How To Plan A Funeral: Checklist & Worklist Included (2020 Edition)
“A funeral is not a day in a lifetime; it’s a lifetime in a day”. – Anonymous
Planning a funeral can be overwhelming and one of the most daunting obligations a person can have. Not only can it be intimidating due to the many arrangements that have to be made, they also have to be made during what can be an exceptionally emotional time.
The experience of losing a loved one is trying in and of itself, therefore, the purpose of this blog is to provide an in-depth guide into planning a funeral and the steps the decedent’s spouse or family can take in order to make this time less burdensome.
The “first calls” are just that – the first phone calls you need to make when someone passes away.
Depending on the circumstances, you will call the following people:
- Close family and friends to let them know their loved one has passed away
- The funeral director or deathcare professional you’ll be working with
- Make arrangements to have the deceased’s body removed from the place of death (the funeral director will arrange this for you)
- Get a legal pronouncement of death, if there is no doctor or another professional in attendance to do so (if a person dies at home or other location unattended, call 911 for assistance)
- The person’s doctor
- Call a family member or friend to take care of dependents and pets
If the deceased was employed, call the person’s employer
More like This: 5 Things To Do Immediately Following A Death
Notify Family and Friends
When announcing a death, immediate family members and very close friends should be called. Once they’re notified, the rest of the family should be called as well as other close friends. Whenever possible, the people closest in relationships to the decedent should be told personally before it becomes general knowledge.
To make sure that you notify everyone that needs to know, download the free Everdays app, available on both iOS and Android, and create your own Everdays Page. You’ll be able to send important service details and updates about the services in one place, find support in private condolences with family and friends, and celebrate the life of your loved one (including pets) with a dedicated tribute of shared photos with keepsake video.
Social Media Etiquette
With social media, it might seem that notifying people about a death would be easy. Just get on a social site and post it for all your friends to see and pass along by sharing it or by word-of-mouth. But take caution when sharing information online. Close family members and special friends should hear about the death before the general online population. The death of someone is hard-enough without finding out from someone’s social post.
Suggested Read: Death On Facebook: Is It The Right Medium For Grief?
How to Write an Obituary
The mere idea of writing an obituary can be intimidating. After all, these are the words that will tell the world who this person was, key things he or she did during their lifetime, and information regarding if and when there will be funeral services. Other services may include memorials, visitations, calling hours, wakes, viewings, memorial gatherings, masses of Christian burial, graveside services, as well as others.
Basically, there are 6 things you need to include in an obituary.
- Announcement of death
- Condensed life story
- Family members to list
- Funeral/memorial/visitation information
- Preference of flowers sent to the funeral home or donations made to a charity instead
You may be wondering, “How long does an obituary have to be?” The answer is that it can be any length. Some are simply a list of information about the decedent. Others read like a novella about the person.
If you want to learn more about writing an obituary, you are encouraged to read How To Write An Obituary – 6 Things You Need To Include.
Check Pre-Arrangements for the Funeral
If you’re loved one has pre-planned for the funeral, this will make things easier for the family. The deceased will have made all the decisions so you won’t have to, and you won’t have to guess what they wanted. If the person has funeral insurance, that will, of course, come into play as well.
To learn more about what funeral insurance is and how pre-planning your funeral is one of the greatest gifts that a family member can give to their loved ones, click here to visit our latest blog.
You will want to check through the deceased’s important documents and papers if you don’t know if pre-arrangements have been made. Otherwise, consult with a funeral home in your area or a home your family has used in the past.
Meet with the Funeral Director
Meet with the funeral director of your selected funeral home as soon as you are able. He or she will help alleviate your anxiety about the process and answer all of your questions – and you’ll likely have plenty of them. Don’t be afraid to ask any of them. That’s why the funeral director or assistant is there. Yes, they take care of the final arrangements for your deceased loved one; but they are mainly there to provide support for you and the family. They want you to feel as comfortable as possible and assured in knowing that everything will be taken care of to the best of their ability.
Suggested Read: What’s A Funeral Director, A Mortician, And An Undertaker?
What to Expect
After you call the funeral home to discuss transportation arrangements for the body of your loved one, you will set up a time to meet for the arrangement conference.
During your meeting, you will go over the pre-determined plans if the deceased preplanned the funeral. Some things may have changed since the pre-planning – such as the model of casket not being available anymore, so you’ll definitely need to review the choices available.
As FuneralWise notes, it’s important to know that you “will be asked a lot of information and to discuss difficult topics – all at a time when you are grieving and emotional.” If you can have some answers prepared ahead of time, it will lessen your stress. There may be some things you want to bring with you.
