Are You a Legal Professional?

Funeral Planning Guide FAQ

Why should I write down instructions about my funeral plans? My family knows what I want!

You may be surprised at what your family knows, or more likely doesn't know, about your funeral wishes. Furthermore, it can be a very emotional decision to make if you leave it to your family, which can cause tremendous problems between family members with different views. Save your family the grief of having to make these decisions for you, and put your wishes in writing.

A second major reason for setting your wishes down in writing is cost. Planning ahead of time to secure funeral services is often far less expensive than arrangements made after a person's death.

What happens if I don't leave written instructions for my funeral?

If you don't write down your funeral wishes, state law will determine who gets to make the decision for you. This alone can cause a lot of unnecessary grief, but here is the typical order that most states will follow:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Next of kin
  • Public administrator designated by a court

To many, this may seem like the right order, so why bother to write it down? Consider what happens if you have more than one child, your spouse predeceases you, and the children don't agree. The dispute will likely go to court and cause serious discord within the family. Never rely on the state designating the right people; set your wishes down in writing and take the burden off of your family.

Shouldn't I put my funeral wishes in my will?

No. Your will often won't be read or accessible until several weeks, sometimes months, after your death. Wills should never be used to express desires and decisions that need to be dealt with soon after your death. Wills are more properly used for things like property distribution that can wait and aren't time sensitive.

If not my will, where should I leave my written funeral instructions?

The most common place people leave their funeral instructions is with the executor of their estate and/or their attorney, with a copy sent to loved ones. It is crucial that even if you leave the official copies with an executor or attorney that you inform your loved ones to reduce the chances of a dispute arising if a loved one is sure you wanted something different. If your plans change over time, be sure to update those same people immediately.

What should I write in my funeral plan?

Most people's funeral plans are guided by their ethnic, religious and cultural affiliations, but here are some ideas to consider when writing down your funeral plan:

  • Whether you wish to be cremated, buried and/or embalmed
  • The facility where you wish to be buried or cremated
  • The type of container you wish to be buried or cremated in
  • How your remains will be transported to the facility you select
  • Whether you wish to have any ceremony accompany your funeral
  • The details of any such ceremony
  • Whether you wish any pallbearers and who they will be
  • Whether you wish any sort of marker, such as a tombstone

What services are available from a mortuary?

Mortuaries and funeral homes typically handle almost all the details involving the disposal of a person's remains, such as:

  • Retrieving and transporting the body from the place of death to the facility
  • Storing the body
  • Preparing the body for the funeral
  • Making any necessary funeral arrangements
  • Conducting the funeral ceremony

I want my funeral to be modest, what can I do to keep it cost-effective?

Funerals can be surprisingly expensive, and planning ahead can save you and your loved ones a lot of money. Determine during your life where you want to be buried, and consider paying for the services in advance if the facility will let you. This will involve quite a bit of shopping around to ensure that you are getting a good deal.

Another option that many people choose is funeral societies. The services offered by each society differ, but these societies offer valuable information on reputable funeral homes, explanation of legal rules and advice on how to make final arrangements. Generally, the society will let you predetermine what services you want at a set price. This allows you to be certain about how much your funeral will cost well in advance and plan accordingly.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you ensure
that your loved ones are cared for and your wishes are honored.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution