Funeral Planning Checklist: Guide to Planning a Funeral in 2021

Funeral Planning Checklist

Funeral planning isn’t one of those topics that are talked about on the breakfast or the dinner table, but the very belief that we shouldn’t talk about death on the breakfast table is the reason why we need to hold these discussions.

Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of discussing matters of death unless they are in the business, which means that most people only speak about death when it strikes the family – which is understandable. But don’t you think that educating yourself on some aspects of funerals rather than shielding yourself away from the inevitable is a wise, even practical approach?

While we don’t wish death on the people we love, we still lose them. In the unfortunate event that it happens to you, you want to make sure that your family doesn’t suffer any more agony by going through unnecessary steps during funeral planning. So, as you condole with your loved ones, we’d like to lighten the burden for you by sharing this insightful guide on funeral planning. Funeral planning is quite intimidating, but planning in advance can help put your family at ease. Having a funeral plan checklist with everything needed is the important first step to a seamless funeral plan.

Think about it this way, wouldn’t things be lighter on your family if you planned for your funeral in advance?

So, let’s get started!

Common Steps To Planning A Funeral

Common Steps To Planning A Funeral
Common Steps To Planning A Funeral

So, how do you plan a funeral (and even pay for your own funeral)? Even before we look at all the things to keep in mind during funeral planning, how about a look at the reasons why you need to plan your funeral.

Naturally, your passing means that your family and loved ones are forced to deal with a lot, including planning and also paying for the funerals, all while dealing with the emotional and psychological pain of losing a loved one. The lives of your loved ones are forever changed, and they come to a screeching halt; and most of the time, people don’t know what to do so, they just do what they can or what they think they are supposed to do.

Now, if you have a will and insurance policies, the process is lighter on them.

So, how do you plan for a funeral?

Planning a Funeral Service Checklist

Planning a Funeral Service Checklist
Planning a Funeral Service Checklist

First, document your plans.

Want your loved ones and survivors to follow through with your funeral and other after-life wishes? Document these wishes on paper. And no matter how you choose to lay down your wishes, ensure that they are accessible to your family – mention it to someone close so that they aren’t worried about your demise.

Creating the Plan

Since a funeral is one of the most significant parts of your life, there are important factors that you have to keep in mind. To plan your funeral, here are the crucial considerations to keep in mind – budget, transportation, service, expenses, types of burial, etc.?

Determine what you’d like done to your body – Burial, Cremation, or Donation?

In the past, the standard thing to do after someone dies is that they got buried, but this isn’t the case anymore. And with the high cost of traditional funerals up to 70% more than the cost of cremation, it would make sense for you to opt for cremation. But is that what you want done to your body? Would you like to be cremated and your ashes sprinkled by a river, or are you one to prefer a more formal, ceremonial, and comprehensive burial plan? Whatever your preferred choice is, make sure that you have written it down clearly, along with the directions to be followed. You may be one to prefer a natural or green burial, and this is something that your loved ones must be aware of – and all the details laid down easily.

Essentially, your options are as follows:

  • Burial in a vault – this is the traditional option for in-ground burial, where a vault about 6-ft deep is the go-to option.
  • Use of lawn crypts – this involves the use of a pre-made crypt or tomb made of concrete or steel that is kept in-ground in a mausoleum – keeping your remains in that enclosed shell which preserves the casket and the body for a long time.
  • Above-Ground Lawn Crypt – the body is kept in a ground crypt with access to adequate water drainage for the preservation of the enclosed caskets.
  • Above-Ground Private Mausoleum – this involves having a private mausoleum that often houses the remains of long lines of families, allowing for exclusivity and privacy.  This is the most expensive way to go, though.
  • Community Mausoleum –there are community mausoleums in some cemeteries, but these cost a little less than the private mausoleum.
  • Green burials – this is an eco-friendly burial option that involves the use of non-toxic chemicals, both for body disposition and embalming.
  • Natural Burial – in natural burial, your remains would be buried in the ground directly without using a casket or use of a casket made of 100% biodegradable materials. This allows for the body to decompose in the most, fastest, natural processes with no hindrance on the decomposition process. Natural burial involves no embalming and no use of machines to dig the grave.
  • Spreading Ashes – this is the other option for you to choose from
  • Building your memorial reef – you could have this as an option for your funeral too. It involves the infusion of your cremated ashes with concrete and shaping the mixture into a structure, then placing the mix at the bottom of the ocean. This is rather comprehensive and expensive, and you’d have to make all the necessary arrangements way in advance.
  • Viewing

This is the other thing you’d want to take into consideration when planning your funeral. Since this is a personal choice, you’d have to specify it in writing as well.

