Funerals are a celebration of life. It’s a time to reflect on life and legacy. When our life expectancy is shrinking, the process of funeral planning can be an intimidating item on the to-do list. However, when possible, it’s not a responsibility that we want to burden our loved ones with.
This short article will directly address what you need to do in order to be prepared. In five easy steps, you will be well on your way to establishing stress-free funeral arrangements. The highlights include contacting local funeral directors, selecting services, planning the day, calculating the costs, and making wishes known. Read on to find out more. We will walk you through the process step by step. When it comes to making funeral arrangements, it is never too soon to start planning.
Step 1: Choosing a Funeral Home
Depending on your situation, a lot can go into picking the right funeral home. This is good time to contact funeral directors. There is an estimated 20,000 funeral homes in the US. You want to gauge pricing as well as the details concerning the items, services, and fees that you can expect to encounter as a result of your preferences. The funeral home staff should be fully equipped to handle the paperwork components such as obtaining the death certificate and submitting an obituary.
You should select a funeral home that suits the needs and desires of you or your loved ones. Talk to the director about any cultural or religious preferences you may have. The director should be experienced. If you have questions, you should be able to consult your funeral director.
Finding a local funeral home is made easy by Internet search engines, the Yellow Pages and word of mouth. Have you been to a funeral lately that made a positive impression on you? Consider working with that funeral home.
Step 2: Funeral Service Selection
Standard options for dealing with remains of the deceased include:
Burial – This option requires the purchase of a cemetery plot and grave supplies such as casket, a monument or marker, and a grave liner or vault. There is also a growing trend of less modernly conventional burial ceremonies, in which burial are returning to the more organic, sustainable principles employed in earlier eras (i.e. biodegradable wood caskets or fabric wrapping).
Entombment – Above ground tombs or mausoleums are a popular option in many communities. Tombs vary greatly in style and location, as does pricing. This can be an ideal option for people who don’t like the idea of burning or burying their bodily remains.
Cremation – A heat process that transforms body remains into ash, this option is a good match for many folks. Ashes can be scattered or kept in an urn. There may be some legal restrictions regarding where ashes can be spread, but a funeral director should be able to answer any questions related to those restrictions. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the percentage of the U.S. population opting for cremation has increased from 3.56% in 1960 to 43.2% in 2012.
Donation – Some folks choose to donate their body to science (cadavers) or their organs to patients that might need them.
Once the decision is made regarding remains, there are a few customary traditions offered for services. Depending upon the faith and spiritual traditions of you or your loved one, you may choose whether to have a viewing service or wake, a personalized funeral or memorial service or a religious ceremony. Of course, you don’t have to have any of these, though many living loved ones prefer them as a means of closure.
Step 3: Mapping Out the Days around the Funeral
When planning a funeral – whether the planning is for yourself or a loved one – it’s a great idea to put considerable thought into the days surrounding the funeral. This organization can be as simple or creative as you like. Some folks like to know that their loved ones will be plied with alcohol to ease the days of grieving. Others are encouraging of Hawaiian shirt attire and other uplifting, non-traditional requests (planned in order to ease the emotional hardship of losing a loved one).
It’s a good idea to brainstorm. What are your wishes or the wishes of your loved ones? How will you incorporate those wishes into funeral ceremonies, rituals and aftermath?
Step 4: Calculating the Cost
Preparing now can prevent a lot of trouble later. This is especially true when it comes to financial preparation for funeral costs. Payable-On-Death (POD) accounts can be set up at most banks in order to directly reserve funds for funeral expense. The accounts are easily accessible to the named beneficiary at the time of death. Budgeting for funeral expenses can be your greatest asset.
What are your budget limitations? What are the most important factors and priorities that you have in terms of services, celebrations, guest requests, etc.?
The cost of a funeral has inflated drastically in the last few decades and now looms at well over $7,000, on average.
Step 5: Making Wishes Known
The importance of considering, developing, finalizing and communicating final wishes cannot be overemphasized. This step is part of legacy designing and it can be an impactful platform for remembrance. Consider communicating verbally and in written formats. For finalization purposes, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney.
Written records of funeral plans, requests and wills should be kept accessible. Family should know where these records are and have access to them when the time is appropriate.
One example of a funeral request is asking for donations in place of flowers. It is customary to receive funeral flowers, but it is also possible to ask mourners to send charitable donations to a specific organization in place of flower bouquets. This request can be communicated effectively by word of mouth or in a public obituary.
Developing and maintaining an accurate will is another component of funeral arrangement plans. This process can be very involved. Be sure to look up all the individual steps involved in doing this properly.
Advance funeral planning can save time and money. It also saves your family from the stress of scraping together last minute, high-cost arrangements. If you follow the 5-step formula outlined here, in the end, life will be easier.
Updated: March 28, 2014