Planning a funeral can be time consuming and involve many choices and details to take care of. Many people are caught by surprise by the number of tasks that must be completed after a loved one’s death. 

Even if you have planned a funeral before, you could still be overwhelmed by emotions and all that need to be done. 

Some decisions can be made in advance, which will take some of the burden off your loved ones. During this emotional time, it helps to not have to worry about making important decisions in the funeral planning process. 

Sometimes, with an unexpected death, you can’t plan ahead but you can follow a plan.

If planning a funeral is done last minute or in advance, the following things will be helpful to consider making sure all details are taken care of. 


Notification of Mourners

If your loved one has planned ahead, they might have a list of the people who should be notified upon death, along with their contact information. This is helpful because you don’t have to worry about forgetting anyone. 

If your loved one did not leave a list, this is something you will have to do on your own. You will need to think of relatives, friends, church members, colleagues and more who would want to know the news. 

Other than individuals, in some situations, organizations may need to be notified. Maybe the person’s employer, church or clubs would need to know.


Decide on Disposition of Remains and Memorialization

It’s always best to decide if your loved one will be buried or cremated in advance. It is a very personal decision. People have different opinions and preferences on this. Talking about it with your loved one prior to death will ensure that his or her wishes are carried out. 

A burial will require a grave, casket and a burial vault. All those things need to be considered and decisions need to be made. Another decision is the headstone. All of this can be decided on, and even paid for, in advance. 

Individuals that choose cremation may also choose embalming and a traditional viewing service. They can even choose their urn in advance.

If it was a sudden death and your loved one didn’t leave any plans, this is something that the family will have to decide. They will have to choose the disposition, memorialization and make other decisions that need to be made. 


Decide Service Locations

You should decide what type of service you wish to have to honor your loved one. You will also have to make decisions about the visitation/viewing. 

Funeral service professionals can explain the options and decisions to be made for both services. You will need to decide service locations, transportation needs and open or closed casket. 

You must even make choices about what clothing or jewelry the deceased will wear. 


Plan the Service 

For those that have planned their funeral in advance, they will leave plans and preferences for their service. This way you don’t have to second guess what your loved one would have wanted.

If your loved one did not leave plans or wishes, you will need to make decisions about what kind of service you want it to be. It can be traditional and religious, or some families choose to hold a less traditional memorial service. 

Then you will need to decide what songs or hymns to play during the services. And you will choose who you would like to be involved in the service. You would pick a speaker, possibly a preacher, singers and/or musicians, readers and pallbearers. 



If you are preplanning a funeral, you should make sure to compile important information for paperwork. Your family members will appreciate not having to worry about finding information or important documents during such an emotional time. 

Information that will be needed includes full legal name, family members, military service information, occupation, most recent employer and retirement date.

Family members also need to know where to find important documents such as insurance policies, wills, retirement account information, investments and marriage certificate.

If your family member did not plan ahead, you will need to find all of this information for paperwork and locate the important documents needed. 


Write an Obituary

An obituary should tell a story about your loved one’s life. You can rely on family members or friends to help with information to include in the obituary. The details of the obituary should be as accurate as possible.

Some people even choose to write their own obituary before they pass away, or at least help with the information that they want in it. These people can express how they would like to be remembered in their own words. 

Some information to include in the obituary would be family members to be listed, place or places of residence, marriage date, high school and colleges attended, hobbies, career highlights and recognitions, organizations and clubs the individual was involved in and volunteer work. 

After writing an obituary, you will also need to decide which publication or publications that should run it. 


Make Payment Arrangements

If you choose to preplan your funeral service, you can make payment plans as well. This can take the financial burden away from your family. This can also prevent potential issues between loved ones.

If you are planning a funeral for a loved one that did not prepay for their service, you will need to make arrangements with the funeral home about payment. 


There is no easy or fun way to plan a funeral. Whether you are planning your own as part of your estate plan or if you are planning a family member’s after their death, it is not something we look forward to or enjoy. But following a plan and considering what you or your loved one would want, can make it a little easier.