Come up with a funeral arrangements checklist

Come up with a funeral arrangements checklist
Come up with a funeral arrangements checklist

This checklist covers the important things like memorial service, the type of casket preferred, choice of flowers, music, names of attendees (optional), headstone preferences, obituary preference, pallbearer preferences, clothing and accessories, persons to handle different arrangements, reception arrangements, and even military preferences for veterans.

The other things on your list may include:

  • Obtaining the legal pronouncement of death from the attending doctor, by calling 911 or from a hospice nurse
  • Arranging for the transportation of the body to a funeral home or to the coroner where an autopsy is called for
  • Arrangement for embalming and the preparation of the body, as desired
  • Compiling information for the deceased’s obituary
  • Selecting a funeral home (if the deceased hadn’t)
  • Deciding on the disposition type – check options above
  • Selection of the cremation urn or casket
  • Selecting inscriptions and grave markers
  • Identification of the location for the internment and the service, as well as the type of the service
  • Choosing the preferred florist and desired type of flower arrangements
  • Choosing the display photos and other displays and memorability to be used at the service/ purchasing these and memorial cards, as well as memorial folders and programs
  • Writing or selecting the person to write the obituary, submission to the newspapers,
  • Pick music/ song
  • Selecting clothes to be worn by the deceased
  • Coordinating transportation for a casket,
  • Choosing a coordinator for the service, who performs the eulogy, reads passages, pallbearers.
  • Obtain copies of the death certificate
  • Identify burial benefits the deceased may be eligible for
  • Obtaining the burial permit/ permit for disposition
  • Set time, the date for service, and also arrange for beverages /food to be served after the service

Locating Funeral Instructions

For loved ones who have pre-arranged their funeral plans, it is crucial that the loved ones locate the documents that contain the information, then contact the funeral home they may have worked with. With this in mind, you might want to start thinking of creating and completing your letter of last instructions as part of your elder-care/ planning.

Essentially, a letter of instruction is a document designed to simplify the communication of all the instructions as well as the desires of the deceased at the time of their death. This document saves families from the agonizing decisions around funerals, and it may also save on the cost of the funeral and the burial services.

Understanding Funeral Costs And Pricing

This is the biggest and the most taxing bit about funeral planning, but you also have to be careful to ensure that you get all the right details about funeral costs and the pricing of different things.

Essentially, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) mandates funeral homes to provide their consumers with accurate itemized statements of all the costs of the goods/ services they offer. This statement is known as the General Price List (GPL), and it helps in simplifying funeral costs. The FTC also has in place laws that allow customers to choose and purchase the items they want rather than having to take up packaged deals. Essentially, the funeral costs fall into these categories:

 Basic Service Fee – this is the fee that covers common costs in funerals, for example, the cost of using the funeral home, services of the funeral director/ home attendants, coordination costs around burial arrangements with the cemetery, and/or 3rd parties, as well as securing permits as well as death certificates.

Optional Service Charges – This often covers optional services like embalming, body’s transportation, use of the funeral home for wakes/ viewing, hearse or limousine use, internment and cremation, or use of burial containers.

Cash disbursements – this is the cost of the services and the goods that the funeral home has to buy from other vendors on behalf of your family. It often includes the cost of clergy services, pallbearers, obituary notices, flowers, caterers, musicians, and other service providers.

Essentially, the cost of funerals comes with a rather large price tag, and in most cases, typical funeral costs reach about $8,000 for most families, but the cost could be higher or lower, depending on the type of burial/ funeral.

Burial insurance and final expense insurance policies are helpful in keeping the costs low, reducing the financial burden on your loved ones. With the benefits of this option to plan and pay for your own funeral, you might want to take it up. 

