Just as death is part of life, most of us will make funeral arrangements for someone at some point in our lives. Whether you’re planning your own funeral while you’re still very much alive or arranging the burial or cremation of a loved one following a sudden and unexpected death, you can make your job easier by learning as much as you can before you begin. Following are some of the decisions you’ll face and important points to consider when arranging a funeral.
Choose a funeral home
Family history and religious preference are often guiding factors in selecting a funeral home or funeral director. If you have no preference or previous experience, ask your pastor or a trusted friend for recommendations. Then consider practical matters like the location, accessibility and condition of the facility, as well as the availability of convenient parking.
What kind of funeral will it be?
When you plan a funeral for a person who has left a will, follow those instructions to the best of your ability. You’ll be comforted in the knowledge that you’re complying with the wishes of the deceased, and you won’t have to grapple with some of the difficult decisions on your own. On the other hand, If the funeral you’re planning is your own, or if you must plan a funeral for a family member whose wishes are unknown, one of the first things you must decide is what type of funeral it will be. Today there are more choices than ever, from green funerals to custom-designed caskets and urns. Spend some time considering the choices you’ll have to make, such as:
- Will the funeral be elaborate, with many mourners in attendance, or a quiet, private memorial service?
- Will the body of the deceased be present during the service?
- Will there be music, and if so, what selections will be played or sung?
- Who will participate (clergy, pallbearers, eulogists or readers, for example)?
- Will the body be cremated? Will the remains be buried or entombed?
- Will the ashes be scattered or kept in an urn?
Remember, the funeral is for the living. Keep the family of the deceased in mind as you settle on the details of the funeral service. If you have any doubts or concerns about the choices you must make, don’t hesitate to ask other family members or close friends to suggest appropriate musical selections and inspirational readings, for example. Your funeral director or clergy person can also assist you in planning the service.
Controlling funeral costs
If you’ve ever bought a home or a car, you know that these major purchases demand forethought and research as well as a large outlay of cash. But did you know that according to some financial experts, a funeral is right behind a home or a car as one of the costliest purchases most of us will ever make?
When survivors must make funeral arrangements following the death of a loved one, they are more likely to overspend on goods and services they don’t want or need. One way to control funeral costs, then, is to make arrangements in advance. But whether you’re planning a funeral following a death or well in advance of any need, you’ll be more likely to make sound decisions if you arm yourself with knowledge. Above all, know your rights. The Funeral Rule—a code enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate the funeral industry—guarantees your right to purchase or refuse any services or merchandise as individual items, rather than being required to purchase a funeral package as a whole. To learn more about your specific rights under the Funeral Rule, visit www.ftc.gov.
Be aware, too, that there may be resources available to help cover funeral costs. Life insurance proceeds and veterans’ benefits are two common examples; talk to the funeral director, who may be able to suggest other funding sources.
Planning ahead: a gift to your survivors
Preplanning your own funeral is not only a way to control funeral costs—it’s also a gift to your survivors. When you die, your family and friends will be exhausted from the pain of grief, and they may find it hard to make important decisions. If you’ve arranged all the details in advance, your loved ones will only have to contact the funeral director, who will take everything from there. Giving your friends and family time to face their loss and begin healing rather than having to make hurried funeral arrangements is a generous and thoughtful way to show your love for them even after you’re gone.