Preparing for Death

Preparing for death and making funeral, cremation or cemetery arrangements in advance, whether someone else’s or your own, can be a difficult task. There are many choices to be made, but making them sooner rather than later—while heads are clear and feelings are manageable—protects your family from decisions that can be clouded by strong emotions or financial stress. From pre-planning a funeral service to getting your financial affairs in order, our funeral planning checklist can guide you through this process and help to provide you with peace of mind in knowing that you've taken care of an important family responsibility and made your wishes known.

Planning ahead for a funeral service

Planning your own funeral in advance means your loved ones don't have to guess what you would have wanted—if you would have preferred a metal casket over a wooden one, an organist or a recorded version of your favourite hymn, or a traditional burial instead of cremation memorialization. Our caring providers take the time to walk you through the process of pre-planning a funeral exactly how you envision it.

Benefits to funeral planning ahead of time include recording your wishes, understanding funeral and cemetery pricing, locking in today's costs, taking time to review Medicare and veterans benefits, and working with a funeral professional in a relaxed environment.

What to consider when funeral planning

There are as many ways to celebrate a life as there are stars in the sky. The most memorable memorial services are planned with attention to detail and include many personal touches to reflect the individuals they represent. When planning ahead for a funeral, consider the opportunities for self-expression and personalization.

Think of what made you or the person you are planning for the happiest. It might be a special place, a song, a poem, a certain flower or a favourite meal. What reflects your tastes and traditions best? A deeply religious funeral at your church or an outdoor celebration of life? A cremation with a simple toast or a memorial service followed by a catered dinner? Whatever you choose, a funeral service can be as unique and memorable as you wish.

If planning for yourself, think about some of the following ideas to help make the service you plan more meaningful—and one that truly captures the essence of your life. Use the following personalized funeral planning checklist to guide your decisions.

Venue. Where would you like your service to take place? A funeral home, church or more personal location, such as someone's home—or a favourite place such as a beach, lake or park—are all options to consider.
Music. Are there specific songs or a certain band that you would like played at your funeral or memorial? You could choose religious songs, secular classics, contemporary music, or maybe even an original piece written by yourself or a family member. Do you want a playlist of recorded music or live musicians to play on site?
Readings. Readings can include a eulogy, poems, scriptures or stories shared by the officiant or friends and family.
Mementos. A memento is a reminder to guests of the life that they are celebrating, so make it personal. Some examples include a keychain with a running shoe charm for an avid runner, a bandana in a favourite colour for an outdoorsman, a copy of a favourite book for a voracious reader or a coffee cup for a java connoisseur. The sky's the limit and a memento should speak to your personality and passions.
Food. Food is a natural expression of love. It's often traditional for friends and family to gather over a meal after a funeral or memorial service. Bring your favourite foods or special recipes into your celebration in a meaningful way. A baseball fan might choose a menu of ballpark snacks. A taco fanatic might want a DIY taco buffet. An ice cream lover could plan an ice cream social, complete with all the chocolate syrup and coloured sprinkles a person could ever dream of.
Flowers. Different flowers have different meanings. From a casket spray to table bouquets, you can customize your flowers for your funeral or memorial service. Or you might choose themed decor, such as table centerpieces of fruits and vegetables or fishing tackle and evergreen branches. A beautiful floral or themed display can add a personal touch to a life celebration.

Bronze winged angel statue holding a string of pearls.

Cemetery arrangements

When planning a funeral or memorial service, it’s also important to think about cemetery arrangements. Choosing a burial plot, cremation memorial or mausoleum crypt in advance is an important step in creating a legacy and securing a place where future generations can visit to reflect and remember.

Create a contact list

A contact list details the people to be contacted after death occurs. Family members will most likely be listed first, followed by close friends and your employer, if you are still working. You can designate one person on the list to contact everyone else, as well as forward the funeral arrangements on social media and through other media outlets.

Legal and estate considerations when preparing for death

In addition to funeral planning, there are legal and estate-related documents to get in order as you prepare for death. Talk with a lawyer to draft or update crucial documents, such as:

  1. Your will. This document tells your family how you would like your assets divided. A designated executor oversees the execution of your wishes.
  2. Power of attorney. This gives someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself.
  3. Advance directives. This tells your family and healthcare providers how you'd like to handle medical situations that may arise.

These 3 documents can be created or updated at the same time. Make sure you, your lawyer, the executor of your will and your power of attorney have copies of the documents.

Financial considerations when preparing for death

In the weeks and months following a death, family members may have a hard time tracking down a person’s services and subscriptions that need to be paid for, transferred or cancelled. Consider making a list of financial institutions, utilities and debtors to be contacted after you die. The executor of your estate will be responsible for paying your remaining debts, selling your property and distributing money or assets to the people named in the will. This is also the time to think about if you’d like to donate a portion of your estate to a charity or organization you feel passionate about.

Here are a few items you may want to include on your list:

  1. Bank accounts, such as checking and savings, and safe deposit boxes
  2. Utilities such as phone, cable, electric, gas and water
  3. Financial institutions that hold your car note or your mortgage
  4. Investment institutions that hold your 401(k) plan or other retirement or investment accounts

In addition to paying debtors, your executor will also be responsible for checking into death benefits such as life insurance, veterans benefits, Medicare/Medicaid, and home or auto insurance policies that will be paid out after you die.

Planning resources

Dignity Memorial professionals can help you celebrate your life like no other. Our compassionate experts will walk you through the process of pre-planning a funeral and answer important questions so that you'll have all the information needed to make educated decisions. We're here to help you make sure your final wishes are complete and will be carried out just as you envisioned.

Plan a beautiful, personal remembrance

Each life is like no other. Particular passions, milestone moments and legacies created weave together to tell a story that is completely unique. The Insider’s Guide to Funeral & Cremation Planning will walk you through inspirational ideas and the simple steps to planning an unforgettable memorial of a loved one’s life—or your own when you plan in advance. Get started today.


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