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Funeral Pre-Planning Checklist: How You Can Save Money

Preparing for a funeral may seem intimidating, but making your plans and wishes in advance allows you to decide on the specific items you want and need. Because funeral expenses can place a financial burden on families, comparing prices for services and products ahead of time can significantly reduce the burden on your loved ones.

Given time, your friends and family will eventually forget their sorrow and come to value all of the fond memories they have of you. But before they attain this peace of mind, they will have to make dozens – perhaps hundreds – of decisions about your funeral, many of which will add to your overall funeral costs. These costs can add up quickly, and your loved ones may not have the necessary funds to cover all of the expenses.

By pre-planning your funeral, you can help save your family thousands of dollars.

Use the following funeral planning checklist to help guide you in making these difficult decisions.

Table of Contents

Why are funerals so expensive in the first place?

People often underestimate how much money and time go into planning a funeral. Everything from flowers to transportation is paid for days before the actual service. Other common funeral costs include:

  • A hearse to transport the remains to the funeral home or cemetery
  • A casket or urn depending on the final resting place
  • A headstone or grave marker

Caskets alone can cost as much as $10,000 or more depending on the type of material used.

And these are only funeral costs. There may be unpaid medical bills as well as regular monthly bills such as mortgage payments and utilities. These expenses add up fast for your surviving loved ones.

Let’s look at what happens to families when there isn’t a plan in place to help cover your funeral costs.

How not planning for your funeral creates a financial burden

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about your funeral or the costs associated with it. You might have some money saved for a rainy day, but it’s unlikely you have thousands of dollars set aside specifically for your funeral.

When you’re gone, it’s unlikely anyone other than your family is going to handle your final arrangements. But where will they get the money? Without financial preparations in place, they may be forced to use their own savings. How far will they extend themselves trying to give you the best funeral?

In addition to these questions, they’ll be forced to figure out the following funeral logistics:

  • What clothing you’ll wear
  • What jewelry you’ll wear (and whether it should be buried with you or passed along)
  • What songs to play
  • What passages to read

These decisions will fall directly on your family if there is no plan to guide them. And you know your family members better than anyone. Everyone has an opinion about everything! The last thing you want them doing is fighting with each other during this emotional time.

Families often emotionally overspend by hundreds – sometimes thousands – when planning a funeral.

If you’re lucky, they’ll choose a respectable funeral home to carry out all your final arrangements. Unfortunately, there are funeral homes out there that have one objective: to make your family spend as much money as possible.

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Burial or cremation?

The first step in planning your funeral is deciding between burial and cremation. With either choice, you can opt for immediate burial or cremation with no funeral service.

If you decide a burial with a service beforehand is right for you, you will want to decide if you wish to be given a traditional or green burial. Traditional burials require the purchase of a casket and often come with reinforcement for the grave. Green burials are more environmentally friendly – with no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products and a biodegradable shroud or casket.

Cremation may require the purchase of an urn and locating a place to store or scatter the ashes. A relatively new cremation option is alkaline hydrolysis, which is a water-based dissolution process using alkaline chemicals, heat, and agitation.

Finding a funeral home    

Once you have decided on your final arrangements, you can begin to shop around for a funeral home and director.

Without any expertise or prior know-how, families often resort to calling the nearest funeral home and making all the arrangements without shopping for funeral-related services. As a result, they often overpay for things like caskets and headstones. Be sure to speak with several different funeral homes to find one you are comfortable with.

Whether your funeral will be followed by a burial or with a cremation, you or your loved ones will work closely with the funeral home to finalize arrangements for the cremation or cemetery services. If you are planning a cremation followed by a memorial service rather than a funeral, plan your final arrangements directly with the crematory.


Designing your service

If you prefer a service, you have a range of options to consider, from a traditional church funeral followed by burial to an at-home funeral or memorial service. A traditional funeral normally involves a service with the casket present, either open or closed. A memorial service typically involves a gathering or service without the casket present. Some include other events like wakes and viewings in their plans.

Don’t feel pressured to plan every detail of your service or memorial. Your loved ones will likely want to participate in remembering and celebrating you, so build guidelines and direction for them to follow, but allow them to contribute as well. You can also identify the people you would like to serve as pallbearers should you decide to be buried.


Final resting place

Whether you choose cremation or burial, you will need to select your final resting place. You will have options regarding grave design and casket choice that you can include in your funeral planning.

If you choose cremation, some cemeteries offer designated areas where cremated remains are buried. You may wish to have your ashes scattered. Be sure to check with a funeral director in the area you wish to have the ashes scattered to ensure it is permitted.

Share your final wishes

Finally, and most importantly, make these arrangements known to your friends and family. Collaborate with them and get their input and recommendations, and be sure to put all of your decisions in writing.

When planning your funeral, your family won’t be making decisions rationally. They’ll want to give you the best funeral possible and can end up overspending as a result.

And what about what happens after the funeral? What happens to your belongings?

Have you sat down and talked with your family about what happens to your collection of __________ when you’re gone? About giving ______________ to one of your family members? It’s not hard to fill in the blanks when we consider our most treasured possessions.

Although planning your funeral in advance might seem morbid or even frightening, sharing your planning process with loved ones can make things go smoothly when it comes time to carry out your final wishes.


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Funeral funding options

As Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Today the funeral business is a $20 billion industry and the average cost of a funeral has increased nearly 30 percent in the last decade, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

For many families, the only help they will receive when planning a funeral is a one-time payment from the federal government, which amounts to roughly $255. This one-time payment has remained the same since 1954, even though funeral costs have increased dramatically year after year.

Figuring out the best way to cover your burial costs can be the most important part of your funeral checklist. There are many different ways to fund a funeral in advance. One of the most common is called final expense life insurance.


Final expense insurance

You can purchase a final expense life insurance policy to fund your funeral arrangements. Final expense life insurance – also called “burial insurance” or “funeral insurance” – is a type of whole life policy. Most whole life policies have premiums and benefits locked in for the life of the policy as long as premiums are paid. Final expense insurance is specifically designed to cover end-of-life expenses such as funeral costs.

Because most final expense policies are relatively small, they’re extremely affordable and work well for people on a fixed budget.


Give your family peace of mind by making arrangements ahead of time with final expense insurance

Preparing for your final expenses now can easily protect your family from a significant financial burden in the future. You will also prevent them from emotionally overspending and arguing over the smallest details.

Finding a way to pay for funeral expenses can be challenging, especially if you’re barely making ends meet.

So how can you make sure your family has what it needs to pay for your funeral?

Final expense insurance – also known as burial insurance or funeral insurance – was created specifically to help. It’s a type of life insurance that covers end-of-life expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs. Because final expense policies are meant to cover $10,000 – $15,000 worth of expenses, these policies usually offer affordable monthly payments.

Funeral pre-planning with final expense insurance is one of the most trusted ways to help your family with funeral costs. But not all final expense plans give you the option to pre-plan your funeral. Most will provide the cash to pay for your funeral, but don’t include any funeral planning options.

So which final expense plan should you choose?

Next steps

Funerals are expensive and it’s often the family who’s left to carry the financial burden.

Learn how you can protect your family from the unnecessary burden of paying for your final expenses with the Funeral Advantage™ program. Funeral Advantage is a final expense policy trusted by more than 400,000 Americans to help save their family thousands of dollars on funeral costs.

Best of all, it allows you to create a detailed plan of your funeral wishes.

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