The following is a list of steps to take when planning your funeral and other final arrangements:1. Review our free Funeral Planning Guide for a list of issues to consider when making a funeral plan. This free guide provides information on choosing between burial and cremation, types of burial, types of funeral services, funeral and burial expenses, and burial assistance.2. Make a few notes about your last wishes. Last wishes can be very simple or over the top, depending on your personal style. If you are passionate about a hobby, the arts, sports, or some other activity, you may want to incorporate that in your funeral plans. For ideas and examples, see Popular Last Wishes and Unique Last Wishes.
3. Decide whom you want to carry out your final arrangements. Review our article on the legal right to disposition of remains for steps you can take to appoint an agent and ensure your last wishes are honored.
4. Decide whether to prepay for your funeral or have the expenses paid by your estate or your survivors. For the pros and cons of making advance payment for funerals, see funeral prepaying. If you decide to pay these expenses now, meet with a funeral home or mortuary to select the services you want and purchase a burial plot or related items.
5. If you plan to have a headstone or gravemarker, decide if you want to choose your own epitaph. See our list of epitaphs and how to write an epitaph. Leave instructions regarding your epitaph in your funeral planning documents.
6. Complete a last wishes planner with instructions for your funeral and other final arrangements. Use our free last wishes form or choose from one of the planners featured on our last wishes planners page.
7. If you are concerned your next of kin may disagree with your memorial preferences, write a last wishes letter. This type of letter may also be used if you want to explain your last wishes for other reasons as well.8. Make sure your funeral plan instructions can be located. The most important step in planning your funeral is to ensure your instructions will be followed. Give careful consideration to where you store your last wishes form and other estate planning documents.
Keep Funeral Costs In Mind
Because it is difficult for most people to think about their final arrangements, when they do get around to making decisions on their memorial preferences, they often fail to consider how much their funeral plans will cost. Also, many people are not familiar with current pricing for funeral services, cemetery plots, cremation, and the other services that go along with planning a funeral. For detailed information on how much each element of your funeral plans may cost, see
can I afford a funeral.
Who Will Pay Your Funeral Expenses?
Writing down instructions for your funeral and final resting place is only one step in the process of making a complete estate plan. Another very important step is making sure funds will be available to carry out your instructions. The first issue to consider is whether your funeral expenses will be paid by your estate, your heirs or prepaid in advance by you. Unless your funeral expenses can be paid, the arrangements you want may not be possible. If you want to pay your funeral expenses ahead of time to make sure your last wishes will be honored, there are several different options, depending on the state. More people are putting aside money to prepay for their funerals in financially savvy ways. For example, it is becoming more popular to make a
Funeral Trust as part of an estate plan to cover these costs. Before prepaying for your funeral, do your research to ensure you know the disadvantages and risks that may be involved.
Before Making Final Arrangements
Paying for funerals and related services is very expensive. This is in part due to the lack of transparency about the prices funeral homes charge for various products and services. Unless you meet with a funeral home directly to make final arrangements, it can be almost impossible to find out exactly how much certain items cost. If you are leaving instructions about your memorial preferences, you may need this information to ensure your family can afford to honor them.
Because most people have little or no experience making funeral arrangements, they are easily taken advantage of with regard to what is a fair price for these goods and services. By planning your funeral in advance, you have the opportunity to ensure your family is not faced with these decisions while they are in a vulnerable state.
One of the best resources for information about consumer rights with regard to funeral goods and services is the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Their site is a wealth of information regarding steps you can take to get the best price when planning a funeral. It lists state-specific information on the laws governing funeral homes and mortuaries, as well as proposed legislation. They offer several free pamphlets that are worth reading before you finalize your funeral plans, along with state specific forms for appointing an agent to carry out the disposition of remains.
Where to Keep Last Wishes Planner
Your last wishes planner and related funeral planning documents should be stored in a location where they can be located quickly by your executor or a trusted friend or relative. A file storage box, desk drawer or file cabinet are good places to store your funeral instructions, provided the person you want to make your final arrangements can find them.If you prepay for your final arrangements, sign a funeral services contract or purchase a cemetery plot, the paperwork for these items should be kept in a secure location where your agent or executor can find it. Ask your estate planning lawyer for guidance on the best way to store your funeral plan based on your unique circumstances and applicable state laws regarding disposition of remains. You may want to give a copy of your funeral planning documents to someone you trust or let them know where you keep them. Because funeral arrangements are very time sensitive, it is important that your funeral plans can be located immediately, rather than in several days or weeks. It is usually not a good idea to keep your funeral planning documents in a safe deposit box.