The average funeral costs about $9,000, which can be an enormous burden on a family that’s just lost a loved one. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable funeral option, there are lots of ways to reduce your costs and still do something very meaningful. Here are 7 tips for a cheap funeral that honors the life of your loved one.
1. Opt for cremation over burial
Burial costs can add up quickly. Here are some rough averages you can expect:
- Cemetery plot (with opening and closing): $1,500
- Casket: $2,000
- Burial vault: $1,000
- Headstone: $1,500
As you can see, that adds up to about $6,000 – before including services from a funeral home. Meanwhile, the average direct cremation costs about $2,000, and if you shop around, you can often find prices under $1,000.
2. Get price lists from several funeral homes
Funeral homes prices can vary widely for the exact same services, and many don’t share their price lists on their website. Before making a decision, call a few local funeral homes and ask them to email you their general price lists, or use our funeral planning tool to easily get quotes from funeral homes that match your needs. This will help you know if you’re getting a good value.
3. Choose direct cremation or immediate burial
If you don’t feel the need to having a viewing or service with the body present, a direct cremation or immediate burial may be a good way to save. Offered by most funeral homes, these tend to be the most basic cremation and burial packages, usually covering the pickup and transport of the body, basic preparation and the handling of necessary paperwork. Crematory or cemetery fees may be extra.
4. Donate the body to science
Donation to science is a great way to keep costs minimal, while helping with important medical training and research. Most university anatomical donation programs cover transportation and cremation costs (following use), which can save you thousands. If you donate the body to science, you may still choose to work with a funeral home, but you don’t need to. Find a program near you.
5. Opt out of embalming
Embalming (the process of adding chemicals to a dead body in order to slow decomposition) is rarely required and costs $725 on average, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Plus, by opting out of embalming, you’ll decrease the amount of formaldehyde that gets released into the ground which impacts the health of the environment.
6. Purchase the casket or urn online
Caskets can be one of the most expensive purchasing decisions in the funeral planning process. Fortunately, it’s often easy to find the same or similar caskets that the funeral home sells but online at a significantly lower price point. Browse online caskets and urns->
7. Select a free venue for the service
Funerals homes generally charge a few hundred dollars to use their staff and facilities for a service, but there are lots of places that you can hold one for free. Consider asking to hold the service at your place of worship, or think outside the box and consider hosting a celebration of life in a public area, such as a favorite park.
8. Use the internet to your advantage
Many of the smaller parts of planning or announcing a funeral used to be done on paper (such as funeral announcements, thank you cards, and obituaries). These services can be done online, sometimes even for free, by creating a memorial website. Memorial websites on Ever Loved allow you to share event details, collect RSVPs, send out thank you notes, and get in touch with your community, easily. On top of that, you can post an obituary with an unlimited amount of space for text and photos. An obituary in the newspaper costs upwards of $200 and only provides you with enough room for 2-3 sentences at that price. Skip out on the short printed obituary and post one online for free.
If you’re planning a funeral, consider using our funeral planning tool to help you identify what matters most in the planning process. Once filled out, you’ll receive a checklist of questions to consider and quick links to help you plan a beautiful memorial and funeral service.
Many people do not realize that payment for a funeral is due prior to services being rendered. So, having a financial plan in place to pay for a funeral is essential for every adult. There are many ways to pay for a funeral, in advance or at the time of need. However, not all payment methods are created equal. Each method has its own risks and benefits, so it is up to you to decide which payment method is right for you.
1. Prepaid Funeral Plans
Many people choose to pay for a funeral in advance with a prepaid funeral plan. Funeral plans with a special “preneed” contract funded with an insurance policy, trust, or annuity offer several benefits. Some funeral providers will offer a guarantee that “locks in” the cost of the selected funeral goods and services at the current price. If you expect to live another 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years, this type of contract could save your family money.
Preneed policies can be paid in full or set up on installment plans with a set number of payments that fit into your budget. The funds go to a specialized insurance company and offer growth with certain tax advantages. The plans are also transferable to another funeral home should you move away.
Funeral trusts also offer the benefit of some growth, depending on the underlying investment, so they are a popular option for those planning ahead as well. Some states require funeral homes to deposit 100% of funeral funds, and other states require only a percentage. Be sure that you clearly understand the terms of your funeral trust before entering into a contract, and pay special attention to the portability of your trust funds should you move.
