Our Step By Step Checklist (Guide) On How to Plan a Funeral

Last Updated May 25, 2024
Old couple in a hospital

     Funeral planning can be incredibly difficult on your friends and family who have to both figure out finances while mourning your loss. The best way to mitigate this stress is to funeral plan in advance or follow this guide should a loved one pass.

Easy Navigation

Why Pre Plan a Funeral?

     Creating funeral plans in advance allows for more control over your own proceedings. It removes any guesswork and allows you to have a  final say in preparing your final farewell. Pre planning funerals allow for full control in deciding how you will be remembered. It is an opportunity to craft what will be remembered about you with a meaningful ceremony. Leave no doubt about how your wishes and values will be honored. Express the unique individual that you are by designing your own ceremony through funeral planning.  

     Pre planning funerals help to ensure that your personal design choices reflect your budget and not have your budget be reflected in your design choices. Coupling funeral pre-planning with the right final expense insurance allows you to thoroughly plan what you want. Don’t have a limited budget stop you from planning a proper funeral service to honor you. Not to mention, having funeral plans in advance means there is no need to rush the details that are important to you. When planning a funeral in advance, your details can always be revised, allowing you to craft the perfect final farewell.

How to Plan a Funeral: Your Own or Loved Ones

     Amidst the grief and sorrow, the confusion of funeral planning can be a lot for anyone to handle alone. While pre planning a funeral is the best course of action, we understand that is not always possible. Following this funeral planning checklist will help guide you whether you are planning in advance for yourself or beginning to plan for a loved one that has already passed.

Gather Important Funeral Paperwork

     The first step to good funeral planning is making sure all important documents are up to date and accounted for. Trust a family member or close loved one with the location of vital paperwork during this emotionally charged time. Funeral planning paperwork includes things like:

  • Your funeral planning declaration 
  • Birth and Marriage certificates
  • Insurance policy information
  • Last Will and Testament 
  • Investment/ Retirement account information


     During the funeral pre planning process, periodically review all of your information to ensure that it is up to date and accurate. This includes both your personal information, your insurance policy records, and your funeral planning declaration. If you are planning your funeral through a funeral home or other service provider, contact them to make sure your funeral pre planning checklist is up to date. 

What is a Funeral Planning Declaration?

     This is a legal document that you sign designating a person to carry your instructions upon death. You can clearly lay out your funeral planning checklist within the declaration This allows you to completely control your funeral plans and memorial services

     This document should be readily accessible to your loved ones upon your passing so that they can honor your final wishes correctly. 

Involving and Notifying Loved Ones

     Your funeral plan should also include a record of all loved ones who are to be notified at the time of passing. When pre planning funerals, it is always a good idea to keep a list of family and friends who are to be notified of your passing. Keep current records of their names, contact information, addresses, and how they would like to be contacted. Keep in mind that family members may not always know all of the people you know, especially if you have long-distance relatives or relationships. This also ensures that anyone who would like to attend the services are aware of the details.

     For the family members who are part of the funeral service, let them know beforehand about your funeral pre planning. This gift to them shouldn’t come as a surprise. They will be happy and honored to know that you have thought about them and wish to make them a part of your final celebration. Throughout your funeral planning, keep the folks you want involved updated on any changes to your funeral plans and let them know exactly how you would like your memory to be honored. 

     Your funeral plan could also include grief resources for your family and friends. This can be a compassionate touch that your loved ones would greatly appreciate if you are able to plan ahead. You can support them from the beyond and show them that you will love and care for them always. 

How to Write an Obituary

     Writing your own or a loved one’s obituary may seem a bit morbid but it is an essential part of funeral planning. Doing this in advance allows you to highlight all of the aspects of your life that are most important to you. If you are writing this after someone passes away, here are the key things to include. 

     Key elements to any obituary include family member names and their places of residence, marriage date, and the high school and college(s) attended. You can also highlight any degrees acquired, career highlights, organizations to which you or they belonged, and favorite hobbies. It should include a summary of your life or the life of the person you are writing about. An obituary can also include details about the funeral and memorial services (unless your ceremonies are private then let that be known). Most newspapers will have links to submit a death notice, so be sure to check the rates of death notices for your local newspapers. 

     If you decide not to write the obituary yourself, you can give any information you want to include to a trusted loved one and have them do it. There are also professionals that will craft an obituary for you. 

What Are My Funeral Service Options?

     You actually have plenty of service options for yourself and your loved ones. First, it is best to understand that a funeral has two important functions. What to do with the deceased’s physical remains, also known as the final disposition, and how to honor and remember the deceased and celebrate their life, which is known as the memorial service

Types of Disposition

Traditional Burial:

     Different traditional burial options include reserving a plot in a cemetery, or space within a mausoleum. Funeral planning for yourself involves finding a casket that suits your needs and a headstone that compliments who you are. This also gives you a chance to design your own plaque and choose what you would like it to say. Review the types of additions you would like to have in your traditional burial on your funeral planning checklist

Eco-Friendly or “Green” Burial:

     Part of your funeral planning checklist may be to find a burial option that minimizes the impact you have on the environment after death. A more eco-friendly burial would mean you are buried without embalming and you use a biodegradable casket made of sustainable materials. 