The Everdays Funeral Planning Guide offers a full checklist for the arrangement conference. They include:
- Decedent’s biographic information, photo, date of birth and date of passing
- Your Everdays Page link/details if you’ve set it up already
- Pre-planning arrangements that have been made previously by the decedent
- Ideas on the type of events/funeral service you hope to have
- Estimated funeral costs or a tentative budget
- Your plans for the funeral, like if you expect to have a burial or a cremation, etc.
Information on the decedent’s group affiliations – e.g. if the decedent was in the military or a specific fraternal or religious group
- The number of people you expect for the service or events
Wake, Viewing, Funeral or Memorial Service
In the funeral plans, you will be asked to decide if you’d like to hold any services and which ones. Since there are a number of them, you may wonder what the differences are. Here’s a quick guide.
- Wake – Traditionally, a wake is a gathering held at the home of the deceased. The body would be present as well. It would either be held sometime before the funeral or in place of a funeral. Today, wakes are generally held in funeral homes or wherever the funeral will be held. They may be held in addition to or instead of a visitation or viewing.
- Viewing – A viewing is like a wake in that the body of the deceased is also present. Seeing the person’s body in an open casket is part of the grieving process for many people. Most often the body has been embalmed and prepared before the viewing. Many people combine the viewing with the visitation or other service.
- Funeral service – A funeral is a formal service recognizing the life of the deceased – with the body of the deceased present. It may be led by the minister of a church (often the one the deceased attended) or a celebrant (someone who is not affiliated with a church).
- Memorial service – A memorial is a formal service recognizing the life of the deceased – where the body of the deceased is not present.
Note: Some people are very specific in their funeral plans and request that there be no services at all. There are also families that choose to have private services. If your loved one discussed what he or she preferred, make note of that and talk it over during the funeral arrangement conference.
What to Wear to a Funeral
An often-asked question is “What are the proper colors to wear to a funeral?”
The answer is no longer just black. Over time, funeral etiquette has evolved. The commonplace tradition of wearing your best black suit or dress is no longer a necessity, but you also can’t go wrong wearing it.
Funerals on the whole have allowed for more casual wear in recent years. Each should be considered on an individual basis. When you are planning a funeral, you may decide to request that guests wear the deceased’s favorite color or another special request.
To get more tips and information, read What To Wear To A Funeral: Expert Tips for Men and Women.
Financial and Legal Responsibilities
First, find out if there is a will and who is executor.
You’ll need to obtain the decedent’s death certificates, this typically is received 10 or so days after the passing. Multiple copies will be needed for banks, government agencies, and insurers.
If necessary, the estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate.
More like This: How To Avoid Family Conflict When There’s No Estate Plan
Funeral Thank You Card
When a loved one dies, people in your own personal community often reach out to offer condolences or to help out. Some may bring food dishes, offer to watch the children or a shoulder to cry on. So, you will want to thank them all for their help and support.
Send thank-yous, for the funeral flowers received, and respond to all condolences and letters of support. The most important thing at the moment is to allow yourself time to heal and reflect on what matters most. Once you when you are ready, write your thank-yous.
A few things to keep in mind as you write your thank you cards:
- Who you are writing to — either close friends, family, or acquaintances
- How will you be sending the cards, either handwritten or sending a thank you in the Everdays app
- Other thank yous to consider writing — the funeral director, your pastor, friends or family that attended from out of town
Funeral Card Example
We truly appreciated you attending at my father in law Harvey’s funeral. Thank you for playing music after the ceremony for all the guests and helping to set off the balloons. Your presence gave me strength and was a great source of support for our family.
To explore more on this subject and see more examples of what to write visit our blog What To Write In A Funeral Thank You Card.
Though death is a fact of life for everyone, how it affects us and how we deal with it is uniquely personal. And while it may seem overwhelming to have to plan a funeral, many people find that having an important task to do helps them in the early days after a loss.
People tend to say to those who’ve lost a loved one that they wish there was something they could do to help out the family or make them feel more supported. Those who step up to help with funeral plans are able to do that – for themselves and the rest of the family. It becomes part of the grieving process for them.
The most important thing to know about planning a funeral is that you are not alone.
There are people that will help you every step of the way. The funeral director and staff, family and friends will be there to support you when you feel you’re like your falling. As for the loved one you are making the arrangements for, that person would be pleased with everything you’re doing, even if things don’t turn out as perfectly as you wished they could have. At this time, you are celebrating the life of someone important to you and others. And that’s what matters most.
Click here to download the Everdays Funeral Planning Guide. Use the funeral planning worksheet and funeral planning checklist to keep track of what you’ve done and what needs to be done.
Also, be sure to download the free Everdays app, available on both iOS and Android, to help you reach everyone who needs to know and stay updated.
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