Funeral Guide

Organizing funeral arrangements are difficult enough, and exceptionally difficult while grieving for a loved one. The checklist can help guide you through some of the more difficult steps of the arrangements.

Funeral Pre-Planning

Soon after death:

  • Call 911 to report the death if outside of a hospital or nursing home.
  • Call doctor or hospice nurse.
  • Call the county coroner; this is useful for insurance purposes.
  • Call relatives.
  • Call close friends.
  • Call the executor for the estate, or the person responsible for billing expenses.
  • Call the funeral home director to start the process for the arrangements or start work on the pre-plan.
  • Collect the information that you will need for the death certificate at the funeral home. This includes parents full names including occupation, place of work, address of work, occupation, social security numbers, Veterans discharge or claim number, marital status, birthplace and date of birth of the deceased.
  • If available, call close religious figure – clergy (priest, minister).
  • Call insurance company; make sure you have the policy number.
  • Call employer
  • Call landlord
  • Utility companies and banks to close accounts – credit cards
  • Post office
  • Social Security office (you will need the deceased SSN for many transactions) highly recommends carefully checking all death benefits from insurance companies, fraternal societies, unions and military organizations.

Once you begin discussions with the funeral director, there will be many options that you will need to consider, most of them for a full traditional service:

  • First, consider three options:
    • direct burial
    • direct cremation
    • traditional or full service
  • Embalming the body – This preserves the body temporarily, although is often omitted when performing a direct cremation, or even a direct burial.
  • Clothing – What would the deceased wish to wear for this occasion?
  • Jewelry – For traditional services only, consider what prized jewelry or possessions the deceased had, and consider including them.

Gravesite and Burial

  • For burial, there are many different options:
    • Cemetery plot – If pre-purchased, you should request the funeral director to contact the cemetery.
    • Vault
    • Mausoleum
  • Casket – You will need to pick a casket for transporting the deceased.
    • Pressboard (for cremation)
    • Cardboard (for cremation)
    • Urn
    • Wood
    • Metal
  • Open or Closed Casket – If your service is religious, you will want to consult with your minister, priest, or other clergy before deciding on this point – there are some denominations and circumstances that require a closed casket.
  • Grave marker – Are you purchasing a new stone marker or engraving one that is already present? Is the deceased a veteran, or a member of a special organization that should be affixed to the marker? What is the text of the inscription?

Service Details

  • Obituary – There are many guides both online and in print to writing a good obituary. In general you will want to include the core information such as where the person lived, and for how long, and then details on the personality and the capture the passions of the individual as well. One item that is frequently useful to reconnect with long term friends of the deceased is to mention the surviving members of the family. recommends print over online obituaries, in local newspapers. Remember that if a public service is desired, your service details should be in the obituary.
  • Funeral service date and time – Services are often held before burial and after, and with a range of hours for viewing.
  • Funeral location – Services are frequently held at the funeral home, religious institutions, graveside, or in the family home.
  • Eulogies and readings– These are short speeches that are delivered by one or many people in which friends and family remember the deceased. Contents of a good eulogy include talking about family, love, beliefs, and accomplishments. For religious ceremonies, readings often take place interleaved with eulogies.
  • Flowers – There are a wide variety of standard flower pieces specific to a funeral. We recommend asking your local florist for suggestions on flower arrangements, and avoiding internet sales, which may be over priced, and difficult to customize for a service. Decide on the type of flower arrangements to be provided by the family. Relatives and other well wishers may also need to be advised as to your desired floral selections.
  • Organist – Funeral directors and clergy will have a list of qualified organists.
  • Pictures and photo albums – In many services pictures and photo albums of the deceased will be placed on a table for family and friends. We recommend asking relatives and close family to bring their favorite pictures of the deceased and adding these to the photo album.
  • Memorial Cards – These may be printed from numerous sources. We recommend asking your funeral director, and then pricing other options to compare.
  • Pall bearers – For full traditional funerals, pall bearers are sometimes desired. This will require four to six strong men, usually friends and relatives, but not the next of kin. The funeral director can arrange for this service.
  • Music – What types of music should be played at the deceased’s service?
  • Special travel needs – Do any family have special transportation needs? Are any of them out of town and need lodging?
  • Remembrance event, wakes – Outside of the service, will there be a remembrance event?