Top 10 Smart Reasons to Pre-Plan Your Funeral

There are many benefits to end-of-life planning. Here are the top ten reasons why you should consider making your funeral arrangements ahead of time:

Top 10 Reasons

1. It means there will be less guesswork for family members about your funeral arrangements after you're gone.

2. Your family will never have to worry about doing the wrong thing when finalizing your funeral arrangements.

3. You have peace-of-mind knowing that everything will be done your way.

4. Funeral pre-planning is the responsible thing to do. It removes the burden from family members.

5. You can make complex decisions ahead of time when you have the time to think things through.

6. You’ll be able to financially prepare for this, and can do pre-payments.

7. Pre-planning will avoid any financial burdens for the family, especially if you lock into today’s prices.

8. Funeral pre-planning involves an awareness and acceptance of the reality of death.

9. You have the ability to shop around, find what you want, and save money.

10. Helpful for the funeral director and everything can be prepared much quicker and easier.

Funeral Pre-Planning Checklist

I've compiled this funeral pre-planning checklist to help you and your family. There is a lot of information here, so hopefully it will at least get you started in the right direction.

What is a Living Will?

Let's start with a living will, which is one type of advance directive. This written document will outline your health care wishes and medical treatment for end-of-life care if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious, and/or cannot make these decisions on your own. It might also include your religious preferences if you so desire.

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a set of instructions that outlines your health care wishes for the future, similar to the living will. However, an advance directive isn’t limited to terminal illness, as it may also include medical events such as dementia, stroke, or coma. There are many different types of advance directives, including a living will, medical power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order.

Each state may have their own, so check with local laws, and an attorney is not required. If you reside in more than one state, you should complete an advance directive for each state where you spend the most amount of time. Periodically review your advance directive to make sure it still spells out what you want. If it doesn't, simply complete a new one. Paramedics and EMTs cannot honor a living will or medical power of attorney. They are obligated to do their best to stabilize you and get you to a hospital. When you are finally in the care of hospital staff, your advance directive becomes valid.

It's fairly easy to get a copy of the advance care directive form for your state. Your local hospital is required by law to not only provide information about advance directives, but they are also required to share information about the related laws in your state. Your family physician may also have advance directive forms available for patients. An online resource can be found here: .

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A Health Care Proxy, also called a Medical Power of Attorney, is a type of estate planning document that allows you to appoint someone (a proxy) to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated, such as coma, dementia, terminal illness, and mental health crisis. When you are deemed incapacitated by your attending physician, then your Health Care Proxy kicks in. Your appointed proxy will then be able to advocate for your needs and make those medical decisions on your behalf.

Difference between Health Care Proxy and a Living Will

If you become incapacitated, a Health Care Proxy is used to name an individual who has the legal right to step in and make your medical decisions. A Living Will is used to communicate your wishes and decisions regarding your future medical care. Both documents are valid throughout your lifetime, and only go into effect if you are deemed incapacitated. A Health Care Proxy cannot override any provisions made in a Living Will as it is legally-binding and must be followed. A Living Will that is short or too general can cause confusion and leave decisions up for debate, so make sure it’s detailed and everything you want is spelled out.

What is an Executor?

An executor is the person who will represent your estate after you die. They will be in charge of taking control of your assets, paying off any debts, and distributing assets to your beneficiaries as it’s written in your will. You can choose anyone to be the executor of your will, but make sure it is someone who is both competent and trustworthy. The person you choose to be executor should be named in your will, but they have the right to refuse, so you should have a backup executor named just in case.


Below is a list of information that will most likely be needed in preparing your funeral arrangements and service. When pre-planning for this, your funeral director will be pleased to help you and discuss all your options.

I. Taking Care of Funeral-Related Details

1. Prepare a contact list of people who should be notified in case of a medical emergency or death.

2. Gather personal information for your obituary.

3. Decide where the obituary should appear (newspapers, online news sites, funeral home website, etc).

4. Choose a funeral home.

5. State in writing your preferences for burial or cremation.

6. Decide if you want a traditional funeral, memorial service, and/or celebration-of-life.

- If you want a celebration-of-life, what location would you like for this event?

