The Steps in Planning a Funeral

Steps in Arranging a FuneralMaking Funeral Arrangements When a Loved One Has Died

Before proceeding, be sure to determine if the deceased set forth specific instructions in a pre-arranged funeral plan.

For information on making funeral plans in advance (see Planning Ahead). A “pre-need” funeral plan will be your guide through the funeral arrangement process.

5 Steps of Arranging a Funeral

In most cases, arranging a funeral involves the following steps and choices:

  1. First Calls. Make the “first calls” to notify the appropriate parties and have the deceased removed from the place of death. See First Calls for details. It may be necessary to arrange transportation between cities. Click here for details.
  2. Funeral Arrangements. Meet with a funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral services, including ceremonies and care of the deceased. See Funeral Arrangements for details.
  3. Funeral Products. Select and purchase the necessary funeral products (e.g., casket, burial vault, cremation urn, etc.) and memorial items (e.g., grave marker, online memorial). See Funeral Products for details.
  4. Cemetery Arrangements. Meet with representatives of the selected cemetery to purchase cemetery property (e.g., grave space, crypt, niche for an urn, etc.) and arrange cemetery services. See Cemetery Arrangements for details.
  5. Financial, Estate and Other Matters. Pay for the funeral services and merchandise — see Funeral Costs. After the funeral, handle all estate, financial, and administrative matters of the deceased. For details, see Estate, Financial and Administrative Matters, Claiming Death Benefits, and Obtaining Death Certificates.

Tools to Help With Funeral Arrangements

You can use our Funeral Home / Cemetery Search Directory to locate a funeral home and cemetery.

Our Wise Planning System can help you be prepared for an arrangement conference with your funeral director. You’ll be guided step-by-step through the planning process with our easy-to-use planning tools. Simply print out your plan and take it to your meeting with the funeral director.

The Quick Plan is the first step in the Wise Planning System. In a matter of minutes, you’ll have created a basic funeral plan and will find out your estimated funeral cost. It’s do-it-yourself planning and there’s no obligation.

Start My Quick Plan
If you prefer working on paper, print our Funeral Arrangement Questionnaire to help you compile all of the information you need to provide to your funeral director.

Funeral Decisions and Difficult Choices

Planning a funeral involves making a myriad of decisions concerning everything from choosing a final resting place … to selecting a casket … to deciding on pall bearers.

Many of the considerations are not common knowledge. Is embalming required? What’s the purpose of a burial vault?

Others can be difficult choices, such as deciding between burial and cremation. And, who should you turn to for the necessary services and products?

Funeral Directors

For assistance in arranging funerals people usually turn to funeral directors. They are professionals who manage some, or all, funeral arrangements. Funeral directors help you plan the funeral ceremonies and then direct the ceremonies in accordance with your wishes, including coordinating with the cemetery. They also handle the technical services regarding the care, preparation, presentation, and final disposition of the deceased. Funeral directors are available at funeral homes and “alternative” funeral service organizations.

Funeral Homes / Mortuaries

Funeral homes, or mortuaries, are full-service organizations with the staff, facilities, and equipment necessary to help the family commemorate the life of the deceased. “Alternative” funeral service providers offer the services of funeral directors but they may specialize or sell packaged plans. For example, an alternative provider may specialize in cremation or graveside services and may not have a funeral home.

Making Funeral Arrangements

Choices that must be made when arranging a funeral include:

  1. Method of interment
    • Will the deceased be buried or entombed?
    • Will the deceased be cremated? If so, will the cremated remains be buried, entombed, scattered or kept by the family?
    • Will the body be donated to science? Will organs be donated?
  2. Ceremonies
    • Will there be a traditional funeral with the casket present or
      a memorial service without the presence of the casket? Will both
      types of services be held or no ceremonies at all?
    • Where will the ceremonies be held? At a funeral home? At a place
      of worship? At the graveside?
    • Will there be one or more visitations? If so, will the casket
      be open or closed?
    • Will the deceased be embalmed?
    • Should a DNA sample be taken?
    • Who will participate in the funeral ceremonies? Clergy? Pallbearers?
      Speakers? Musicians or vocalists?
    • Will the ceremonies feature certain music, readings, or tributes?
    • Will there be a procession to the cemetery? Will the deceased
      be transported in a hearse? Will family travel in a limousine?

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