Steps of Planning a Funeral

So you’ve never planned a funeral before? You might be daunted by the choices, intimidated by the funeral industries unsure of the “right” thing to do. Like many, you might not know where to begin or what questions to ask. Ten years ago the funeral business looked very different and conventional. Honoring our dead doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Your taste, beliefs, and budget should dictate the type of funeral you arrange. The following steps will help you plan a funeral for yourself or a loved one. Perhaps your loved one is nearing death or has died and you must find a funeral home quickly. Or you have decided to pick a funeral home for yourself long before it’s needed, to spare your family the ordeal of making this decision while grieving and pressed for time.

Planning is a family matter
Funeral planning starts at home, just as most families discuss major life events. Death will come to each of us, no matter how long we put off discussing it. Avoiding the topic won’t stave off death, but it will make the funeral more difficult, and likely more expensive, for survivors. Families who make funeral plans, say they found great meaning and peace carrying out thoughtful funeral plans that honored their family members in an appropriate and affordable way.

No amount of money, great or small, can express how we feel about those who have died. Taking an active role in your family’s funeral arrangements­ is more meaningful than the money we spend. There are some physical legal papers you will need to fill out. If you do not use a funeral home you (or your representative) will have to be sure to to acquire them*  

What are my options
Most people are confused about what they can and can’t do. If a traditional funeral brings you comfort and you can afford it, then by all means arrange one. But every family should know it has the right to care for its dead in any way the family sees fit within the law. While the funeral industry usually pushes what it calls a “traditional funeral” (embalming, fancy casket, open-casket wake, funeral ceremony, procession, and graveside service), this type of funeral is a commercial invention rarely practiced outside the United States and Canada. Reminder: If you don't set a limit on how much you can comfortably spend, the funeral home won't either.

Decide on a budget
You/your family will need to discuss an amount that’s affordable if it hasn’t been decided yet. Don’t make the mistake of buying a funeral the way many people do…accepting the funeral home’s price then scrambling to find the money. This is now when some questions will arise: preference about the type of final arrangement, written instructions (if available), contract for a pre-pay at specific funeral home or/and documents that would help in the decision-making process before you go to funeral home.

Learn about your Funeral Rights

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule affirms your right to:

  • Get price information over the telephone
  • Receive a written, itemized price list when you visit.
  • Buy only the goods and services you want.
  • Choose not to have embalming.
  • Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation.
  • Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn bought elsewhere without incurring additional fees.
  • Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, but not before you pay.
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