It’s something we all have to face – planning for the end of our lives. But it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this planning for end-of-life checklist. It will walk you through the steps you need to take and the choices you need to make so that it’s easy for you to get started today!

Start with the items below and after you brainstorm a bit, visit a funeral home to set everything in motion!

Planning for End-of-Life Checklist

Vital Statistics

The first thing you’ll want to do is make a vital statistics data sheet so that your family will have all of the information they need when the time comes. If you work with a funeral home beforehand for planning, they call the data an Arrangement Form, Vital Statistics Form or First Call Form.

When you plan with a funeral home, they can file this in the municipality where the death transpired immediately after your passing.

This required information includes:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • Registered Residence
  • Date of Birth (DOB)
  • Place of Birth
  • SS#
  • Father’s Name
  • Mother’s Name, including her maiden name
  • Occupation

Place your information in safekeeping and let your Next of Kin and family know where it is. If something happens, they will be ready. Without it, your plans can face delays. Part of staying prepared is ensuring your family has what they need to meet with the funeral home.

Have a Meeting with Family Members

Sit down together with loved ones to discuss your decisions. If your sister is terrific at hospitality or your brother is an inspirational speaker, they may act as great resources for you.

In addition, any close friend or grown child who loves to plan or understands you well can help you determine what is important to you in your end-of-life plans. Someone who is an excellent sounding board can help you make up your mind about difficult decisions!

Plus, planning together is a wonderful excuse to spend time with your friends and family! And talking about it all can help you all feel good about your choices.

Traditional Burial, Cremation, or Green Burial

The first choice may feel like the most difficult. However, the type of interment may determine some of your other options. So let’s start with interment possibilities. 

Traditional Burial Planning:

  • Type of casket
  • Buy a casket ahead of time?
  • Choose Pallbearers?
  • Purchase cemetery plot and vault (consider buying a mausoleum or set of plots together with other family members)
  • Or burial at sea?


  • Pressed wood casket? If planning a wake, visitation, or funeral service, you may like a nicer casket for these ceremonies than for the cremation itself.
  • Family members attending the cremation? If so, select a funeral home with an in-house crematory, so loved ones may witness the cremation if they choose.
  • Urn, smaller cemetery plot, mausoleum, or columbarium niche?
  • Ashes made into beads or jewelry?
  • Scattering ashes at sea, in a park, off a mountain top, on private property, or in a scattering garden?

Green Burial:

  • Horse-drawn carriage?
  • Homemade or wooden casket?
  • Ceremonial wrappings or shroud instead of a casket?
  • Green cemetery plot or enough acreage in the country with permission from the owner (Check your local zoning requirements for burial on your own property)

Memorial or Funeral Service

Funerals usually take place before burial or cremation. Many in North Carolina also have a wake or visitation in the evening the day before the funeral.

However, with cremation, you may have the cremation ceremony and the funeral as far apart as you like. Cremation and a later service allow loved ones to plan and come to your funeral without dropping everything and making last-minute travel plans. Many call this type of funeral a “memorial” service.

Viewing, Visitation, or Wake

You may plan a viewing, visitation, or wake. These terms are all roughly the same thing.

Many families in North Carolina choose to have a “wake,” in which family members and friends come together to bid farewell to their loved one. Generally, these types of services happen at the funeral home.

Often this event is an open casket time for loved ones to let what has happened register in their mind. Seeing the open casket may help some loved ones begin to grieve.

You may choose your clothing ahead of time. A picture of you wearing what you want to look like can help your family easily find your dress clothes. Your image will also help the makeup artist and hairdresser have an easier time.

You may also ask a beloved family member to do the honors of choosing an outfit and appropriate jewelry.

Order of Service

Plan the service order by looking at different types of programs or funeral cards and deciding what you’d like to incorporate into your services.

Making plans now can let your family rest and grieve instead of scurrying around trying to make your service perfect. Your plans don’t need to be perfect; just an estimation of what you think can help your family later!

Talking with your funeral director about it can help you see what you want if you feel unsure.

Asking Someone to Officiate

You may ask someone to be the officiant for any services. A pastor or spiritual mentor can often handle this aspect of your services. If not, funeral home directors are happy to step in and officiate where needed.

Choose Venue(s)

Also, consider where your service will take place. A community building, funeral home chapel, church, or outdoor park are all good ideas. Or, you can plan for a museum, bar, or restaurant to host a gathering.

Graveside Service

If you’re choosing a burial, you may ask the cemetery to set up chairs for a graveside service. A graveside service is a time for loved ones to say their final goodbyes at the site where they may later come to grieve their loss.

Post-Service Reception

Would you like to plan a small or large gathering for all who attend the service? Choose your venue and let your funeral director know your plans and who will pay for this.

Consider Meaningful Music & Words of Comfort

Another area to consider is the music and any comforting texts you’d like for others to share at your ceremonies. Many of us have favorite songs or quotes that we love.

Consider these ideas to find music or texts that mean something to you:

  • What are your core beliefs?
  • Poems, quotes, or religious texts that touch your heart
  • What are you passionate about? Sports, dance, drama, gardening, or music?
  • What are some meaningful songs that you might like your loved ones to hear after you pass?

You can share poems or scriptures in printed programs or ask a family member or friend to read a text. Or talk with someone whose voice you love about performing a favorite song.

Your Obituary

An obituary is a final note about your life that can be funny and bittersweet at the same time. You can write your own obituary or name someone you’d like to write it. Professional obituary writers can also write in whatever tone you would like.

  • Flowers or charitable contributions in your name?
  • Who will write the obituary?
  • Where will you publish the obituary? Will your funeral home handle the publishing?
  • What would you like included in your obituary?

PrePlan with Your Funeral Director

We hope our planning for end-of-life checklist has been helpful! Consider your answers, and then take your notes to a local funeral home. Meet with a funeral director who can help you answer any additional questions and file your plan, so everyone is on the same page when your time comes. 

Talk with a local funeral director to finalize your plans. A funeral director can answer any additional questions about the process. 

You also may choose to pre-pay for your funeral. Paying in advance locks in today’s prices so your loved ones don’t face tomorrow’s inflation. Making a preneed plan for your funeral can save money for your family in the future.

The funeral home does not hold any funds. The state of North Carolina holds the money in trust, and you can transfer the funds to another funeral home anytime you choose. You may also cancel if needed and withdraw the funds. 

We Can Help

Here at Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we strive to create unforgettable events for your friends and family to both mourn your loss and celebrate your life.

During times of grief, it’s crucial for family and friends to be there for one another. They need to share memories, swap stories, and lean on each other for support. These intimate moments spent together can help your loved ones heal and move forward.

We can assist you in developing your plans and answering any questions you may have. Give us a call to discover how we can help you create your end-of-life arrangements. Contact us today to talk with one of our funeral directors about how we can help you plan!