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Planning a loved one's funeral, or your own in advance so that your family doesn't have to, can definitely weigh heavily on the emotions. Whether you're looking for answers for a future funeral or for a loved one right now, this article will outline steps on how to make funeral arrangements, so you can follow in order to make the process as straightforward as possible.
Start with a Will
One mistake that people often make is thinking that a will won't be necessary. Usually, their reasoning is based on the myth that only wealthy people need them. Wealthy people may have them, but everybody can benefit from drawing up a will once they reach adulthood. It's an important part of financial planning as well as funeral planning.
If you're figuring out how to plan a funeral now, start by locating your loved one's will early on in the process. There may be funeral planning instructions you'll need to know about.
Here's another reason the will is important: the main reason to have a will is so that when someone passes, there's no question about what happens to their property, even if they don't have very much. Having a will saves the family from having to endure a lengthy legal process that can be emotionally taxing and, in some cases, extremely unpleasant.
Find a Funeral Planning Expert
Next, you'll want to speak with a funeral planning expert, such as a professional at your cemetery of choice, or a local funeral director. These professionals are responsible for educating you on the various services that you might want to include for the funeral you're planning. These services may include any or all of the following, depending on what you and your family have in mind:
- Choosing and purchasing all necessary products and services
- Scheduling visitation/viewing/calling hours
- The funeral service itself
- The burial or urn placement, if applicable
- A post-service reception
If you are in the process of pre-planning and have the luxury of time, ask for a list of prices, which they are legally bound to provide to you and your family. Ask about the different packages they offer, what is included in each package, and how payment is handled.
Be sure to ask plenty of questions. Funeral planning experts should not only be knowledgeable about the different types of funerals and burials, they should also offer helpful advice regarding how to plan a funeral.
Plan the Service
Once you've chosen a funeral director, here are some of the topics you may want to discuss with them:
- Will this be a religious funeral?
- If so, where will it be held?
- Who will serve as officiant?
- Will you have a viewing/visitation/calling hours before the funeral?
- Are you planning an alternative type of funeral or burial?
Aside from a traditional in-ground burial, there are several options that you and your family may want to consider. People are usually guided by their beliefs, their culture, or their budgets when choosing alternative burial options.
For example, cremation is on the rise in America, with money the leading reason people choose this type of burial. There are also natural and green burials, which tend to be more environmentally conscious.
Most cemeteries can accommodate several types of burials, including:
- Traditional, in-ground burial with the casket placed in a vault
- Community mausoleum burial (above-ground)
- Private mausoleum burial (above-ground)
- Lawn Crypt (above-ground)
- Cremation urn placed in a columbarium niche In-ground burial of cremains
- Memorial garden for scattered ashes
- Natural burial
Once you've chosen the burial type, it can be helpful to visit different cemeteries in the area. Cemeteries can be visited by you and your loved ones ahead of time. Each has its own look and feel so seeing them in person, if possible, can help you make a decision.
If you're not pressed for time, it might also be a good opportunity to decide whether you'd like to purchase multiple plots or mausoleum spots. Be sure to ask about future vacancies for family members, too.
You can start the search online with our Find a Cemetery feature that lists burial options and brief descriptions of cemeteries and memorial gardens by state.
Talk About Financials
One of the most important things to consider when figuring out how to make funeral arrangements is cost. Lots of families choose to pre-pay many of their funeral and burial costs. Most organizations have payment plans. If this is an option for you at the moment, it's worth considering. This locks in certain costs, ensures there are funds to pay for services at a future date, and saves the family from having to worry about money and planning during their time of grief. Consider it a final form of insurance.
Funerals and burials can reflect your or your loved one's life, values, or beliefs in so many ways. Some families choose elaborate services while others keep things simple. It all depends on your wishes and your budget.
Families who aren't sure how to make funeral arrangements that fit within their budget do have options for economizing. For example, a community mausoleum or a lawn crypt can be chosen rather than a private mausoleum. Likewise, cremated remains can be scattered or given to family members in an urn rather than placed in a columbarium.
Other aspects of burial planning can also be taken care of ahead of time. For example, selecting and purchasing a burial plot (or mausoleum or columbarium niche, etc.) is often done years in advance, to lock in prices as well as to save the family from extra hassles during an emotional time.
A Checklist for How to Plan a Funeral
We know this is a lot to think about. And we haven't even touched upon how to make funeral arrangements when you have special wishes like a green burial. From choosing a florist to selecting the music you'd like to have played at the service, there are still more details to think about.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, start with a funeral planning checklist to learn the ins and outs of how to plan a funeral. It can help you organize your thoughts and it can help you keep your budget within bounds as well, especially if you are in the midst of grieving right now. Have a look and find out how you might be able to save money by planning your funeral now.