Irrevocable prepaid funeral plans can also be set up as Medicaid-exempt assets to help an individual qualify for Medicaid later in life.
In the case of using an insurance policy to fund a prepaid funeral plan, it’s best to speak with a preplanning consultant who can review all of your options and answer any questions you may have.
2. Life Insurance or Final Expense Plan
Families often plan to cover funeral expenses with a life insurance policy or final expense policy. The truth is, there can be many unexpected complications. To learn more about these complications, take a moment to read The Truth About Life Insurance and Funeral Expenses. Even if your policy is problem free, it may take 6 to 8 weeks to receive payment.
Some funeral homes will agree to file the life insurance claim on your behalf, or they will partner with advance funding companies (also called an assignment company) to help families access life insurance policy benefits faster. Similar to a rapid refund on a tax return that you might receive from your tax preparer, advance funding is an advance on your life insurance policy benefits. The assignment company contacts the insurance company and verifies that the policy has not lapsed and has no other issues. You will receive funds within 24-48 hours of verification of the policy. The assignment company will deduct a small fee to cover administrative costs.
3. Personal Account/CD/Pay-on-Death Account
Some families choose to set up a pay-on-death account with a named beneficiary. This option allows your assets to be available to your heirs without having to go through probate. However, there are a few disadvantages to maintaining a personal pay-on-death account. With each year that goes by, the purchasing power in your account actually goes down. In addition, these types of accounts do not generally offer a sufficient amount of interest to offset inflation over time. Personal accounts are also not considered Medicaid-exempt should you require long-term care assistance. Personal accounts are also at risk of being used or seized due to civil judgments, bankruptcy, or divorce.
4. Credit Card or Funeral Loan
Another possibility to pay for a funeral is using a credit card or taking out a personal loan. Obviously, this is not the best option since it includes the possibility of paying interest on the funeral amount. Some lending companies offer families funeral loans, often with no interest for the first few months. Ask your funeral director about funeral lending companies, if interested.
5. Crowdfunding Website
If no financial plan in place at the time of need, families can use a crowdfunding website to pay for a funeral. Some of these websites are general fundraising platforms that can help you raise money for a funeral. GoFundMe.com, in particular, has become a very popular way to campaign for a service. Other websites such as Funeral Fund are specifically tailored to funeral fundraising. These sites provide efficient ways to receive the financial support needed to craft a meaningful ceremony.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Each Payment Method
With any option that you choose, you must weigh the risks and benefits of each. On one end of the spectrum, you have fully-insured prepaid funeral plans. These plans offer the highest amount of protection. On the other end of the spectrum, you have personal accounts. These offer the least amount of protection for funeral funds. In the end, it’s up to you to decide which option is the best for you and your family.
When a friend or loved one dies or death is expected to take place soon, there are many details to take care of. This can be a very stressful time. You are grieving and may have assumed a great responsibility by taking on the task of making funeral arrangements for someone you care about. The following information will make this difficult time easier for you.
We’ll take you through the steps of arranging a funeral — from making the first calls when someone dies to taking care of the financial and administrative matters that have to be handled following the funeral. If a death has already taken place and you have not yet begun to make notifications, visit our First Call page. This page has information that can help you understand what steps you need to take right away.
In addition to the information on the steps to planning a funeral that you see below, we’ve included links to our Funeral Planning Forms and Worksheets and our Wise Planning System. These valuable tools can help make arranging a funeral and managing funeral costs much easier by guiding you through the necessary steps.
How to Make Funeral Arrangements When Someone Has Died
Make the “first calls” to notify the appropriate parties and have the deceased removed from the place of death. See First Call.
Confirm Deceased Transportation
The First Call results in an initial transfer of the deceased from the place of death to a funeral home or other facility. In some cases, a second transfer may be required either locally to another funeral home or to another city. See Deceased Transportation.
Look for Pre-Arrangements
Determine if the deceased left behind a pre-arranged funeral plan. A pre-arranged plan generally specifies the funeral service provider that the deceased selected.
