Preplanning Your Funeral

7 Questions to Ask

Preparing your own funeral plans may not be at the top of your to-do list, but it does offer many personal and financial benefits. Aside from giving you control over your body and final arrangements, it also takes care of an unpleasant task for your family after your passing.

When considering your funeral arrangements, there are many decisions to make about your memorial service and estate to ensure your end-of-life plans are carried out according to your wishes.

Why should I plan my own funeral arrangements?

Preplanning your funeral is a thoughtful decision that will help your family through a tough time. It can lift an otherwise large burden off of your loved ones by preventing unnecessary stress and confusion over what you would have wanted. In particular, handling your own funeral arrangements clarifies your wishes so your loved ones can begin coping with your loss.
There are also many personal advantages for taking care of your own funeral plans. It gives you direct control over your memorial service, what you would like done with your remains, and how much you want to spend.

How much does a funeral cost?

If left with the burden of paying for your funeral, loved ones can succumb to emotional overspending because they feel overwhelmed and want to give you the celebration they feel you deserve.
To lessen this hardship, you can set money aside in a trust or bank account for your funeral expenses. Just make sure to let your executor know where these funds are located and that they have access to these accounts when the time comes.
Another option is to take care of some of these expenses yourself ahead of time. That way, you have control over how much you want to spend and in what proportions.
There are many costs you will want to think about when budgeting for your funeral, including:
  • Transportation costs
  • Casket or urn
  • Cemetery plot, grave marker/monument, vault, and grave opening and closing
  • Crematorium or scattering services
  • Memorial service and flowers
  • Obituary
Estimating costs for your funeral gives you direct control over the budget and saves your loved ones from overspending once you are gone.

Who do I want to be in charge of my arrangements?

Although you may take care of your own funeral planning, you will still need a personal representative to carry out your arrangements--someone to inform loved ones and government officials of your death, and to see to the proper dispersal of your estate.
The person in charge of your estate is referred to as your executor. They are essentially responsible for wrapping up all of your financial accounts, assets, debts, and following the instructions included in your will.
You may have more than one executor if you prefer. It is important to choose someone trustworthy and who knows you well. Many people find spouses to be the best choice, while others select siblings, children, or close friends to be their executors.
Once you have chosen an executor or appointed co-executors, make sure that they are comfortable with the responsibility. Also, you should keep them informed of your funeral and estate plans, and let them know where they can find your estate documents. Your executor(s) should also be aware of any changes in your funeral or estate plans so they know exactly what to expect, and can make decisions in your best interests.

What do I want done with my remains?

Most people have thought about what they would like done with their body after death, but few verbalize these thoughts to their loved ones, and even fewer plan these arrangements for themselves.
There are several options for your remains after death, including a standard burial, cremation, entombment, or donating your body to scientific research.
Once you establish what you would like done with your remains, consider where you prefer to be placed after death.

Is there a cemetery that has special meaning to you, or a location where previous family members have been interred?

Along with grave location, you may wish to also consider the type of casket, vault, and headstone you prefer, and if you wish to be buried with specific items or dressed in certain attire.
If you choose cremation, there are several ways to dispose of your remains, including:
  • Storing them in a meaningful place or in a columbarium
  • Scattering them in a place of your choosing
  • Burying them
  • Other non-traditional options for disposing of your remains (e.g. being planted as a tree)
A traditional burial or cremation are the two most common ways to handle your body after death, but there are other options, including entombment or donating your body to scientific research. The option you choose is a personal preference, but may also rely upon your budget, family, or spiritual beliefs.

What kind of memorial service do I want?

A memorial service is typically held in a funeral home, community hall, or church to honor the deceased and celebrate their life.
Memorial services come in all shapes and sizes. The type of service you want may depend on your culture, beliefs, budget, and family.
Your service may include one or all of the following:
  • A wake: family and friends gather to pay tribute to you and share memories in a family member’s home or a hall.
  • Viewing: family and friends come together to view your body.
  • Ceremony/Funeral: a formal or informal ceremony is held in a place of your choosing (funeral home, church, community hall, outside). This type of service may include prayers, a slideshow, eulogies, music, or a sermon.
When planning your memorial service, consider your friends and family. While this is a celebration of your life, it’s also intended to comfort your loved ones so they can begin grieving. If there are any special traditions, music, or prayers that are dear to you and your family, consider including these in your plans.

Additionally, if you are preplanning a service, you may also want to specify:

  • Who will be your pallbearers
  • If you want specific people informed of your death and/or funeral service
  • Who will deliver eulogies, or facilitate the service
  • Where you would like guests to forward their donations

Is my will up-to-date?

A will allows you to name beneficiaries to receive your assets, specify guardians for your children or pets, set aside funds for your family, and give gifts to people or charitable organizations after you pass away.
Your will expresses your final wishes to your loved ones and gives your executor clear instructions on how to allocate your estate. It should always reflect your current intentions. Make sure you have discussed it in detail with your executor, including where to find it in the event of your passing, and special instructions if you have them.
If you haven’t already created a Last Will and Testament, it’s recommended you create one as soon as possible to get your estate in order should something happen to you. You may want to hire a lawyer to help you if your estate is large or complicated, or you can easily create your own will online.

Am I ready to start planning my funeral?

Death can be a difficult event to process. It can be especially difficult to think about and plan for your own mortality. That said, if you approach funeral planning in a practical and realistic way, your family will benefit from your preparation and responsibility. You will not only lessen the financial burden on your family, but the emotional burden as well.
Communicating your wishes is often the first step--whether that involves a conversation with loved ones, writing a letter expressing your final wishes to be included with your will, or contacting a funeral home to begin preplanning. By planning ahead, you can give your family some peace of mind and comfort in knowing you have taken care of your end-of-life plans beforehand.
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