Resources, Advice & Tips for Covid-19
Read More

Expert Guide to Pre-Planning Funerals

Gabrielle Applebury
A senior couple talking with a funeral director

Pre-planning your own funeral gives you complete control over how you'd like your passing handled. Doing so can help remove some planning stress that your loved ones may face and allows them to focus more on honoring your memory.

What Is a Pre-Planned Funeral?

Pre-planning your funeral means that, to the best of your ability, you have written down in a letter or will exactly what you want in terms of your end-of-life plans. Keep in mind that a pre-planned funeral is not necessarily a pre-paid funeral. Gail Ruben, the author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don't Plan to Die, notes that, "Funeral pre-planning involves organization and communication among family members before a serious illness or disability sets in or death occurs." She also notes that the best time to pre-plan your funeral is, "Today" because "We never know when our number will be up."

Using a Pre Planned Funeral Checklist

If you decide to go forward with a pre-planned funeral, it can be really helpful to use a checklist to help you organize your arrangements. If you have any difficulty downloading the printable, follow tips on the Adobe help page.

Funeral planning checklist

Choose What Services and Events You'd Like

One of the first big decisions to make is choosing what you'd like your end-of-life service to look like. Ruben notes that, "There's a mind-boggling range of choices to make... and it's most important to shop around before someone is sick or dying to find the prices and personalities that work best for you." She continues, "When you pre-plan, you avoid making decisions under the duress of grief." Think about if you'd like to have:

  • A burial after a funeral service
  • A memorial service after being cremated
  • Funeral service or memorial at your home
  • Service at crematorium or graveside
  • Viewing before the funeral and/or a wake
  • Reception after the service
  • Any religious customs or traditions related to burial, services, cremation, or the post funeral reception
  • Specific floral arrangements

Burial, Cremation, Bio Urns, or Donation

Another big decision to make is choosing how you'd like your body handled after passing away. Whether you opt to be buried, cremated and placed in a bio urn, traditionally cremated, or have your body donated is completely up to you. Once you've made this decision, you can move forward with selecting an urn, headstone, casket, or organization for donation. Then you can move on to finding a funeral director who you feel comfortable with who can help you or a loved one further organize all the details.

Funeral home with coffin display

Find a Funeral Director

Funeral directors help organize everything having to do with the funeral or memorial service. This can include assisting with burial site locations, helping organize the service, helping with transportation, and assisting with cremation services amongst many other services. When it comes to finding a funeral director, be sure to shop around. This is the person who will be working directly with your family after you've passed away, so it's important that you like and trust them to handle everything appropriately. Note that you can pick a funeral director, but you do not have to pre-pay for any services or packages if you don't want to. It may also be a good idea to pick a back up funeral director in case your first choice doesn't work out for any reason after you've passed away.

Decide Who You'd Like Invite

If possible, make a guest list of those most important to you who you'd like to be at your funeral. If you are able to, note their contact information as well, so it's easier for your family members to reach out to them after you've passed away. You can also include groups and religious organizations that you'd like to have notified of your passing and invited to the funeral or memorial.

Decide Who You'd Like to Participate

Whether you're having a service, memorial, or another event, it's important to note specifically who you'd like to participate. Doing so will make the planning process easier for your loved ones. Be sure to note who you'd like to:

  • Act as pallbearers if applicable
  • Give eulogies
  • Recite poems, speeches, and readings
  • Play or sing songs

If you have specific readings, poems, or songs in mind, it's a good idea to also write down the title and artist or author so they are easier to find.

What Is the Cost of a Pre-Planned Funeral?

Pre planned funerals can range in price depending on what you'd like to arrange. On average, funerals typically cost about $10,000. Keep in mind that prices will fluctuate depending on what you'd like organized, which type of urn or casket you choose, and if you get a headstone. In terms of putting aside resources to pay for your funeral, it is up to you to decide which option works best for your needs. In general, it is advised to not pre-pay a funeral home directly because of the uncertainty of their practices unless you know the funeral director personally (as in trusted family member or friend). Aside from saving the appropriate funds in your bank account, you can look into:

Pre-Paid Funeral Plan Funeral Insurance Pre-Paid Funeral Trust
Used at one funeral home Money goes to beneficiary Money builds interest
Money paid in installments or upfront Can be used where beneficiary sees fit Immediate access for your named beneficiary
Funeral home may go out of business and not offer a refund Offers flexibility with money use May have a cap on funds depending on your location
Funeral home may require higher payments if anything changed in price May include additional policy benefits Funds may be accessed before estate settlement

Reasons to Pre-Arrange Your Funeral

Many people pre-arrange their funerals so all of their wishes are known and can be met upon their passing. Having control over your funeral and whatever else you feel is important can help you feel a bit more comfortable with your own passing and knowing that your memory will be honored. Pre arranging your funeral also allows your grieving family time to focus on processing their loss, instead of dealing with funeral details.

Woman shaking hands in funeral parlor

How to Discuss a Pre-Planned Funeral with Your Family

Whether you write a letter or note something in your will, it's important to also discuss your wishes with your family to ensure that they don't have any questions. Be sure to ask them when it's a good time to speak about this, as discussing your passing isn't a topic that you want to jump into without giving them time to prepare. Ruben notes important topics to discuss also include:

  • "Social Security number, place of birth, date of birth, mother's maiden name, and veterans information... [as] these items are required for a death certificate."
  • "Make a written file of your online passwords."
  • "Let your family know where important documents are kept and, if you have a safe deposit box, where the key is located." She also states that, "Documents include advanced healthcare directives, your will, insurance policies, deeds, etc."

Deciding to Pre Plan Your Funeral

Pre planning your funeral can decrease your stress and the stress of your loved ones when it comes to your end-of-life wishes. Decide on as much as you're comfortable with and be sure to write down what you'd like in an easy-to-read format.

Expert Guide to Pre-Planning Funerals