Arrange for Funeral Services
Meet with a funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral services. During the meeting, you will discuss how the deceased will be cared for, whether you will have a burial or cremation, and what type of ceremony will be held. See Arrangement Conference.
Confirm Cemetery Arrangements
If the deceased will be buried and cemetery property has not already been purchased, meet with officials of the selected cemetery to purchase interment property (e.g., grave plot, crypt, a niche for an urn). The funeral director may be able to make these arrangements on behalf of your family. See Cemetery Arrangements.
Select Funeral and Memorial Products
Select and purchase the necessary merchandise (casket, burial vault, urn, etc.), memorial items (grave marker, online memorial) and funeral stationery. See Funeral and Memorial Products.
Handle Estate, Financial, and Administrative Matters
Following the funeral, the affairs of the deceased must be put in order. These matters range from sending death notices to filing death benefit claims to changing the title of the deceased’s assets. See Estate, Financial and Administrative Matters.
See What Others Say About Funeralwise
Making Funeral Arrangements when Death is Imminent
If the death has already happened and you do not have time to pre-plan, download a copy of our Funeral Planning Checklist and Planning Form. This comprehensive document will help you gather all the information that you will need when meeting with the funeral service providers you will be working with. Once you make the request we will email you right away with a link to download the document.
If a friend or loved one is seriously ill and expected to die in a matter of days or weeks, consider making funeral arrangements in advance. Preparing ahead of time puts you in control and allows you to explore all your options. It will make your meeting with a funeral director more productive and is likely to save you money. Our online planning tools and forms can help you make funeral arrangements in advance. You can also try the Wise Planning System.
Our Funeral Provider Search Directory can help you locate a funeral home, cremation service, cemetery, funeral celebrant, or other providers of funeral products and services.
The links on the right sidebar (at the bottom of the page on mobile) can help you find more information on the details required in planning a funeral.
Common Questions About Arranging a Funeral
Funerals are expensive and unfortunately, people don’t always set aside resources to pay for them. How much public and private assistance is available will depend on where you live and your financial circumstances. You can find detailed information on the many options for financing funerals on our Paying for a Funeral page.
You may not have to notify the police when there is a death at home. Exactly who you call will depend on the circumstances of the death. Visit our First Call page for more information on who you need to call when someone has died.
You will likely need a funeral director to help you make arrangements for handling the body, but in many states, this is not required. If you are in an area that permits home funerals and burials, you may be able to handle most of the preparation yourself. See our page on home funerals and burials. As far as arranging the ceremony, you may find that you would like to work with a funeral celebrant. A funeral celebrant is a trained professional whose job is to help you plan the type of ceremony you would like.
Today, about half of people decide that cremation is the right choice for them. Whether or not to be cremated is a personal decision that only you can make. The best way to make an informed decision is to learn as much as you can about it. We have a comprehensive section of information relating to cremation that can help you understand how the process works and what type of questions you should ask in order to decide what’s right for you. Visit our cremation section.
No! You do not have to have a funeral. For some people, a memorial service (a body is not present) is preferred. For others, there is no ceremony at all. The way you are memorialized is entirely up to you.
Tools to Help With Funeral Arrangements
Our Wise Planning System helps you prepare for an arrangement conference with your funeral director. You’ll be guided step-by-step through the planning process using our planning tools. Simply print out your plan and take it to your meeting with the funeral director.
The Quick Plan is the first step in the Wise Planning System. In a matter of minutes, you’ll have created a basic funeral plan and will find out your estimated funeral cost. There’s no charge and no obligation. Give it a try!
If you prefer working on paper, print our Funeral Arrangement Planning Form to help you compile all of the information you need to provide to your funeral director.
This article on funeral planning is provided by Everplans — The web’s leading resource for planning and organizing your life. Create, store and share important documents that your loved ones might need. Find out more about Everplans »
Planning your own funeral or memorial service can provide peace-of-mind to you and your family.
By planning your service in advance you can design and specify the exact type of service you’d like, so that your friends and family celebrate you as you wish. And by letting your family know how you’d like your funeral or memorial service to be, they’ll have less difficult and complicated decisions to make during a difficult emotional time. To learn more about how and why to plan your funeral or memorial service in advance, check out this article.
