topic | make funeral arrangements

Step 5: meet with funeral director, church and others

Funeral directors manage important details so that you don't have to. Planning a funeral or memorial service can be a challenging task during an already difficult time. It is best to leave the details to a professional. This allows you to attend to many more important things during this time and release the stress of managing logistics.

The funeral director plans and directs the funeral ceremony in accordance with your wishes, including coordinating with the cemetery. Funeral homes also organize the technical services regarding the care, preparation, presentation, and final disposition of the deceased.

Funeral homes, or mortuaries, are full-service organizations with the staff, facilities, and equipment necessary to help the family commemorate the life of the deceased. "Alternative" funeral service providers offer the services of funeral directors but they may specialize in or sell packaged plans. For example, an alternative provider may specialize in cremation or graveside services and may not have a funeral home.

Activity 1
Create a Basic Plan for the Funeral

Consider the known wishes of the deceased. The funeral should incorporate their desires as well as provide an opportunity for loved ones to reflect. Even though you may not have direct input from your loved one regarding their wishes, take the time to gather information from other family members or close friends. They may be able to remember a favorite song or reading. The collaboration of family and friends ensures that the spirit of your loved one is captured as they are remembered and honored. Be sure to check for funeral documents and burial policies that were part of a pre-planning process.

Funeral Preferences1 and Funeral Preferences2 are guides for things such as the types of service, internment plans, and clergy preferences. It also provides information regarding personal preferences (e.g., clothing, readings, music, pallbearers, etc).  It may already contain this information. If not, use it as a planning tool.

Review the Funeral CostFuneral Preferences1 and Funeral Preferences2 documents to learn about the decisions you face before making an initial visit to the Funeral Home.

Activity 2
Gather Information Regarding Key Associations

Inform the funeral director if the deceased was a veteran.  Veterans are entitled to burial in one of the country’s 114 national cemeteries. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes, upon request and at no charge to the applicant, a Government headstone designate the unmarked grave of an eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world. A burial flag may be draped across the casket or urn. This can be obtained through the funeral home or the local post office. Contact the local Department of Veteran's Affairs or check for more information.

A copy of the Military Discharge Papers is necessary for the funeral home to arrange veteran’s burial benefits. If discharge papers cannot be located, contact National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132. Send it to the attention of the branch in which the deceased served.

Other organizations such as unions or fraternal organizations may also provide funeral benefits. Your funeral director may provide additional information regarding these benefits.

Activity 3
Determine Payment for Funeral Arrangements

The executor or next of kin is responsible for payment of the funeral. Most funeral homes expect full payment at the time services are rendered. There are several payment options:

  • The decedent's personal funds may be used if a joint owner has access to the accounts.
  • The executor's personal funds must be used if access to the deceased’s financial accounts cannot be obtained until probate has been filed. These expenses will be reimbursed by the estate once probate is opened.
  • A pre-arranged burial policy may be used to pay all or part of the funeral costs as coordinated by the funeral director.
  • A life insurance policy may be signed over by a beneficiary to the funeral home as payment for the funeral expenses.
  • Medicaid may cover funeral expenses as an entitled benefit. However, there are strict guidelines as to what will be paid. There may not be as many choices for caskets, services, etc.

Activity 4
Meet with the Funeral Director

The funeral director will walk you through the necessary steps to plan for the visitation, funeral, and burial services. Along with basic arrangements, the funeral home often provides services such as:

  • running the obituary in the newspaper
  • ordering flowers for the service
  • thank you notes to be used after the funeral
  • honorarium payments to clergy, musicians, etc.
  • notifying Social Security

Determine how many death certificates are needed. The funeral home will order these initial death certificates.  Death certificates cost per copy. Additional copies can be ordered from the county at any time. To determine the number of death certificates needed, add up the following:

  • bank or investment accounts
  • life insurance policies
  • pieces of real estate owned either solely or jointly
  • one for passport cancellation
  • at least one to be kept for future use

(if this Step is complete)
to Step 6

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