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Planning a loved one's funeral or memorial service

While planning a final service is difficult when a family is grieving, knowing what is important will help you make better decisions.

Here are some items to consider as you move forward with the planning process:

  • Was there a will or other Last Wishes document? Check with close family members, family attorney or personal representative. This document could assist you in the planning process.
  • Decide if you want assistance from a trusted source. Sometimes a friend, co-worker or attorney who is removed from the recent death can be helpful. The Federal Trade Commission recommends this as a way to ensure you don’t “emotionally overspend.”
  • Are you planning burial or cremation? This decision will narrow your focus as you move forward.
  • Other considerations include the notification of family and friends, the use of flowers, music or readings, publishing an obituary, whether to host a post-service reception or vigil and the length of time allowed or desired between death and the service. A service provider will be able to discuss and implement these options. You may want to consider reviewing this information with family or friends as well.

There are many options available for a funeral or memorial service. Make a list of what you consider to be the most important ways to honor the life of your loved one; then stick to those key items as you plan the service.

Burial or cremation?

Percentage of North Americans who will choose cremation by 2025

A key decision to be made is whether to use cremation or burial. According to the Cremation Association of North America, more than a third of all people who die are cremated and industry experts project that by 2025 58.85% of Americans will choose cremation.

Depending on the existence of a will or other Last Wishes document, this decision may already have been made during the deceased's lifetime and you can simply follow through on his or her desires. 

If cost is a concern, inquire about direct burial or direct cremation. These options are typically less expensive because they do not involve embalming.

You also should know that you are not required to purchase a casket through the funeral home and only a handful of states require you to hire a funeral director. As a result, some people choose to hold final services in the privacy of their homes.

Choosing a provider

If you or your loved one had a religious affiliation, many places of worship have funeral or memorial service providers with whom they frequently work.

In addition, the National Funeral Directors Association website allows you to search for providers affiliated with this worldwide organization.

If you have a provider in mind, the Better Business Bureau is a good place to check on the provider's reputation.