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how to plan a funeral service and burial for yourself or someone you love

How to Plan a Funeral Service and Burial for Yourself or Someone You Love

If you are planning a funeral for someone recently deceased, we want to extend our condolences. Some people also want to make funeral plans for themselves or a loved one well in advance. It will give them peace of mind to plan the funeral ahead of time so that the family does not have to make arrangements in a time of grief.

Funeral Casket & Spray of White Roses
The purpose of a funeral ceremony is to honor the deceased and to celebrate a life well-lived. The funeral also provides closure for loved ones, and gathers the living together to start the healing process. A funeral service allows friends and community to pay their respects. The desire is to plan a funeral that will do justice to the deceased person and his life.

If not now, then someday, you are going to be personally responsible for making funeral or cremation plans for a loved one or close friend. It's the hardest thing you and your family will have to face, the final rest of a loved one. You can make those moments easier in a most difficult time, by anticipating what will be required. Many families plan the funeral and prepare in advance to ease the burden when the time comes, Take a few minutes now to anticipate your needs. You can arrange a funeral in advance, and relieve your loved ones of that onerous responsibility. The cost of a funeral has increased over the years, too. Plan how your loved ones will pay for the expenses of a funeral service, burial and all it entails.

Here you'll find a planning list that includes the decisions you'll make, cemetery burial site, the funeral service, the funeral home, and how to pay for a funeral.

6 Important Decisions When You Plan a Funeral

  1. The Burial The most important item in your funeral plans is the choice between burial or cremation. This is an extremely personal preference. Take into consideration any religious strictures about cremation.

  2. The Funeral Service You may also have religious preferences for the funeral service. Talk your plans over with your loved ones. Choose the location where the funeral service will take place. This is most often a church or temple, but the service could also be at the funeral home or at the graveside. If for some reason the remains of the deceased will not be present, you can still hold a memorial service.

  3. Cemetery Site By planning a funeral in advance, you know your wishes will be respected. Burials can only take place in licensed cemeteries, not in your backyard or in a park. You can select the cemetery, the grave site, the marker and inscription. If you desire a more substantial memorial or even a mausoleum, you have time to consider your wishes and make the arrangements. You may want to purchase a large family cemetery plot to provide a resting place for others you love. Your plans may include adjacent grave sites for family members.It is important to note that religious cemeteries may require that the deceased by baptized or be a practicing member of the faith.

  4. Planning a Military Funeral Are you planning a funeral for a veteran honorably discharged from the military? You may want to plan a military funeral service with a color guard at the cemetery, flag-folding and the playing of "Taps." A twenty-one gun salute and burial in a national cemetery are also possible. The haunting beauty of a military funeral honors the deceased and comforts the bereaved. Your funeral director can arrange a military funeral if you provide the discharge papers of the veteran. Required are the dates of service, branch of service, rank, place of service and service number.

  5. Plan the Funeral Home When you plan a funeral in advance of the need, you have time to shop and compare funeral homes based on the services provided and their cost. All funeral homes must be licensed. The price of a funeral will depend on many factors: the funeral parlor decor, the length of the visitation period, the choice of casket, the hearse, a police escort, the cost of a cemetery burial plot, services and embalming. If there is to be an open casket, cosmetic services may be required. Naturally cremation of the remains is less expensive than burial.

    You can rely on the funeral home to remove the body of the deceased, to provide cosmetic and embalming services, to transport the coffin and flowers to the funeral, to convey the coffin to the burial site, and to take care of other necessary details. The funeral director can also help you select the location of a burial site or disposition of ashes. Although the funeral home will offer for sale a choice of caskets, vaults, urns, headstones and flowers, you are not required to purchase anything from them. The funeral home will also help coordinate your plans and take care of other details as requested.

    You may not need the services of a funeral home if there will be a body donation or a direct cremation. The Driver's License often includes the election to be a medical donor in the event of death.

