Funeral planning checklist: Essential steps for a smooth and memorable service

May 05, 2023
Planning a funeral is an emotionally challenging task that requires careful consideration and preparation. Source: Getty Images.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly a challenging experience, and the added responsibility of planning a funeral can make it all the more overwhelming. The process of saying goodbye can be emotionally and physically draining, and it’s important to be prepared for the various arrangements and decisions that must be made.

From selecting a funeral home to choosing a casket or urn, there are many details to consider. Additionally, there are practical matters to attend to such as notifying relevant organisations, settling the deceased’s affairs, and planning a memorial service.

Whether you are planning a funeral for a loved one or pre-planning your own funeral, being well-informed and prepared can make the process less stressful and allow you to focus on honouring the memory of your loved one.

Essential steps to take before the service

Planning a funeral is an emotionally challenging task that requires careful consideration and preparation. While it may not be something that most people like to think about, it’s an inevitable reality.

Being prepared for this eventuality can help ease the burden and ensure that final wishes are carried out as intended.

Civil funeral celebrant Rachel Michael from Hunter Valley Celebrations highlights the importance of research when it comes to preparing a funeral.

“If you know your loved one’s passing is imminent, it’s probably not what you want to do but you should do a bit of research to check which funeral home you get a good feeling from, and of course what they charge,” Michael says.

“Families are often surprised that when their loved one passes away, one of the first questions the hospice, hospital or home asks is, who is your funeral director.  (Your loved one will be taken into the care of a funeral home within hours of their passing – even if it’s the middle of the night.)

“It can be a shock to be hit with a question like that when you haven’t been in that situation before.  If you haven’t done research or made plans you can be forced to make a spur of the moment decision, or worst case the institution will make one for you.”

In addition to adequate research, there are several essential measures to take when organising a funeral service, which may include:

  • Determine the type of service that you want to have. This may include a traditional funeral service, a memorial service, or a celebration of life.
  • Choose a funeral home that is reputable and has experience in the type of service you are planning. Research different options and read reviews to make an informed decision.
  • Consider whether you prefer burial or cremation and then select a cemetery or crematorium accordingly – if you choose burial, you’ll need to select a cemetery for interment, whereas if you choose cremation, you’ll need to select a crematorium where the cremation will take place.
  • Funerals can be expensive, ranging from about $4,000 for a simple cremation and up to $15,000 for a more luxurious burial. It’s important to determine a budget early on in the planning process. Consider the costs of the funeral home, casket or urn, cemetery or crematorium fees, funeral director fees, and any other expenses.

Key considerations for planning the perfect farewell

With careful consideration and attention to detail, it’s possible to create a meaningful and memorable farewell for your loved one.

There are many key considerations to keep in mind when planning a funeral, including choosing the right venue, selecting appropriate readings and music, deciding on the order of service, and preparing a eulogy or tribute. Some key considerations include:

  • Arranging for transportation of the body from the funeral home to the cemetery or crematorium.
  • Selecting the appropriate vessel for the remains based on whether you have chosen burial or cremation – if you prefer burial, you will need to select a casket, whereas if you prefer cremation, you will need to select an urn.
  • Choosing flowers and decorations for the service.
  • Selecting music and readings for the service. This can be done in collaboration with the funeral home and any clergy or officiants.
  • Choosing pallbearers to carry the casket or urn during the service. This may be family members or close friends.

By taking the time to carefully plan each element of the funeral, you can ensure that it reflects your loved one’s wishes and personality, and provides a fitting farewell that honours their life and legacy.

Financial matters to consider

In addition to the emotional and logistical considerations of planning a funeral, it’s also essential to keep financial considerations in mind.

Some financial matters to keep in mind include:

  • Paying for the funeral through the funeral home. This may involve paying for the funeral in full or setting up a payment plan.
  • Over 60s may be eligible for government benefits to help cover the costs of the funeral. This may include the Bereavement Payment.
  • Completing any necessary life insurance details as this can help offset the costs of the funeral.

Essential steps to take after the service

Following a funeral service, there are still important tasks that must be undertaken to ensure that the deceased’s affairs are properly taken care of. This can include tasks such as finalising legal documents, settling outstanding debts or bills, notifying relevant authorities and organisations of the passing, and distributing assets according to the deceased’s wishes.

While this can be a difficult and emotionally taxing process, it’s important to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to avoid any potential legal or financial complications down the line. With the help of trusted advisors and family members, you can navigate this process with care and attention, ensuring that your loved one’s legacy is honoured and their affairs are properly handled.

Be sure to:

  • Notify relevant organisations and agencies of the deceased’s passing. This may include Servies Australia, the deceased’s employer, and any professional organisations the deceased was a member of.
  • Settle the deceased’s affairs, such as closing bank accounts, cancelling credit cards, and filing tax returns. This may require the assistance of a lawyer or financial advisor.
  • Grieving the loss of a loved one is a difficult process, consider seeking grief counselling or support groups to help cope with the loss.

Planning for a funeral can be a daunting task, but it’s essential to ensure that you or your loved one is laid to rest in a manner that honours their life and legacy. By following a checklist and taking time to make thoughtful decisions, you can alleviate some of the stress associated with funeral planning and focus on celebrating your loved one’s memory.

Remember to lean on family and friends for support during this difficult time and to take care of yourself throughout the process. Michael explains that “it can be stressful to be making important decisions, especially whilst grieving” but suggests that when “families can work together it’s a much smoother and cathartic process for all concerned”.

With proper planning and support, you can ensure that your loved one’s final farewell is a meaningful and memorable experience.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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