How to Plan a Funeral: Everything You Need to Know

Planning a funeral can be an emotional and exhausting process. Whether your loved one has already passed away or you expect them to die soon, there are many factors that go into creating a service to commemorate someone’s life.

Knowing where to begin and how to properly handle all the details of planning a loved one’s funeral can be an overwhelming endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are the necessary steps you should take to keep the funeral planning process as smooth as possible during the difficult time that surrounds someone’s death.

How to Plan a Funeral When Someone Has Died

1. Notify necessary contacts and arrange transportation for the body: When someone in your care passes away, the first thing you should do is contact other family members. Additionally, be sure to make arrangements for their body to be transported from their place of death to the funeral home that will arrange their burial.

2. Determine if the deceased person left behind funeral wishes: Before you move forward planning a memorial service for the deceased person, check to see if they left behind anything stating what their burial wishes were. Planning a funeral can be an incredibly personal process. Even though they may not be present to share their desires with you, you should consider the wishes of the person who died if they left documentation behind.

3. Plan a service with the funeral director: Meet with the funeral director to plan out all the details of how the body will be cared for and how the ceremony will take place, including:

  • Will the body be buried or cremated?
  • Who will be the officiant?
  • Will you need pallbearers? Who will they be?
  • Will you serve food?
  • What personal touches will you add, such as photographs, music, readings, etc.?
  • Will the service be religious or secular?
  • Have cemetery arrangements already been made? 
  • How will the service be paid for?

4. Choose memorial products: What memorial products will you need? Common products include:

  • A casket or urn (depending on if the body will be buried or cremated)
  • Grave marker and/or headstone
  • Funeral stationary for guests to sign and take home with them

5. Handle necessary paperwork: After the funeral service is over, you must make sure the deceased person’s affairs are in order. This includes:

  • Alerting necessary people and accounts
  • Securing copies of death certificate
  • Listing and locating all assets and bills
  • Canceling necessary accounts
  • Meeting with a trust and estates attorney to plan next steps

Planning a Funeral When Death is Expected

No one wants to think about death, be it their own or someone they are close to. Even so, taking the time to consider what you would like to happen after you die or plan out the funeral of someone whose death is imminent can make things easier for everyone in the long run. 

The Benefits of Planning a Funeral Service in Advance

Why is it better to plan a funeral before someone dies?

  • Cost Effective: You have the opportunity to save for the products and services you’d like to have, compare prices of different funeral homes, as well as find the right products for your needs, rather than hastily choosing items outside your price range. Some funeral homes may also give you a discount for paying in advance.
  • Focus on Mourning, Rather Than Planning: If you plan a funeral for a sick person before they die, you’ll have the freedom to mourn them when they’ve passed rather than focus solely on planning a memorial service and handling their affairs.
  • Have Control Over Your Funeral: When you plan out the details of your own funeral, you’ll have a voice in how your service will take place even after you’re gone. Additionally, it takes the pressure off your loved ones to plan it for you or guess about how you would like to be remembered. 

Tips for Planning Your Own Funeral

  • Vocalize your wishes to your family, so they won’t be surprised  or confused when the time comes to make arrangements. You can also document your funeral wishes in your last will and testament if you haven’t already.
  • If possible, write down any specific requests for your funeral or memorial service.
  • Keep all important documents together and make sure your family has access to them.
  • Consider how your funeral will be paid for: Will you pay in advance? Do you have savings set aside? What about insurance? Making sure your funeral is paid for ahead of time will take a tremendous burden off the family members you leave behind.
  • There’s no wrong way to acknowledge the end of your life. If you don’t want to have a traditional funeral, you don’t have to. Your funeral should be about your life and personal wishes, not what you think is expected or necessary.