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Wills and estate planning

3 common considerations for funeral planning

A funeral planning checklist can help decrease the burden on those left behind.

Funeral planning can be an emotional process. With so many considerations-from choosing a funeral home to writing an obituary-it can quickly become overwhelming and complicated.Having a checklist can help reduce stress and decrease the burden on those left behind. Whether you are pre-arranging your own funeral or planning for the passing of a loved one, a guide can make sure all final wishes are carried out.

Common funeral planning considerations

1. Compile important information and notify the right people

Organize pertinent information for the family member who will be filing the death certificate and completing the obituary. This includes the deceased person's:

  • Date of birth and place of birth
  • Social security number
  • Occupation and education level
  • Parents' names

Consult the deceased's last will and testament to find out whether burial or cremation is preferred. You will also want to notify the deceased's immediate family and other close contacts, including dependents, doctors, employer, religious group and credit card companies.

2. Choose burial preferences

After you choose a funeral home, you can work with the funeral director to select a casket or cremation container, and determine if you want a wake before the services. You will also need to decide what the deceased will wear.

3. Plan the service

Picking a type of funeral service is a highly personal process. You or your loved one may opt for a traditional funeral service, a non-denominational memorial or a military ceremony. Depending on your preference, you may also need to make flower arrangements, select photos to be displayed, and pick music or hymns to be played during the service. Select an officiant to lead services and people to serve as pallbearers.

Secondary funeral planning considerations

In addition to the steps above, it's wise to be mindful of other considerations around funeral planning.

  • If you plan to have a reception following services, book a location and order refreshments for guests.
  • Make sure the deceased's home is secure and collect any mail.
  • Settle the will and other estate documents.

Understanding funeral costs

Many people don't realize that funerals come with a large price tag. The typical funeral service costs the average family close to $8,000. This cost includes a basic services fee, which is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. The basic services fee covers funeral planning, securing permits and copies of death certificates, preparing notices, sheltering the remains and coordinating arrangements with the cemetery. It does not include optional services, like the cost of the viewing, memorial services, graveside staff and use of a hearse, among others.

Burial insurance

Burial insurance is a type of final expense life insurance policy that can help cover funeral costs. It may offset financial hardship on families or loved ones who must cover the costs after a death. The death benefits for burial insurance are typically low, ranging anywhere between $5,000 up to $25,000 (although some insurers may offer higher limits). Burial insurance is generally easy to apply for and can be purchased through an insurance company or agent. It may also be available from a funeral home as an estate planning feature.

Final expense insurance

Final expense insurance can be used to pay for medical bills in addition to burial and funeral costs. Many insurance companies can issue final expense life insurance without requiring you to complete a medical exam. For these reasons, final expense insurance can be useful if you have a pre-existing health condition that may prevent you from securing a more traditional life insurance policy. Final expense insurance can be affordable and premiums generally will not increase over time.

Planning a funeral can be a confusing, expensive process. By using a checklist and getting the right insurance in place, you can be prepared and shield your loved ones from financial hardship.


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