Losing a loved one can be difficult. Thinking about your own funeral can be hard too. This article goes over funeral planning to help you with this issue.
Think about last wishes
The starting point is the person's last wishes. This will often be included in a will. One common wish is whether the person wants to be buried or cremated. Always keep in mind the person's last wishes when planning their funeral.
Gather support resources
Make a list of people, charities, and other organizations that can help you plan the funeral. During times of loss, it is important to know where you can go for financial and emotional help.
Finance the funeral
Next, you should think about how to pay for the funeral. Find out if the person has made any pre-payments for his or her funeral arrangements. Also find out if the person has any of the following sources of income or death benefits:
- Insurance policies, including life insurance
- Any bank accounts, especially “POD” accounts. POD means “Payable on Death.” This kind of bank account is intended for funeral expenses.
- Social Security death benefit or survivor’s benefit (to find out, contact your local Social Security office, or call (800) 772-1213)
- Veteran burial benefits (to learn about veteran burial benefits, go to the VA website
- Membership in a church or other organization (sometimes being a member of a group will grant you benefits during times of loss)
- Employee benefits
- Death benefits from pensions, societies, and organizations
- Credit card holders with death benefits policy
Some funeral homes and cemeteries allow you to put a lien on life insurance policies for their services.
If you do not have money to pay for the funeral, seek help from your support resources and brainstorm fund-raising ideas.
Prepare the obituary
Each newspaper charges their own fee for publishing obituaries. Call your local newspaper to find out what their fees are. Obituaries are usually printed one to two days before the funeral.
If publishing the obituary is not within your budget, you can create your own obituary and make copies of it to pass out at the funeral home or memorial service.
Include the following information in the obituary:
- Announcement of death: Name, age, place of residence of deceased, time and place of death, and sometimes the reason of death is listed (this depends on the feelings of the family members and loved ones).
- Biographic Information: List of the most important events, qualities, contributions and connections in the person’s life.
- Family: List the survivors and those who are still alive after the death of the loved one.
- Service times: You can ask your funeral director to send you a description of the service times.
- Special messages: You may give special thanks to anyone, give special instructions on where to send flowers or donations, or simply send a special, warm message to your loved one who has passed away.
- Photos: While photos typically add to the cost of the obituary, it can be a nice reminder of the person.
Choose a funeral home and funeral services
Sit down with the funeral director to discuss how the funeral service will go. Remember to focus on the last wishes of the person who has passed. Here are some things to discuss:
- Burial or cremation
- Open or closed casket
- Burial clothing
- Funeral service wishes
- Religious affiliation
- Cultural needs
- Funeral memorial cards
- Public or private burial
You can start searching for a funeral home by doing a Google search, by asking friends and family, or by going to your support resources.
The law requires funeral homes to give you a General Price List (GPL). Collect GPLs from a few funeral homes and compare the services each funeral home offers. Choose the one that best fits your needs.
Remember that once you choose a funeral home, the funeral director will guide you and make the process easier for you. Many funeral directors are available to you 24-hours a day.
Get a death certificate
The funeral director provides you with copies of the Death Certificate. Make sure you request enough copies since you will need to supply them for legal purposes, including life insurance benefits.
In Illinois, the law requires you to hire a funeral director for a home funeral.
Choose a cemetery
The person might have decided which cemetery they would like to be buried in. If not, you will have to choose. Here are the different types of cemeteries to consider:
- Public cemeteries
- Religious cemeteries
- District or Municipal cemeteries
- National or Veterans’ cemeteries
- Green cemeteries
Cemetery rules and requirements
Keep in mind that each cemetery has its own rules. This could include:
- Religious requirements
- Types and sizes of headstones or grave markers
- Types of personal memorials or decorations allowed
- Types of plots
Try to think about how attendees will get to and from the location you've decided on. Many times, transportation to the burial site and flower arrangements can be made with the funeral director.
You can also ask visitors to make donations to a special cause or organization in memory of the loved one instead of bringing or sending flowers.
Updated: February 2017