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Last Modified: May 2, 2023

How to Plan a Funeral

3353160829_1d4fa592a8 Planning a funeral is both an intricate process and a unique one. Keeping track of the sheer number of errands that must be attended to is a daunting task, even when there is a clear will. When you are reeling from a devastating loss, it may be all you can do to complete the routine demands of daily life without worrying about the funeral in addition. This list will not change the number of tasks, but it will hopefully provide some structure to the process of fulfilling a loved one’s last wishes and observing their passing in a way that honors the deceased and provides closure for the survivors.

Funeral To-Do List

1.  Compile the necessary information and documentation.

Preparing for a funeral requires the applicant to have a wide array of facts and forms on hand (sometimes in order to gather more facts and forms).  Having as much as possible of the following information in order, ahead of time, will make application for vital certificates and paperwork much easier. Note:  Some of the items listed may be obtainable only with the presentation of other items on the list.)

For the decedent:

  • Name
  • Sex
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers
  • Parents’ names (including mother’s maiden name)
  • Birth date and place
  • Death date and place
  • Bank account information
  • Most recent W-2 form
  • Cemetery information
  • Church records
  • Location of the body
  • Contact information of attending physician
  • Birth, death, marriage, and/or divorce certificates

For the applicant:

  • Social Security number
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Relation to deceased

2.  See that the person is pronounced dead.

This may be accomplished by the attending physician, coroner, or medical examiner. If the death was unattended, whoever finds the person should call law enforcement officials to the scene. (For more specific information on when to call a coroner, follow this link.)

3.  Obtain a death certificate.

If a funeral home was appointed before the death, it is likely that it will request the death certificate for you. If this is not the case, death certificates and other vital records can be requested from the state vital statistics office or from county or city offices.

4.  Contact the decedent’s family members.

Aside from the obvious importance of notifying the deceased’s near and dear ones of their departure, announcing the state of affairs to others comes with the  possible added benefits of mobilizing others to help and of jogging the memories of those who might have specific knowledge of those preferences not expressly laid out in a will.

5.  Locate the will.

If a will has been made, then so, perhaps, have many funeral preparations been made in advance. Avoid planning a funeral before you know how much has already been done. The burial plot may have been bought, the funeral director may have been appointed, and funds for the funeral costs may even be accessible in a payable-upon-death account. If you can locate a will promptly, it could save a great deal of time, uncertainty, and effort.

6.  Call the funeral director.

If a funeral director has been appointed, contact them. If not, start price-shopping as soon as possible.  Once you have hired a funeral director, they can relocate the body to the funeral home, provide you with whatever paperwork you need and start making arrangements for the funeral itself.

7.  Discover or determine the fate of the body.

If there is a will, you need only to learn whether burial, entombment, cremation, or donation to scientific study has been stipulated. If not, it will fall to the family to decide what is most suitable based on the decedent’s probable wishes, budget, etc.

8.  Discover or determine the type of service to be conducted.

At this stage, you should contact whatever religious, social, or other group the deceased was closely associated with in life and decide what role, if any, such institutions should play in their memorial. The questions of pallbearers, readings, a meal, or whether there will be a service at all must be resolved.

9.  Find out what services are offered by the cemetery, if applicable.

When shopping for a cemetery plot or making arrangements for interment in a pre-specified plot, ask what the cost includes. Is there a single charge to cover both the plot and overhead costs, or will there be recurring fees? Will the grave be opened and filled at extra cost?

10.  Tally the costs.

The expenses associated with a funeral can run up quickly if you are not keeping track. Some of the possible expenses include facility rental, clergy fees, transportation of the body, requests for death certificates, the receptacle of choice (even in the case of cremation, the ashes will need to be contained en route to to their final resting place), flowers, clothing (in case of burial), the obituary, etc. (A funeral cost calculator can be found here.)

11.  Apply for death benefits.

Even if the decedent has left no provisions for their own funeral costs, there are many other possible resources to cover the costs of the funeral:  Social Security survivor benefits, special awards for veterans or civil servants, workman’s compensation (in the case of a wrongful death that occurred on the job), retirement funds, and possible funds from any organizations the deceased may have belonged to may be available. If the avenues left open to the survivors of a wrongful death are still insufficient, and they find themselves overburdened with financial (as well as emotional) burdens, a wrongful death attorney like those at Christensen & Hymas can pinpoint other sources of income, whether from the decedent’s employer or the liability insurance of a wrongdoer. If you believe or even suspect that your loved one’s passing may have been a wrongful death, call (801) 506-0800 to discuss the matter at no cost with attorneys whose skill as lawyers is matched only by genuine compassion for their clients.

Image “Flowers For Wendy” copyright by Garry Knight.

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