- What special activities would you prefer at a celebration-of-life?

- Choose a charity to direct donations to in lieu of flowers, if desired.

7. If you're a veteran, would you like to receive full military honors as part of your service?

- List the branch of the military and any honors.

- Select which veteran's cemetery you would like to be buried in.

A. Funeral Service

1. Location for the service- funeral home, church, family home, other location.

2. Pick what photographs and memorabilia you’d like to display.

3. Consider any customs, traditions, or religious rites that are important to you and your family.

4. Choose the outfit you’d like to be dressed and buried in.

5. What music or special readings you would love at your service.

6. Select what type and colors of flowers you would prefer.

7. Choose a theme for decorations, stationery, and memorial cards.

8. Decide if this will be a public or private service.

B. Participants

1. Choose a clergy member or officiator to preside over the service.

2. Select any musicians you may want playing during the service.

3. Select the pallbearers if needed.

4. Choose friends or family members to perform the eulogy, read scripture, or prepare a speech.

C. Final Disposition

1. Choose a cemetery.

2. Select a burial plot or mausoleum.

3. Select a memorial or grave marker and inscription.

4. Will the interment be public or private.

5. If burial is preferred, provide the details of the cemetery arrangements.

- Purchase a burial plot if you have not do so yet.

- what type of casket would you like?

- Should it be made of wood, metal, or composite materials?

- Any particular color, or a custom casket?

- Is there a family mausoleum or crypt?

6. If you choose cremation, decide what you want done with the ashes.

- Will someone be keeping the urn? Who?

- Select the type or color urn you want.

- If you want ashes scattered, decide on a location.

7. You can opt for a green burial instead (no embalming, placed directly into the ground without a casket/vault).

- Find a location or cemetery where this is allowed.

II. Taking Care of Finances and Property

1. Give your executor(s) a copy of your will and the contact list.

2. Give your executor(s) a contact list of the following:

- bank and investment accounts,

- creditors,

- mortgage or lien information,

- insurance policies,

- retirement plans,

- safe deposit boxes,

- real and personal properties of value

- any Social Security or the Veterans' Administration benefits/accounts.

3. Select someone you trust to deal with your online accounts, such as emails, online memberships, and social media. Include user names and passwords, and whether or not they should delete, close, or keep any of the accounts.

III. Taking Care of Your Pets

If you have animal companions, you should think about who you would like to take care of your pets. Talk with the person to see if this is something they are willing to do for you and then write down your intentions, including all contact information. This should be signed and witnessed, and then given to your executor.


Start here with your basic background and history. You can always add more information as you think of it, and reference the checklist above for additional info and instructions.

I. Biographical Information

Full Name:


City Name:


Zip Code:

Telephone Number:

Email Address:

Date of Birth:

City/State of Birth:

Highest Education Level:

Please select Grade/Years of Education completed:

Social Security Number: (For security reasons, the funeral director will get this later.)

Residence History:

Father's Name:

Father's City of Residence:

Mother's Name:

Mother's City of Residence:

Mother's Maiden Name:

Spouse's Name:

Spouse's Maiden Name:

Relatives Who Have Preceded In Death:


Business Type:

Company Name:

II. Memberships

Church Membership:

Lodge or Union Name:

Fraternal organizations:

Service organizations:

Union memberships:

Any special recognitions you have:

III. Military Record


Branch of Service:

Serial Number:

Date Enlisted:

Date of Discharge:

Rank at Discharge:

Location of a Copy of Discharge (DD214):

Time of Military Service:

Name(s) of war/conflict(s) toured:

Military Honors at Graveside:

Flag Preference for Service:

IV. Miscellaneous Notes and Instructions:

Complied from the following websites: