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One of the most common ways to cover funeral costs is by arranging to pay some or all of the costs ahead of time. It's a good idea to prepay for at least some of the services, because you can save money this way — paying today's prices instead of higher costs after years or decades of inflation. You will also be helping out your loved ones, who won't need to try to determine what you would've wanted or figure out how to pay for it, since it will already be taken care of.
How to Make Funeral Arrangements for Yourself: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Discuss Your Wishes with Your Friends and Family: It's hard enough to know how to make funeral arrangements for yourself. But now add the considerations you'll need to make for your friends and family's feelings and that's where things can get a bit tricky. You'll definitely want to discuss your wishes with your spouse or other family members or friends who are close to you.
- Choose a Funeral Home/Cemetery: Many people will pick a cemetery and/or funeral home based on sentimentality (perhaps it's where other loved ones who have passed are buried) or simply because of proximity. If you're not sure, we recommend meeting with multiple funeral homes and cemeteries to get a sense of how they handle funeral arrangements. This handy cemetery locator can help you get started.
- Decide on a Traditional Burial, Cremation, or Other Type of Burial Service: While a traditional in-ground burial is still the most common, cremations are growing in popularity. Additionally, there are many different types of burial - including a more eco-friendly "natural" burials and mausoleum options. Deciding which type of burial works best for you is one of the most important steps in planning your own funeral.
- Choose Your Burial Products caskets, cremation urn, memorial marker, etc.): This step will be greatly influenced by the previous one. Obviously, you won't need a cremation urn if you choose a traditional burial, and a grave marker isn't necessary if you select a mausoleum. And depending on your choices here there are many other details to consider. For example, if you choose a cremation, you then have to decide on the type of urn, and you can also choose to have the urn buried. Because of the variety available, it is best to write all of your thoughts down and discuss details with an expert at your location of choice.
- Consider What Type of Ceremony You Want (If Any at All): Many people will naturally choose a religious ceremony based on their own faith or the faith in which they were raised. Some may opt for a non-denominational ceremony, and others might choose a secular ceremony. All of these options are available and something you can discuss with the funeral home director when planning your own funeral.
- Organize Your Documents: Written records are important. It's best to organize all your personal documents so they're easily accessible after your death. These documents will be crucial for your loved ones when they're following your funeral plan and tying up financial loose ends. Don't feel like you only need to include legal documents along with your written funeral plans, though. Include other details, like genealogical records, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other elements related to your life. This way your family has something to hold onto after you're gone. They will no doubt consider this an astonishing gift during their grief.
- Futureproof Your Funeral Plans: Remember to include room in your funeral planning for flexibility. Unexpected occurrences happen all the time, and it may suddenly make precisely following your funeral plans somewhat difficult or even impossible unless you spend some time future-proofing your plans.
Other Questions to Consider When Planning Your Own Funeral
- If buried, do you want to be placed in a gravesite or mausoleum?
- What type of casket would you like (material, color, ornate details, etc.)?
- What type of memorial marker would you like (upright granite monument or flat bronze plaque)?
- What would you like inscribed on your memorial marker?
- If cremated, do you want to be placed in a cemetery, a scattering garden inside or outside of a cemetery, or an urn?
- Do you want a Mass?
- What music, if any, should be played at your service?
- Should there be readings at your service? From religious texts or perhaps a favorite poem?
- Should there be a eulogy?
- Do you want a graveside service?
- Should there be a luncheon after?
Finally, Consider the Cost of Planning Your Own Funeral
Once you've decided what type of memorialization you want, you should begin thinking about the costs. Typically, funerals can run into several thousands of dollars, but there are some inexpensive funeral options. Choosing a less expensive casket, or choosing cremation over traditional burial, all affect the cost.
Once you've decided on the general cost of your funeral, you can begin financial planning. You can set aside resources to cover your funeral expenses if you have them available. You can do this by purchasing a burial plot in advance, taking out funeral insurance, signing a pre-need contract for funeral services, or simply investing in your savings so that the funds will be available when necessary.
Ultimately, you will likely want to pre-pay your expenses, perhaps within an installment plan, to ensure that your loved ones won't have to pay anything when the time comes. As mentioned earlier, paying now can save thousands of dollars by avoiding decades of inflation.
That brings us to the last question: Now that you know how to make funeral arrangements for yourself, how will you let people know about your wishes? That's an important question, because loved ones need to know what you've already decided or arranged. Otherwise, your wishes may not be fulfilled. Some people make the mistake of putting their plan in a safe deposit box, but it can take weeks - even months - for your family members to get access to your safe deposit box.
A good practice here is to keep your funeral plan with a vested third party such as a funeral director or a planning specialist at MemorialPlanning.com. If you're planning your own funeral, we offer all kinds of helpful resources. We invite you to learn more about the various types of burials, search for cemeteries by state, or download a free burial planning guide.