Funeral for a friend: Planning the funeral of a loved one

Even after the death of a loved one, caregivers have one final duty to fulfill and that is to provide a proper send-off. Now, not everybody can afford a Kiss casket and few can hold a space burial, so funeral planning and pre-planning will allow you to say ‘this is what he/she would have wanted;’ or, even better, “this is exactly what he/she wanted.”

Planning for a funeral

Setting aside the money

A Totten Trust – or ‘payable on death’ account – is a trust fund that allows you to save money for funeral expenses; money which will pass to a beneficiary upon the death of the ‘settlor’ or grantor of the trust without passing through estate probate.

Pre-planning with a funeral home*

·         Avoid the stress of making arrangements during the earliest part of bereavement.

·         Compare funeral homes for best prices.

·         Choose the services you want and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Buying your own casket

One of those unnecessary costs mentioned above could be paying more for a funeral home-provided casket when you could buy a more affordable one from funeral supply retailers. You should go with the latter, if possible – the FTC protects your right to bring a casket to the funeral home free of handling costs, but some states ban the sale of caskets by anyone other than morticians.

Memorial service

Consider a more informal memorial service in lieu of a conventional funeral. You can plan it yourself without a funeral home director, and hold it anywhere you choose.



General preparations

·         Assemble personal information for obituary.

·         Pick a charity to direct donations to.

·         Decide whether jewelry will remain or be returned.

·         Select a funeral home.

Funeral home services

·         Burial or cremation.**

·         Casket or cremation container.

·         Burial vault or cremation urn.

·         Location and type of service.

·         Family viewing or visitation.

·         Floral arrangement.

·         Photograph to be displayed.

·         Which religious or fraternal items are to be displayed.

·         What the deceased will wear.

·         Music, hymns, and solos.

·         Scripture or literature to be read.

·         Memorial register.

·         Memorial folders and acknowledgement cards.


·         Funeral coach.

·         Clergy car.

·         Family limousine.

·         Pallbearer limousine.

·         Flower car.


·         Clergy or officiator.

·         Organist or other musical participants.

·         Pallbearers.

·         Relative or friend to perform the eulogy.

·         Relative or friend to read scripture or literature.

Cemetery selections

·         Choose cemetery.

·         Select burial*** or cremation plot.


Final arrangements

·         Cannot be arranged beforehand.

·         Ambulance transfer from place of death.

·         Applying for death certificates.

·         Applying for a burial permit.

·         Setting a time and date for the service.

·         Requesting preparation and embalming.

·         Composing and submitting obituary.

·         Arranging location and food for the reception.






  • Religious tradition.
  • Family tradition.
  • Offers a place to return.
  • Caring for the grave may soothe the survivors.
  • Provides a place for a permanent memorial.


  • Usually costs less.
  • More flexibility for service options.
  • Saves land.
  • Remains can be scattered or buried later.
  • Saves money on the casket; you can pick a cheap one for the body in the crematorium.


  • More costly because of land fees.


  • Can leave survivors with fewer ways to mourn.


***Burial plot

Standard fees

·         The actual plot.

·         Opening and closing the grave.

·         Outer burial container****.

·         Marker or headstone.

·         Copy of burial permit.

Additional considerations

·         Inquire as to whether there is any relationship between the cemetery and the funeral home, which may open up the possibility of a fixed or discounted transportation fee between the two.

·         Inquire about projected room for growth in a cemetery.

·         Early purchase of the plot will make it more affordable and assure your loved one can be buried near a spouse, relative, or friend.

·         Your loved one can buy a plot through the cemetery, cemetery property re-sales brokers, or ads in the newspaper.


****Outer burial containers



·         Surround the casket entirely

·         Some seal.

·         May not surround the casket entirely.

·         Less expensive.


Last orders

As a caregiver, you may suggest your ill/aging loved one to write a letter of last instructions to help you and other relatives prepare obituaries, complete death certificates, and fill applications for insurance claims and government benefits. It should include the following:

·         Funeral, memorial service, and preferred disposition of the body instructions.

·         Specific instructions for clergy and funeral directors.

·         Location of his/her will.

·         Friends and relatives who should be informed of the death.

·         Location of important personal documents (birth or baptismal certificate, Social Security card, marriage or divorce papers, naturalization and citizenship papers, discharge papers from the army).

·         Location of membership certificates to any lodges or fraternal organizations that provide death or cemetery benefits.

·         Information about outstanding debts.

·         Location of safe deposit boxes and keys.

·         List and location of insurance policies, including the name of the insured, policy number, amount, company, and beneficiary for each life, health, accident, and burial insurance policy.

·         List of pension systems that may provide death benefits, such as Social Security, Veterans Affairs, railroad retirement.

·         List and location of all bank accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, and other major property (personal and business).

·         The names of various advisors, their addresses, and telephone numbers (lawyer, executor of the estate, life insurance agent, accountant, investment counselor).

·         Instructions regarding business operations, if any.

·         An explanation of actions taken in his/her will, for instance disinheritances.

·         Personal information:

-        Full name.

-        Address and length of residence there.

-        Social Security number.

-        Date and place of birth.

-        Father’s name and mother’s maiden name.

-        Marital status.

-        Names and addresses of children, spouse, and other members of immediate family.

-        Schools or colleges attended and degrees and honors received.

-        Name of employer and position held.

The absence of such a document may lead the survivors to decide not to have a funeral at all. But funerals are important for several reasons, including:

·         Reinforcing the reality of the loved one’s decease.

·         Allowing relatives and friends to acknowledge and express loss.

·         Allowing survivors’ interaction in new roles.

·         Creating a common experience based on which the survivors can support each other.

Related: End-of-Life: Do you devise your own demise?