Funeral Planning Checklist: Guidance for Families
Funeral planning is a detailed process that requires many decisions, and this checklist can be used as a guide to get started.
Losing a loved one is always difficult, and many families are caught off-guard by all the work and energy that goes into planning a funeral. When emotions are raw, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by decision-making and details. Funeral industry professionals know this and they work hard to guide families through essential tasks. However, making advance funeral arrangements can remove some of the burdens. This is why more and more people are choosing to prearrange their own funerals.
Whether you are planning a funeral after the death of a loved one, or you are interested in making advance arrangements, make sure to attend to the below seven considerations.
1. Information Planning: Assembling Vital Statistics
Oftentimes, the closest family members are responsible for making funeral arrangements. However, that doesn’t mean they have easy access to all the paperwork that will be needed. Vital details include:
- The decedent’s full, legal name
- Names of surviving family members (including maiden names where applicable)
- Work history, most recent employer, retirement date
- Any military service details
It’s also important that family members have access to other important documents and information. This includes:
- Marriage certificates
- Insurance policies
- Retirement account information
If these documents are not readily available, it can be quite taxing to track them down during a very emotional time for a family.
2. Decide Who Will Be Involved in the Funeral
If you’re prearranging a funeral, it’s nice to take into account an individual’s preferences for who will be involved in their funeral service. They can express their opinions on clergy, pallbearers, readers, singers, and musicians. If no prearranging has taken place, it will be up to the closest family members to make these determinations so that every expected part of the funeral service is covered by an appropriate person. You’ll also need to decide who will ask each person to participate and be available to answer any questions they may have.
3. Determine Viewing and Service Details
Many people wish to have both a funeral service and a viewing beforehand. Funeral professionals are helpful in explaining all the available options and decisions that must be made. Funeral plans made ahead of time can be quite detailed, specifying things like religious passages to be read or songs to be played. Some people even prearrange how they would like to be dressed for their viewing. If no plans were made beforehand, it is up to the family to decide on these details.
4. Disposition and Memorialization
Choosing a disposition method for yourself or for a loved one who has passed is a deeply personal decision. Many people don’t realize all the options that are available. For example, if you choose cremation, you can also opt to include embalming and a traditional viewing beforehand. If you’re making decisions for yourself, know that you are saving your family members from potential strife. There can be much conflict over the disposition of a loved one, including arguments over caskets, vaults, and urns. If you’re choosing for a loved one who has passed, think through anything you know about their preferences.
In addition to disposition details, funeral planning also requires choosing a final resting place. Funeral home paperwork will include the name of the cemetery when applicable, and whether or not the deceased already owns a plot there. The paperwork will also specify the arrangements you choose for a permanent monument or gravestone.
5. Writing the Obituary
In addition to the details described in consideration number one, families will also need access to details to write an obituary. It is often not as straightforward as people think. Advance planning is helpful in knowing the details a person wants to be included in, but a lovely obituary can be written without advanced planning, too. Add vital details, then think about how your loved one would want to be remembered.
Here are the details to consider:
- Names of family members, such as spouse, parents, siblings, children and their spouses, grandchildren, and other special relatives or friends
- Date of marriage
- High schools and colleges attended
- Degree information, certificates, other career recognitions
- Career details and highlights
- Community organization involvement
- Favorite hobbies and activities
- Volunteer work completed
You’ll also need to determine in which publications you would like the obituary to run, and what they charge per word.
6. Financial Considerations
One of the most useful parts of pre-planning a funeral is that you can make plans for paying for it, too. Funerals can be costly, so removing the financial burden from family members can be a way to provide peace of mind after you’re gone. If you’re working out the payment arrangements for a loved one’s funeral, rely on funeral home professionals to share the available options. This can also mean payment plans.
7. Make Death Notifications
When a loved one dies, there will be people who should find out personally – not from the obituary or social media posts. Make a list of specific friends, relatives, church members, former colleagues, and more. All these people will want to be told personally. This is useful in making sure distant or elderly relatives are kept informed of all funeral arrangements, too. If pre-planning a death notification list, make it as easy for your family members as possible. Include names, contact information, and a brief description of your relationship with each individual.
As this funeral planning checklist shows, funeral planning is a detailed process. It is fraught with decisions, many of which must be made quickly. Since it takes place during a very emotional time for families, be sure to rely on your funeral professionals for guidance. If you haven’t considered prearrangements, know that it’s a way to get peace of mind that your wishes will be met, while also removing emotional and financial burdens from family members during difficult times.