A Guide to Pre-Planning a Funeral

Checklists and Guides

Posted on May 06, 2014 by

Thinking ahead in life is a human constant - even when the future and the end is not the main focus of your mind it still hovers there within your circus of thoughts. Like the end, funerals and deaths are not something most people like to think about, but once it hits, the surprise may knock grieving loved ones off their feet.

To relieve the confusion of the future, pre-planning a funeral—i.e. laying out the details of your final goodbye—is always a good idea. That’s not to say you should pre-pay, since “prices may go up and businesses may close or change ownership¹," but you should at least pre-plan.

Why Should You Pre-Plan Your Funeral?

Pre-planning your funeral is the greatest gift you can give to your family.  According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “It also spares your survivors the stress of making these decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions.”  By clearly outlining your wishes for your funeral, memorial, or celebration of life, you will not depart leaving ambiguity in your wake, and spare your family trouble from a bunch of "Ifs":

IF they planned the funeral well - IF you would approve of a particular choice - IF you want cremation or a traditional burial - IF it appropriately reflects your life

What Are the Benefits of Pre-Planning?

  • Your family is not left wondering about whether the service is "what you would have wanted"

  • There won't be stress around last minute decision making with a cloudy mind—everything is clearly laid out—design and logistics

  • You and your family can avoid overspending on a funeral or burial due to thinking of it as a reflection of their feelings

  • You have the time to choose the specific items you need and do not need

  • You have the time to compare prices offered by various funeral providers

To Pre-Plan a Funeral You Will Need to Decide:

  1. Burial, Cremation, or Donation

  2. Viewing or no viewing

  3. Services

    • Funeral Service - with the body present 

    • Memorial Service - with the ashes/urn present or sometimes nothing present

    • Celebration of Life - with no physical presence of the deceased

  4. Religious or non-religious 

  5. Funeral Home & Their Services

    • Will you use the services of a funeral home or funeral director? If so, which are your top picks?

  6. Cemetery

    • Indicate the cemetery you desire and information on the plot you have purchased (if you have already purchased one)

  7. Indicate Funding Options

    • Decide if you have or will set aside funds in a bank account or pre-paid trust for funeral expenses

  8. Prepare a paper with your necessary personal information for the death certificate

  9. Veterans Papers

  10. What to Do With Your Assets

    • Indicate if you have a Will and where it is stored

  11. Digital Assets

    • Collect and store information on your digital assets – user names and passwords for online sites – both banking and social media

While this isn't a finite list of items to think about and communicate with your family, it is a good start.  Just as it is difficult to think about it for yourself, imagine how much more difficult it will be for your family if your wishes aren't known.  Taking some time now to think about your end-of-life plan, documenting it in a tool like My Funeral Wishes, and sharing it with family or friends not only will save you and your family time and money, but it will provide peace of mind.

¹ “Funerals: A Consumer Guide,” The Federal Trade Commission.

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