Make decisions about the type of service and events you’d like to have
- Decide on the type of service you want to have
- I would like to have a funeral service, followed by burial or cremation
- I would like to have a funeral service, followed by a graveside service or a service at the crematory, followed by burial or cremation
- I would like to have only a graveside service or a service at the crematory, followed by burial or cremation
- I would like to have a memorial service after the burial or cremation
- I would like to have a funeral service in my own home
- Decide if you want any other funeral events
- I would like to have a viewing before my funeral
- I would like to have a wake before my funeral
- I would like to have a visitation before my funeral
- I would like to have a reception or gathering after my funeral or memorial service
- I would like to observe my religion’s mourning events
Identify personal touches you’d like at the service
- I would like my funeral or memorial service to be held at the following location: ______________________________________. If this location is not available, my second choice is ______________________________________.
- The person I would like to officiate my funeral or memorial service is ______________________________________. If this person is not available, my second choice is ______________________________________.
- I would like the following people to serve as pallbearers:
- I would like the following people to deliver eulogies:
- I would like the following people to deliver prayers, poems, or other readings:
- The readings I would like them to deliver are:
- I would like the following songs, hymns, or pieces of music to be played:
- I would like people to honor my memory by making a donation to one of the charity organizations that has meant a lot to me:
- I want to be sure that the following groups, organizations, and clubs will be notified of and invited to my funeral or memorial service (such as veterans’ groups, alumni associations, sports or hobby clubs, etc.):
Name of Group/Primary Contact/Contact Info
- I want to be sure that the following people, whom my family may not know, will be notified of and invited to my funeral or memorial service:
Once you have finished pre-planning your funeral, put those details in an Everplan where you can share them with trusted Deputies who will carry out your wishes.
The death of a loved one is a very difficult and emotional experience and it is normal for you to feel a wide range of emotions. From grief to anger, you may start to feel lost and confused after the death of someone you love, so it can be difficult to know what you should be doing. However, after anyone dies, it is important that you start to make preparations for the funeral as soon as possible so that you can lay your loved one to rest and start to come to terms with what has happened. Organizing a funeral is a big responsibility and many people have no idea how to go about it. So, we have put together this guide that tells you everything you need to know about organizing a funeral.
Choose a Funeral Provider
It is important that you select a funeral provider that you want to organize the funeral service for you. While it is incredibly difficult to think straight after someone you loved has died, it is important that you pick an appropriate funeral provider in your area. By hiring a trustworthy and reliable service such as one of these funeral homes Winnipeg, you may find that making preparations for the funeral is significantly less painful for you.
Pick a Type of Funeral
There are many different types of funerals that you can pick from and you will likely decide which one is appropriate depending on the wishes of your loved one. If they never talked about how they would like their funeral, then you could ask other members of your family to see what they think. If the deceased was religious, then you may consider a religion-based service.
Sort out Financial Arrangements
It is crucial that you make some financial considerations when it comes to sorting out a funeral as the costs can soon start to add up. Find out if the deceased had any funeral plans or insurance in place that may be able to help with the costs. Funerals don’t come cheap and an average casket can cost around $2,000. Therefore, it is important that you think about how you are going to pay for the funeral as soon as possible.
Apply for a Death Certificate
You will need a death certificate in order to go ahead with the funeral arrangements, as well as to enable you to let the relevant agencies know about the death. Death certifications are usually issued by the Bureau of Vital Records and can be applied for by mail, phone, or online.
Reach Out for Support
It is important that you seek the help of others when arranging a funeral and don’t try to do it alone. The stress of arranging a funeral combined with the grief you are suffering from can be a very distressing combination for one person to handle.
By following this guide, you should find that making funeral preparations is a bit easier and less distressing during this difficult time.
Emotionally preparing for a funeral when you have depression seems next to impossible. The days I spent preparing for my grandfather’s funeral had me sick and my stomach filled with dread (Coping with Loss: Bereavement and Grief). My grandfather was my buddy, teaching me tons of things from how to drive to how to bake bread and his death hit me with a wave of memories and unprocessed emotions. Preparing to attend his funeral was daunting, especially with my depression at high intensity. I’ll share a couple things I learned to better help you prepare for a funeral when depressed.