Things To Think About For The Funeral Service And Memorial Celebration

Things To Think About
Things To Think About

As you make plans, here are some of the things you’d have to think about:

  • What type of service would you like, and would there be other funeral events?
  • Who will be invited?
  • When and where should the event take place?
  • Who will conduct the event?
  • Who will speak at the service?
  • Are there group activities that would be appropriate?
  • Any foods or beverages to be served?
  • Which readings and music should be included?
  • Which details of the deceased would you love to share with the attendees?
  • What kinds of decorations and memorabilia would you like to have?

Other considerations include types of flowers, music to be played, having funeral programs ready, choosing the prayers, readings, and poems to be read at the ceremony.

Things To Think About For A Post-funeral Reception

A post-funeral reception is often a good opportunity for people to spend time with the family of the deceased. If this sounds like something you’d like to plan for, there are things you must have in mind beforehand.

  • Where the post-funeral reception will be held
  • How food and beverages will be provided – caterers or potluck-style
  • Any religious considerations to be aware of?
  • Special touches for the repast – music, foods, drinks, photos, speeches, etc.

When it comes to the post-funeral reception or the repast, the important things to keep in mind include choosing the right food and music, as well as the location – it can be done in a park, a restaurant, or anywhere else you may like.

Other Things To Do Before The Funeral

  • Gather all the other important documents – this might be a bit challenging, but it is the most important thing to do before the funeral.  Some of the documents to look for include the will if it exists, military discharge papers, automobile title, insurance policies, citizenship papers where appropriate, property deeds, marriage license, disability claim if there, last 2-years’ income tax returns, financial and bank statements, other documents for tax purposes, retirement, brokerage, and pension accounts. Other documents include debt records, business agreements, marriage arrangements, mortgages, and bills.
  • Legal Document of the Death – this is the official death certificate obtained from the hospital, hospice, or from the emergency response for deaths at home. Make as many copies a possible.
  • Find out if the deceased were an organ donor or not
  • Contact attorney to access the deceased’s will
  • The other things to add to this list include:
  • Arranging for the care of infants and other minor children
  • Keeping a current list of flower tributes, callers, and donations
  • Creating a guest book for the attendees
  • Preparing your home for family and friends
  • Providing lodging services for your out-of-town attendees, friends, and loved ones.

Understand Your Options For Paying For A Funeral

To cover most of these costs, an increasingly high number of individuals are now signing up for burial and final expense insurance policies.

Burial insurance is an important part of funeral planning. It can be defined as a special type of final expense life insurance policy that helps in covering funeral costs of the deceased. It helps to offset financial hardships on families and loved ones, and though the death benefits aren’t high – between $5,000 and $25,000, they still help cover the high funeral costs.

Final Expense Insurance is the second type of end-of-life policy. It helps to cover medical bills, along with the funeral and burial costs.

Things To Do After The Funeral

  1. Determine who the deceased named as the executor of the estate
  2. Contact their employer to determine and understand how to go about their company benefits
  3. Forward their mail and save the important bills
  4. Cancel their subscriptions
  5. Get about 10-25 copies of the death certificate
  6. Contact their employer to determine and understand how to go about their company benefits.
  7. Contact the banks, financial advisors, and mortgage companies about handling the accounts of the deceased. If they held a safety deposit box, for example, you might have to get a court order to open it if there is no key.
  8. Contact the insurance companies and fill out claim forms. For insurance policies like homeowners and car insurance, you only need to stop the coverage.
  9. For credit card accounts, you have to close these accounts and also notify the credit reporting agencies of the demise. Doing this might sound like the most arduous task, but it will help in reducing cases of identity theft. So, be sure to report to the three main credit reporting agencies.
  10. Cancel their driver’s license by notifying the state and asking for the cancellation of the license.
  11. Contact the social media sites they were active on to close their accounts or have the accounts memorialized. Do this for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  12. Contact the Social Security offices and apply for the survivor benefits; if you qualify for the survivor benefits – you have to contact them to know if your qualify for the benefits.
  13. Contact medicare for benefits and services – these are also handled by the Social Security Guys.
  14. Forward their mail and save the important bills
  15. Cancel their subscriptions


Losing a loved one is tough and planning a funeral is as confusing as it is expensive. But it doesn’t have to be, thanks to this checklist. Also, getting the right insurance will go a long way in ensuring that your loved ones are prepared and shielded from the financial hardships that would follow.