How To Plan A Funeral – When a loved one dies, the last thing you want to do is worry about paperwork and logistics. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what needs to be done. Legal and tax paperwork has to be filed, and relatives have to be notified. But perhaps the most pressing consideration is what will happen with the body. How can you plan the funeral and cremation or interment in a way that satisfies everyone? Before you can answer that question, you need to answer these questions.
Did the deceased make any plans?
Fortunately or unfortunately, most deaths are not completely unexpected. That means many people make what are called “pre-need” funeral plans. Contact the deceased’s lawyer, if applicable, and look through the deceased’s files to find any documents relating to the funeral. People can pay for a funeral fully or in part, choose a funeral home, or express preferences about the memorial service before death. Some life insurance policies also include a funeral allowance.
If not, what funeral home should you use?
Of course, not everyone has the desire or opportunity to plan his or her own funeral. If no plans or limited plans have been made, your next step is to talk to the hospital or hospice where the death occurred and find out how long it will hold the body. The answer will depend on local laws and the institution’s policies. The doctor will inform the state of the death. Then you can start looking into funeral homes.
Any reputable funeral director will be able to talk you through your options and make the next steps easier. However, an unethical director may upsell you with misinformation, give you subpar service or both. Before making a final decision, check the funeral home’s reviews and ask to see the director’s license — in every state, funeral homes are required to be run by a licensed director. Ask whether the home is part of a chain. If you can, visit the premises and note whether the facility seems clean and well-staffed.
What do you want done with the body?
If the deceased didn’t leave any final wishes, then it’s up to you to decide whether he or she would have wanted a cremation or a burial. You must also decide whether you want a viewing. If you decide on an open-casket viewing, you will probably choose to have the body embalmed and staged. This costs extra and raises environmental concerns, but it can help with the grieving process. Incidentally, don’t trust a funeral director who tries to sell you on embalming if there isn’t going to be a viewing, and especially don’t trust one who tells you it’s a legal requirement. That’s only true if the deceased died of something contagious or needs to be moved across state lines.
If embalming doesn’t appeal to you, many funeral homes now offer green burial packages, in which the deceased is buried in a shroud, without embalming and without a coffin, to minimize environmental impact. Cremation is also a low-cost and eco-friendly choice.
What about the service?
If the deceased was a member of a religious congregation, talk to his or her faith leader about planning the memorial service. Some religious sects have narrower requirements than others about how the service may go, so certain decisions may be made for you. However, if the deceased was not religious, then you have more latitude. You can host the service at the funeral home, at your own home or at another venue. A memorial service may be an opportunity to grieve or to celebrate the deceased’s life. The choices you make will depend on the circumstances of the death and the family’s feelings.
After a death, the survivors have a lot of decisions to make. Many decisions go into the proper planning of a memorial service and burial or cremation. But a well-planned funeral is an important part of the grieving process. A final gift to your loved ones may be organizing your funeral in advance so your family doesn’t have to cope with it.
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