Three Ways to Emotionally Prepare for a Funeral When Depressed
1. Prepare for People Who Aren’t Grieving Like You
Contrary to the belief that grief follows a formula, everyone responds to death differently. Something that can shock people at funerals is the fact that not everyone will be crying, depressed, or grieving. Some people get excited to share stories about the deceased with people who knew them or who were involved in the stories. Some people haven’t been hit with grief yet, and won’t begin to grieve for months, and they’ll be confused at why they’re not sad. Some people will not be able to speak through their tears. Everyone is different at a funeral.
I was anxious for the emotional weight of everyone else’s grief and depression (The Anxious Empath: Anxiety And Other People’s Feelings). I absorb others’ emotions like a sponge, so I knew that attending the funeral of a man loved deeply by all who knew him would be especially taxing. I had to prepare myself to not mimic the actions of those attending. My unsolicited advice is to recognize how you feel right before the funeral and to stick with that. Everyone acts differently at funerals, and you can too.
2. Prepare to Be Uncomfortable
This point is simple and important. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, funerals will make you uncomfortable. They call attention to the finality of death and shine a cold, bright light on mortality. Prepare yourself for the discomfort by anticipating tension and focusing on what’s happening in front of you, which will be readings, flower arrangements, and more people feeling uncomfortable. Because like I said, no one feels comfortable at a funeral.
3. Prepare to Distance Yourself from Drama
Funerals are the last place one wants drama, but it happens because families are imperfect groups of imperfect people. You need to be ready to take care of yourself first. If you sense that something is amiss, take a walk or put yourself by the kids. At least when you’re by kids, you are reminded of the care and compassion that’s truly needed at a funeral, not petty, family drama that can happen in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I find that people try to claim grief and memories of the deceased for themselves, playing the “I Knew Them Better Than You” game. I encourage you to avoid this game like kids avoid vegetables, with determination and distaste. Focus on why you’re attending the funeral in the first place, which is probably because you want to show support. Don’t let the heightened emotions of a funeral suck you into adult drama.
The reality of funerals is that they are usually sad, exhausting, and they last too long, so it is necessary to emotionally prepare for a funeral when you’re depression. Solid preparation helps you best cope with the complexities of death and depression.
Verbeke, T. (2017, May 8). How to Emotionally Prepare for a Funeral When Depressed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2017/05/death-and-depression-how-to-prepare-for-funerals
Author: Tiffanie Verbeke
Tiffanie Verbeke is a writer who delights in thinking and despises typing. She gets fired up about mental health and societal inequalities and she finds joy in driving under shadowy trees, running when it’s raining, and kids’ brutal honesty. Tiffanie welcomes feedback, so contact her freely. Connect with Tiffanie on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and her personal blog.
It is customary (but not required) to hold a reception following a funeral or memorial service. This gathering offers friends and family the opportunity to meet in an informal environment. The after-funeral reception gives mourners the chance to support each other, share stories and memories, and continue to celebrate the life of someone they cared about.
We sometimes hear the after-funeral reception is referred to as a “repast.” Historically, the repast was a meal shared by close friends and family after the funeral. In modern times, the nature of the repast has evolved to include larger gatherings. For some, a close intimate meal is still the order of the day. For others, the repast will be a larger more festive event that may even include a Celebration of Life Program. Today we find the terms repast and funeral reception to be synonymous.
With the trend toward funerals becoming more unique, we find the same for the post-funeral reception. Events range from casual pot lucks at a family home to full sit down meals at a restaurant or banquet hall. Either of these are perfectly fine since there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the after-funeral reception. The reception can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
Regardless of the type of funeral reception, the event will take some planning. Just remember to keep the purpose in mind and take your own needs into consideration. Also, consider what the person whose life you are celebrating would have wanted. Remember, your goal is to give those who cared about the deceased a chance to remember and share. You are not expected to host an extravaganza unless that is what you want to do.
AFTER FUNERAL RECEPTION PLANNING DO’S AND DON’TS
- DO ask for help.
- DO choose a location that works for you or is special to the deceased.
- DO feel free to keep it simple if that’s what you want.
- DO make the reception personal by using photos and memorabilia.
- DO remember there are no hard and fast rules. You can arrange the reception on your own terms.
- DON’T feel obligated to create a full course meal.