  6. Prepaid Funeral Plans Are you aware that prepaid funeral plans exist? A prepaid funeral plan can be arranged for either burial or cremation. Wouldn't it be a good idea to make the arrangements now, so that your wishes will be carried out to the letter?

    One of the advantages of a prepaid funeral plan is that the contract is considered an exempt asset when you apply for Medicaid. The money you set aside in a prepaid funeral plan is protected from claims for nursing home expenses, if you require them.

Planning the Details of a Funeral Service

  1. Put together a list of the people who should be notified of the event and include their names in your address book.
  2. Choose clothes for the deceased. People are often particular about the clothes they will wear when they are laid out. They may want to be buried with a prayer book, favorite jewelry or other keepsakes.
  3. Select the celebrant, someone to conduct the funeral service. This could be a member of the clergy, funeral home personnel or a personal friend.
  4. Are there special poems or scriptural passages you want to hear at the funeral? These readings can personalize the occasion for the guests.
  5. At a formal ceremony it is customary to include a eulogy. You can select the person you prefer to deliver this speech.
  6. You may want personal friends to speak at the ceremony. They will help celebrate the life of the deceased.
  7. A brief biography of the deceased is often prepared for the funeral celebration. You can assemble these materials and pictures ahead of time.
  8. Pallbearers have the honor of carrying the casket on its journey. Family and friends can perform this duty, or the staff from the funeral home can act as pallbearers.
  9. Consider what favorite music you want to include in the service. If you can call on a talented vocalist or instrumentalist for music, the ceremony will be even more meaningful.
  10. Would you like flowers and wreaths at the funeral home and at the service? As an alternative, you can request that a charitable donation be made instead of flowers. For a military funeral service, flowers in colors of red, white and blue are appropriate. The image of the Riderless Horse is often used, too.
  11. The obituary notice is published in the local newspaper. Most funeral homes also place the obituary at their online website. It will include the date, time and place of the funeral. You can compose the biographical statement in advance with date of birth, names of the surviving relatives, lifetime accomplishments, awards and noteworthy events. An obituary notice often includes a photograph of the disceased and mentions their favorite activities.
  12. Printed programs or religious prayer cards are often provided at the funeral service in memory of the deceased.
  13. Display a guest book at the viewing for guests to sign as they arrive. The funeral home may provide the guest book. The bereaved may not even remember who passed through the reception line at the funeral, but later they will browse the condolences written for them in a guest book.
  14. A reception or wake or gathering is customary after the funeral. You have the option to plan these arrangements, too, the location, guest list and refreshments.
  15. If you are preplanning a funeral in advance of the need, take other family members into your confidence. Include written and verbal instructions for future use.

Plan How to Pay for a Funeral

You can also plan to pay for the funeral expenses to relieve the worries of the family. Here are alternative payment plans:
  1. If you use a credit card, you can spread the cost over monthly payments.

  2. You can purchase a life insurance policy sufficient to cover the anticipated funeral expenses.

  3. For a prepaid funeral plan, a life insurance policy can be assigned to the funeral home to pay for the funeral expenses after the death.

  4. The Social Security Administration provides a small burial payment after the death of a retiree.

  5. If the deceased is a military veteran, there may be benefits available to relieve the financial cost. The Veterans' Benefit Act of 2010 provides that, for deaths which occur after Oct. 1, 2011, the VA will pay up to $700 toward burial and funeral expenses. A government headstone or marker will be provided free of cost for veterans of the Armed Forces who were honorably discharged. Contact the VFW, Amvets or the American Legion to find out about financial relief, burial at a national cemetery, and a grave marker.

  6. If you pre-plan the funeral in advance of need, the funeral home guarantees that they will provide the future services at today's prices, rather than future appreciated prices. To make this possible, the funeral home may purchase an annuity or an insurance policy that accumulates interest until the time of death.

  7. Some funeral homes also provide monthly payment plans for the family of the bereaved.

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