We know this is not the most upbeat content to be reading, especially post COVID-19 where we know funerals had to take a drastically different approach than before. However, the key issue we want to highlight within this section is around the importance of planning ahead for your funeral (or a loved ones). We know death and dying can be uncomfortable for some to think about but at Plan Well Guide, planning ahead for the inevitable is what we believe in.
Funeral planning can take on many forms and variations. One has to consider how the life (or death) is acknowledged – celebration of life, spiritual service, religious ceremony and there are also the methods of preparation and disposal of the body – cremation, burial etc. We address burial planning in a separate blog, the rest of this article deals with preparing for your grand final celebration!
Funeral Planning 101
It may be helpful to first breakdown funeral planning into two categories, what professionals refer to as: At-Need and Pre-Need funeral planning:1
- “At-Need” funeral arrangements are made at the time of death, usually by surviving family members or by a trusted friend on behalf of the deceased. Making funeral plans at the time of death are particularly difficult because the time frame is short and emotions are high as survivors are dealing with their grief. Not only is there much planning to do, there are also imminent financial concerns. Payment for funeral services is due at the time of the funeral which can be quite expensive, a considerable hardship for most families.
- “Pre-Need” plans (also known as “Preplanning”) are the funeral plans that people make for the living. Pre-Need funeral plans can be made at any time and offer many advantages. Funeral Homes, cemeteries and other funeral service companies can help you preplan a funeral for yourself, your spouse or a parent. Also, how-to guides, planning worksheets and interactive tools are now readily available at websites such as Funeralwise.com to help you create a funeral plan. Planning online is a convenient way to plan and it puts you in control of the process.
It is important to consider the costs when planning a funeral is the financial implication. Funeral costs can be as low as $1,500 or as high as $20,000.
Funeral home burial charges usually include:
- Transportation of the deceased person to the funeral home and to the cemetery
- Preparation of the body (embalming, cosmetology, hairstyling, dressing)
- Viewing at the funeral home
- Services at the funeral home, graveside, or church
- Limousine service for transporting family to the cemetery
- Acknowledgment cards
- Professional services
In addition to the funeral home costs, the cemetery usually charges for the liner (vault) to prevent the ground from settling, opening and closing the grave, and grave markers or monuments. Cremation or donating your body to science is an alternative to burial and generally is less expensive.2
To help understand the financial elements involved with planning a funeral, we have included the following resources as they may offer more in-depth and supportive information:
- Breakdown of Funeral Costs + Calculating Your Funeral Costs and Final Expenses & How to Manage and Pay for Funerals https://www.funeralwise.com/plan/costs/
When thinking about your final celebration, consider asking yourself the following questions to determine what would be best for you:
- What would you like your obituary to say?
- What type of gathering, service, ceremony, or memorial would you like to have?
- What other options to personalize your event would you like?
- Where would you like your final resting place to be?
- How do you plan on paying for your funeral?
- How do you plan on recording or documenting your final wishes?
To see more details within each area listed above, simply download a PDF version of the checklist from Funeral Basics, click here.
Draft Your Own Obituary
In order to ‘get it right’ and say the things that you want said and to relieve your family of that stressful step when you pass, consider writing your own obituary. There are lots of online resources to help with this step and it would be important to include your draft with your final funeral plans.
Check of these resources for writing an obituary:
Ultimately, you will need the services of a professional if you want to completely plan and pay for in advance your funeral. Here are some resources that may be helpful to you in making your selection:
- How do I choose a Funeral Home?
- Questions to ask a funeral director before hiring them
- Canadian Funerals Online: Connects people with funeral services nationwide, helping people all across Canada
- New Narrative Memorials: Event Management and Consulting Tailored for the Modern Memorial
- In Memory: An online resource that compares offerings and costs of funeral homes across Canada
Filing Your Funeral Plans
It is important that you first organize your essential documents and store them in a place your loved ones are aware of and have access to. Ensure you have a copy of your funeral plans printed out and stored in this designated space at home where your family is aware and also have a copy sent to a funeral provider.
Summary and Conclusions
To reiterate, it really is important that you have a plan in place for some sort of life celebration or service at the end of your life. In doing this, you will be improving your mental and emotional health, by knowing your wishes and preferences will be celebrated in the manner that is right for you. This will be your final act; your final celebration and it should be exactly how you want it. Also, you can rest assured and have peace of mind knowing that those you leave behind will be less stressed and anxious at your loss because you have planned ahead. We hope we have provided the necessary knowledge, tools and resources to help you engage in planning your funeral.
Remember, if you want to live well and die well, you need to plan your funeral well!
For more information about the benefits of planning your funeral and why planning your funeral is worth the time and effort:
- The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta has developed an online booklet which provides helpful preliminary information about your options and rights in pre-planning your funeral. Link to booklet: https://www.cplea.ca/wp-content/uploads/PlanningYourOwnFuneral.pdf
- Article from The New York Times about how exactly to plan for your death and funeral
- Article from CBC around what you need to know before arranging a funeral
- Article from the Globe and Mail around how funeral planning eases the hardship
- Top 7 Myths of Advance Funeral Planning
- Funeral Trends of 2018
- Information around ‘What is a Green Burial’?
We hoped these exercises to inform yourself and reflect on your inner beliefs and values has helped motivate you to engage in funeral planning. We would invite you to go through the next section where you can learn more about developing a plan to prepare for this grand finale of life!