- DON’T turn down help.
- DON’T forget non-traditional locations when looking for a venue.
- DON’T feel obligated to serve alcohol.
- DON’T forget to personalize the event.
Before you start to plan, slow down and take a deep breath. If you tackle the following questions you’ll be able to make quick progress.
One of the most important things you can remember when it comes to organizing a post-funeral reception is that you may be the one who is grieving. Planning an event can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances. When you add the fact that you are mourning it can become unmanageable.
The very best thing you can do is ASK FOR HELP. If you are working with a church, ask about the possibility of using their resources or volunteers to plan the reception. Turn to friends and family members who have offered to help. During times of need, your community will be relieved to have a way to support you.
Who will be in charge of organizing the funeral reception?
If you feel up to the task of planning the reception then go for it! Depending on your situation you may find it a welcome distraction. If it starts to become too much, slow down and come up with another solution. Unless you are preplanning, you won’t have a lot of time to make the arrangements. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to do it yourself.
If you would prefer to have someone else take care of the details there are a number of places you can turn. A reliable friend or family member may be the perfect solution. If you are having the funeral or memorial service at a church or funeral home, these venues may have a professional assigned for just this purpose. Churches often have volunteer groups who are eager to help. Consider engaging a professional celebrant or party planner who specializes in making funeral arrangements.
Where and when will the reception be held?
The most common locations for the funeral reception are at the home of a friend or relative, a church banquet hall, or the parlor of a funeral home. Many people also opt to use a local restaurant. When thinking about the venue you will need to consider how many people might attend. Don’t forget about local parks or other open-air areas that may be appropriate.
What type of food and drink should be served and where will you get it?
The type of food and drink you serve will depend on financial considerations, the amount of time you have to prepare, religious requirements, and cultural factors. It is quite common to ask close friends and family to provide a dish. If you are hosting the reception at a restaurant, consider offering a limited menu or a buffet-style meal. If using a caterer, their representatives can help you decide the appropriate amount and type of food for the number of people you expect to attend.
How will you personalize the event?
As we have mentioned, the purpose of the funeral reception is to give those attending a chance to share memories and further reflect on the life of the deceased. You can help foster interaction and make the reception more personal by including touches that bring to mind your loved one. There are many popular and easy ways to do this. Creating a photo wall or memory table are two of the most common. If the deceased was a collector, displaying some special items from his or her personal collection is also a good alternative. Other ways you can personalize the funeral reception include:
- Serving food that was a favorite of the deceased.
- Playing background music that had significance to your loved one.
- Arranging a group activity such as a candle lighting ceremony.
- Offering an open microphone so that guests can share a story or memory.
- Creating a tribute video to display during the reception.
- Providing a keepsake for visitors to take with them.
These are just a few of the ways you can make the funeral reception unique. You can find many more inspiring ideas on popular social media such as Pinterest. (See our Pinterest board for Funeral Reception Ideas.)
Should you decorate the venue?
Whether or not you decorate the venue will depend on where the reception is held, the amount of time you have, and your access to resources. Many people find that using flowers that are sent to the home will brighten up even the darkest room. Decorations can also be useful in adding personalization. For example, if your loved one appreciated being outdoors, bouquets of wildflowers may add the perfect touch. Placing photos on tables along with candles can create warmth.
While you may want to dress the room to create atmosphere, it is not necessary to plan as if you were holding a wedding. Remember, you may be grieving too. If you keep your loved one in mind and do the best you can, the room will be just fine. The guests are there to honor your loved one and to share each other’s company, not to judge your decorating skills.
Welcome to the Funeral Planning and Memorial Service Checklist
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Most likely you are reading this because you have recently lost a loved one. It can feel overwhelming when we lose family members, friends and loved ones. Whether you are planning a funeral, a memorial service, or both, we are here to try to ease some of the burden.
This complete funeral planning guide includes a checklist of the steps to take when a loved one dies. It starts with immediate actions to take following a death then covers the entire process through making funeral arrangements and what to do after the service. This easy, step-by-step guide will help you manage the process during this trying time.
What To Do Immediately Following a Death
Below is a list of the actions you should take right away after a loved one dies. Not all of these steps are necessary in every situation, but it’s helpful to understand them.