     Headstones are often replaced with more natural markers like stones, trees, or plants. Something to note when funeral planning is that green burials are not maintained by a groundskeeper. Also, not all cemeteries allow for green burials; so consider finding one that does during your funeral pre planning process.  



     You may wish to be cremated and decide to note that within your funeral plans. The cremation process involves using very high heat or flames to reduce the deceased into ashes

     This allows your loved ones the option to bury the remains below ground, keep them within a decorative urn to keep or store them in a columbarium or scatter your remains at a meaningful location. 

     Scattering ceremonies can be implemented into your funeral plans and are a beautiful send-off. When pre planning a scattering ceremony, it is important to figure out where ashes can be scattered. Not all parks, beaches, and properties allow scattering to occur or may require written permissions. 

Anatomical Donation vs Organ Donation: 

     Anatomical donation is most commonly referred to as donating your body to science or medical research. If you wish to be an anatomical donor, it is imperative to list that within your funeral plans to avoid any confusion after your passing. During the funeral pre planning process, call the medical facilities or university where you would like to donate your body. Request all information and materials so you and your family members understand the process and requirements of donation. 

     Be aware that refusal of donation is possible, especially if your body has been significantly damaged. Coming up with a backup plan during your funeral pre planning process could save you and your family a lot of heartache should this occur. 

     Organ donation refers to donating approved organs after death that can be used to save lives. According to the American Transplant Foundation, one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation. If you wish to become an organ donor, it is crucial that you make note of this for your loved ones when pre planning funerals. 

Designing Your Memorial Service

     Pre planning funerals allows for personalized and meaningful memorial services that truly reflect who you are. For your memorial service, you should imagine how your funeral plan reflects your final goodbye. It should capture who you are and what is unique about you. If you like animals, why not reflect that within your memorial through donations to a local animal shelter or having stuffed animals in lieu of flowers? 

     If you are a spiritual person, your funeral plan should reflect your religious or spiritual beliefs. Make note of what messages and religious passages (if any) should be part of the funeral services within your funeral planning checklist. Funeral plans can also dictate who will say or do what during your memorial service. 

     Remember that your memorial is an opportunity for your loved ones to express their grief while comforting and supporting each other. The more you let your authentic self shine through in the memorial service, the more connected your friends and family will feel to you. There are a plethora of personalization options available that you can add to your funeral planning checklist. 

     You can decide which officiant and/or clergy member will lead the service or which loved one will serve as a eulogist who will write and deliver a eulogy. You can choose other readings such as poems or passages that you found meaningful in life. Any music you want to incorporate into your funeral plan should be noted so your loved ones can play it during your memorial service. 

     You may also want to consider whether you want to record or webcast your memorial service when you do your funeral pre planning. You may have friends and family who are unable to attend your services and would want a copy of the memorial service to view and keep. Another aspect to include in your funeral plan is what food and drink you want, whether catered by a professional, provided by attendees or arranged by the funeral home.

     Do not shy away from adding any other personal touches that you would like to add such as a memory board, memorial video, or any personal memorabilia. You want your friends and family to connect with you. You may even opt to celebrate your life over mourning your death. You add whatever you feel expresses you in the best way. 

Research and Contact Funeral Homes and Service Providers

     Now that you have a good idea of what you want for your funeral plan, the next step of your funeral planning checklist should be to research local funeral homes. Funeral homes and cremation providers can help you to arrange the funeral, create an obituary, and provide you with information about various services that they offer. 

     Most establishments will have product and service information that is convenient and accessible locally. These should detail prices and all merchandise and services available. Remember The FTC Funeral Rule and know your rights when it comes to purchasing what you need from a funeral home or other provider. This rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes and select only the arrangements you want and get accurate pricing for these services. 

Funeral Costs and Payment Options

      You may be thinking to yourself, “How much does a funeral cost?” or “How can I pay for a funeral?” We have got you covered.  Funeral and cremation costs vary by state, the average cost for a funeral is anywhere between $7,000 to $10,000 and cremation costs are only slightly cheaper ranging between $6,000-$9,000. These numbers may seem incredibly intimidating but there are a number of ways to pay for your funeral services so that burden is lifted from your grieving family members.

     If you have the funds, a savings account dedicated to your funeral expenses or a Payable on Death (POD) account are both good options. However, it can be difficult to set aside money monthly and it may not cover all costs should prices continue to rise. 

     Financing through a funeral provider or setting up a Pre-Need plan is also an option should you already know where you would like your services to be held. Establishing this type of payment plan can be easier on your loved ones but they would be unable to switch funeral providers should something come up and you are stuck in a contract. 

     Utilizing insurance like burial insurance can take the financial burden off of your loved ones and provide you with an easy way to pay for your funeral services. When funeral planning, having insurance like burial insurance can make a huge difference. The low monthly premiums with coverage that never expire ensures that your loved ones are taken care of when you pass.

     During your funeral pre planning, keep your coverage amount in mind when choosing a funeral provider. Discuss your final wishes with your beneficiaries so that they can execute them to your liking while keeping your policy amount in mind. Final Expense Benefits can connect you to a variety of final expense insurance providers that will ensure your peace of mind with their excellent rates and coverage. Allow us to help you cross off key items on your funeral planning checklist and save you time and money

Prefer To Call Us?

We know insurance is tricky.
5 agents available now