consist of several elements, all of which can be selected depending on preference. Features of a funeral service include eulogies, religious readings, prayers, and songs. In addition, a traditional funeral is a way for family and friends to come together and pay their respects.
Celebration of Life
A celebration of life is a gathering that happens after the deceased person’s remains have either been buried or cremated, which allows more time and flexibility for planning. A celebration of life can be whatever a family or individual chooses. However, these gatherings typically elevate the loved one’s life and achievements and are a time for people to be together and reminisce on happy memories.
Memorial services are a hybrid of a funeral and a celebration of life. Typically, memorial services are for those with cremated remains. One of the main distinguishers between a memorial service and a funeral is that the body is present at a funeral.
Memorial services can consist of funeral and celebration elements and also have a wider window of time for planning as the remains have already been cared for through burial or cremation.
A graveside service is similar to a funeral ceremony, except all elements happen outdoors next to where the burial will occur. Again, similar to a funeral, these services typically include eulogies, songs, and religious readings.
6. Utilize Personalization
There are many ways to make your funeral service personalized to your loved one. From custom caskets that show your loved one’s personality to their favorite music, you can have a service that speaks to their life and legacy.
Here are some of the ways you can add a special touch to your loved one’s funeral:
- Flowers – Flowers are a beautiful way to fill a space and add color. You can add meaningful flowers to your family or incorporate flowers from their home state.
- Music – People express themselves through music often. Music unique to your loved one’s life or religious beliefs can be a meaningful tribute.
- Food – Many cultures use food and meals to come together. Having a catered reception or a potluck where guests bring their favorite recipes can be an excellent way for your guests to commune after the final arrangements.
7. Remember Your Consumer Rights
One of the most important things to remember when preparing for a funeral is that you are a consumer. So even though it is an unimaginably sad and difficult occasion, remember you are still a consumer with protected rights.
Prices on services will vary, and with funeral expenses rising, getting a price list up front is of the utmost importance. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers have the right to request a general price list for all services from the funeral provider. Ask for this, as it will help compare different funeral homes.
8. Read Before You Sign
Be sure to understand your agreement’s terms before signing any contracts. Since preparing for a funeral is not frequent, many things may be unfamiliar, and making assumptions about what to include is easy. Ask the funeral home for an itemized price list of goods and services. Research each term you are unfamiliar with and do a little research until you feel comfortable deciding.
9. Understand Cost and Payments
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral cost in 2021 was just under $8,000. With funeral costs on the rise, it’s essential to shop around and do your due diligence to minimize the costs of the funeral bill.
Your loved one may have done some funeral pre-planning and allocated resources in their life insurance policy, for instance, to cover the funeral costs. If they did not, remember that as a consumer, you have the right to a price list and to compare funeral homes. You are also not obligated to buy any part of the funeral package you do not wish to accept.
A way to keep costs down is to utilize online resources, like purchasing a casket online, which can help with the markup of some funeral service providers.