Gather important documents
You should start to gather as many of your loved one’s important documents as possible. Below is list of a few documents to look for, but there may be others:
Will (if one exists)
Military discharge papers
Insurance policies (health, life, property)
Citizenship papers (if appropriate)
Income tax returns (past two years)
Disability claims (if any)
All documents necessary for deceased’s taxes (ask your accountant)
Financial and bank statements
Retirement, pension and brokerage accounts
Business agreements (such as LLC or partnership agreements)
Bills (utilities, services, subscriptions)
Get a legal document of the death
You will need an official death certificate. We recommend getting multiple copies (10-15) as you will need them to handle other matters later. You obtain a certificate in different ways depending on where the death occurred.
If the death occurred in hospice care, call the hospice nurse.
If the death occurred in a hospital or other care facility, the doctor and nursing staff will take care of this for you.
If the death occurred at home or elsewhere, you should call 911. The emergency response team will help.
Find out if they were an organ donor
If your loved one was an organ donor it may be indicated on their driver’s license or in their living will. Let a nearby hospital know as soon as you discover their organ donor status. They can help guide you where to go in your area.
Inform family, friends and co-workers
Informing friends and family about the death of their loved one is not easy. Approach it in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Make sure to leave your contact information so anyone you call can get back in touch with you.
Contact a service to retrieve the body
If your loved one shared their wishes for their final disposition, it can make things easier. Did they do any funeral pre-planning? Did they have prepaid funeral arrangements? Did they specify a traditional funeral, burial or cremation?
If you know these answers, contact the appropriate party. If you’re unsure, contact a funeral director at a nearby funeral home for help. Prior to retrieval, remember to remove any valuable jewelry from your loved one.
You can arrange for cremation through a funeral home, but that’s not necessary unless you’re planning on a traditional funeral home service. There are many options available. If cost is an issue, basic services can start at low as $750. If you need more, such as a place for a memorial service, there are companies that do that as well.
Prices can vary widely at funeral homes, so the best approach is to call and visit. You can also read online reviews. The average funeral can cost $7,000-$10,000.
There are several ways to donate a loved one’s body. If your loved one didn’t specify an organization for their donation, the best thing to do is to ask the local hospital or a university medical center.
Contact an attorney to get access to will
Your loved one may have created a will that outlines their specific wishes for their funeral arrangements and their possessions. The will helps determine the next steps you should take to ensure their wishes are honored. Getting access to the will may take a while. So it is best to get it started sooner than later.
If a will exists, you should get in touch with the attorney that drafted the document or the attorney that represents your loved one.
If no will exists or you’re unsure if one exists or you just need help, you should contact an attorney that specializes in wills and probate law.
Determine the Executor of the estate
The Executor of the estate is the person who is legally able to act on the behalf of the deceased. This person could be appointed by the will or an attorney or by the state. Usually, the Executor is a family member or close loved one. It’s important to know who this is because only the Executor can handle certain matters such as cancelling accounts and forwarding mail.
Contact their employer to understand benefits
This is important to do as soon as possible so you have an understanding of any company benefits available to you and other family members. If your loved one was a veteran of the military, contact the Veteran’s Administration, as there may be other benefits available.
Gather information for the obituary and contact newspapers
If your loved one was a member of My Wonderful Life, you may find the information you need to write that obituary when you login and view their plan . They may have even written their own. Otherwise, you should gather some key information and contact your local newspaper.
Key facts and information you need for an obituary:
Armed services number
Date and birthplace
Occupation and employer
Mother’s maiden name and birthplace
Father’s name and birthplace
Those who have preceded in death
Survivors and relationship to deceased
Take security precautions at their home
If your loved one lived alone,, assign someone to be at their home. Sadly, this is a time when burglaries can happen. If that is not an option, let the police know. Lock up or remove all valuables and vehicles.
Forward mail and save important bills
Contact the post office in order to forward your loved one’s mail to a mailing address that will be monitored. This is important to keep mail from piling up and to ensure bills and other time-sensitive items aren’t missed. This is a step that can only be taken by the Executor.
Cancel newspaper, magazine, and online subscriptions
Make sure to cancel any newspaper, magazine or online service (such as streaming television or music) subscriptions.