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Funeral Planning Checklist

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The moment you’ve been dreading has arrived—your loved one has passed away. While dealing with grief, now you have to plan a funeral. Are you ready?

Often people are not. They may have no idea or only a vague idea of what kind of funeral their loved one wanted. Although these wishes may be outlined in a will, not everyone has a will, or it may take several days to locate the will, and by then, decisions about the funeral have already been made.

It’s best, therefore, while your loved one is still alive, for you to have a conversation with her about funeral arrangements. If your loved one has not outlined funeral arrangements, it’s time for you to help her get started. Make sure these plans are written down (separate from a will) and are immediately accessible. Here are some questions that need to be answered:

  • Have any arrangements been made with a funeral home, and if so, were they prepaid by your loved one?  If no arrangements have been made, call around to different homes to get pricing. Don’t be forced into buying a package if it is more than you want; instead ask for a breakdown of products and services by price.
  • What is the budget, and who will pay, for the funeral?  If the cost of the funeral is coming out of your loved one’s estate, who has access to that money? Today, a typical funeral and burial averages around $10,000. However, a funeral does not have to be expensive to be meaningful. You could choose a direct cremation, in which there is no service and the remains are delivered directly to the family. This costs as little as $1,000. A memorial service can then be held afterward anytime, anywhere, including a church, restaurant, home, or rented space.
  • Will the person be buried or cremated?
  • If buried, will the person be placed in a mausoleum or in the ground? Has a plot been purchased? If a headstone is desired, what will the inscription say? A funeral home, cemetery, or monument retailer all sell headstones. Bronze and granite are the most popular materials for headstones, because they are durable and easy to maintain.
  • If your loved one chooses cremation, what does she want done with the ashes? Does she want them buried? Kept in an urn or other type of container? Or scattered someplace special to her?
  • If your loved one chooses burial in a casket, what kind does she want? You can choose a fancier one for the viewing and a plainer one for the burial. You can now even purchase “eco caskets” made of materials such as seagrass, cardboard, bamboo, and other materials that will fully decompose and not leach harmful chemicals into the ground. Online retailers such as Amazon sell caskets—usually cheaper than what you’ll get from a funeral home—and ship them for free. By law, a funeral home cannot refuse to handle a casket you have bought elsewhere.
  • Will the person have a viewing? This can be done open casket or closed casket. Even if you have chosen cremation, you can still have the body embalmed first for a viewing.
  • What clothing does your loved one want to be buried or cremated in? With cremation, clothing may have to meet certain requirements so as not to damage the crematory equipment; check with the funeral director.
  • Does your loved one want any special items buried with her? (For example, a bible, photos, jewelry.)
  • What kind of service will your loved one have? A funeral service happens before the person is buried or cremated. A graveside service is the same as a funeral service but happens at the gravesite. A memorial service happens after the person is cremated or buried.
  • What kind of religious services are desired by your loved one?  Does a service need to be arranged at a church, synagogue, or other house of worship? Services can also be held in a chapel at the funeral home. Is there a priest, rabbi, minister, or other religious leader that your loved one prefers to lead the ceremony?
  • If your loved one was a veteran, does he want military honors at his funeral service? The U.S. Department of Defense is required to provide military honors, at no cost, if requested by the family of a qualified deceased veteran. This can involve the folding and presenting of the American flag and the playing of “Taps.” Your funeral director can help plan this.
  • Who will give a eulogy?
  • Does your loved one have any particular music or readings they would like to have at his funeral?
  • Will you have a guestbook?
  • Will you have a written program?
  • Do you need to choose pallbearers?
  • Will you want to display any photos or mementos at the funeral?
  • Many times, families like to invite relatives and friends to a home or restaurant after the funeral service. The funeral home may also have a room for socializing and eating. Is this something your family wants to do, and if so, what arrangements need to be made?
  • Does your loved one want charitable donations made in her name, and if so what charity(ies)?
  • Do you have the details needed to write an obituary? If your loved one is willing and capable of the task, she could even write her own obituary. Most funeral homes offer to post an obituary on their website. Does your loved one want the obituary to appear in any specific newspapers?
  • How can you divide up funeral-related tasks? Do you have siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or children that can help? Gathering photos for the viewing, writing an obituary, and handling catering needs are good duties to delegate during this stressful and sad time.
There are numerous other details involved in planning a funeral, and you can find many great resources online—check below for some websites to get you started. Also, watch for next month’s “To Us, It’s Personal” blog, which will cover other things you need to handle when a loved one passes away.


Sign up for Home Instead’s free monthly newsletters, Caring Connections, Senior Care Insights, and Alzheimer’s Reflections, offering tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones. (To find these signups, please scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, under “Looking for Advice?”)


By Jill Renkey for Home Instead Senior Care

Since 1998, Home Instead Senior Care has provided companionship, meal preparation, laundry/light housekeeping, incidental transportation, medication reminders, and personal hygiene assistance to seniors in Montgomery County, MD, and Northwest Washington, DC. For more information, please call (301) 588-9710;
This blog is a place for readers to learn strategies for coping with aging loved ones and to obtain insight into the caregiving process. The content of our articles should not be regarded as medical, psychological, or other expert advice, and any reliance on the information provided therein is at your own risk. TFM Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Home Instead Senior Care (the “Company”) makes no guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information presented and may not be held liable for its use or application. The information contained in this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. The Company reserves the right to delete and/or modify the content of this blog at any time.


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