How to Plan Your Own Funeral
Planning your own funeral and sharing your final wishes with your family is a great way to ensure your wishes are respected and your family has a clear plan in place. Funerals can often be stressful events for families to plan, especially if there is disagreement on what the person who passed away would’ve wanted. Planning the funeral in advance and making your wishes known is an easy way to avoid disagreements and confusion when the time comes.
Why you should preplan
In general, having your wishes known and certain aspects of your funeral planned out is a major benefit to your loved ones. Some advantages include:
- Having your final wishes laid out can ease the burden on your family
- Your last wishes are known and can be respected
- Less confusion for those who have to plan it otherwise
- Easier to estimate cost and start saving
- Different options available to you when saving for your funeral
Ways to record your plans
Without a doubt, having any kind of plan in place is better than having absolutely no plan in place. If that means that you simply write out a few sentences on a piece of paper and hand it to a trusted loved one, then absolutely make that happen. There are, however, better and more organized ways for you to share your final wishes with your loved ones.
- Have your final wishes included in your will
- Record your final wishes in online storage / document storage that you give (trusted) others access to
- Record your final wishes on paper and keep them with the rest of your documents
- Work with a specific funeral home to record your final wishes
- Speak with your lawyer about your final wishes and have them written down
- Speak with your family about your final wishes openly and directly
- Easily record them using our Final Wishes tool and share them with loved ones
Determining your final wishes
Funerals have a lot of moving parts with many critical decisions involved. It’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about the general “must-haves” that you want at your funeral. Even if you don’t plan out every single specific, nailing down the larger requests is already a huge step forward in planning out your funeral. To get the ball rolling, it’s important to consider what kind of price range you should be planning for.
Funeral cost breakdown
The cost of a funeral will depend on a number of factors including disposition method, services, location, products, and more. For a full and detailed overview of what to expect cost-wise, check out our article on the cost of funerals. For a brief overview of costs, see below:
Traditional Funeral with a Viewing and Burial - $11,600 (+ any costs associated with the reception)
Traditional Memorial Service with Cremation - $4,800 (+ any costs associated with the reception)
Immediate Burial - $8,800 (+ any costs associated with the memorial or celebration of life)
Body Composting - $5,500 (only available in the state of Washington) Direct Cremation - $2,300 (+ any costs associated with the memorial service or celebration of life) Donation to Science - $0 (+ any costs associated with the memorial service or celebration of life)
Arguably the most important aspect of your funeral will be your chosen disposition method. The disposition method is the main factor in determining the price of the funeral you’d like to have. If you feel strongly either way, it’s important to let your wishes be known before you pass away so that your family can prepare and can honor your final wishes.
If you choose to be cremated, you might want to consider how you’d like your ashes to be handled after the fact. Some questions to consider are:
- Do you want your ashes scattered somewhere? (If so, where would you like your ashes scattered?)
- Do you want your ashes to be shared by different family members?
- Do you have a specific type of urn you’d like your ashes to be in?
- Would you like your urn to be displayed at a specific location?
Choosing to be buried will bring up similar logistical considerations. Some questions you might want to consider are:
- What kind of casket do you want to be buried in?
- What material would you like the casket to be made of?
- What price range are you considering for your casket?
- Where do you want to be buried?
- Do you want an open casket or a closed casket?
Whole Body Donation
Body donation is critical to training future medical professionals and advancing both medicine and science. It’s also the most affordable disposition method. Some questions you can consider are:
- What organization do I want to donate my body to?
- Will my family be okay with me donating my body?
- Do I want my cremains stored or my ashes scattered?
- What kind of urn do I want my cremains stored in?
Another important distinction when it comes to burial is traditional burials vs. green burials. If you’re interested in a green burial, it’s important to make that known to your family as they’ll need to find a green cemetery to bury you in. Green burials do not include embalming of the body and instead will place the body in a biodegradable container or shroud to allow the body to decompose naturally.
Body Composting This new method of disposition is only available and legal in the state of Washington. When considering this option, you'll want to think about the following:
- What do I want the soil to be used for at the end of the process?
- Where do I want my soil spread, if anywhere?
- Do I want a memorial service?
Type of services and events
The type of event that’s held when you pass away is another important aspect to consider. Do you prefer to have a small, private gathering of only family? Would you prefer to have a joyous celebration of life that’s focused on the things you accomplished in your life? Do you want your loved ones to take a joint trip and spread your ashes at a favorite camping spot? These are the type of questions your loved ones will be left with if there were no instructions or indications of preferences left for them. As an overview, there are three main types of events to consider when someone passes away:
A traditional memorial service - Memorial services are often the first thing that comes to mind when someone considers a typical funeral and the events surrounding it. Memorial services take place after the body has been cremated or buried and are typically somber events. Loved ones will usually read passages, deliver eulogies, and sing or play different songs.
A celebration of life - If a traditional memorial service is considered a somber event, a celebration of life is it’s more positive counterpart. Celebrations of life generally focus on positivity and celebrating the accomplishments of and life of someone who has passed away. Celebrations of life will often involve loved ones sharing happy or funny memories, songs, dances, and can center around specific activities that were relevant to the person who passed away (such as a charity run or celebrating in nature).
A small gathering - If you don’t want a large event with many attendees, it’s a good idea to let your family know that you’d prefer a small gathering take place after your funeral. (You can have a small gathering that’s a celebration of life or a memorial service, just with a smaller number of people.)
Location of ashes scattered
If you choose to be cremated and would like to have your ashes scattered at a specific location, it’s important to notify your family members or include that in your final wishes. People choose to have their ashes cremated at a favorite location in nature, in the ocean, in a lake or river, or in a different favored location. If you’re unsure of places to have your ashes scattered, read our article on different ideas for meaningful locations.
If you have any specific requests surrounding your funeral, it’s good to get those down in writing. Don’t want any flowers at your service? Want the entire Beach Boy’s discography played? Want everyone to donate to a specific cause in your memory? Make these requests known to your family by filling out our Final Wishes form. Once you’ve filled out your Final Wishes, you’ll receive a link you can use to share with your loved ones.
Financing your funeral
When you decide to pre-plan a funeral, one of the most important steps is figuring out how you’ll be financing your funeral. There are a number of options available to you if you decide to start saving money towards a funeral now. Here are some options to consider when saving money for your own funeral:
- Purchase a whole life insurance plan with a death benefit or burial benefit
- Purchase funeral insurance
- Set aside money in an account and let your family know what it’s for in a will
- Pre-plan with a funeral home*
*As a note, many funeral homes offer the option to prepay for a funeral, which has associated benefits and risks. Pre-planning at a funeral home can mean that you won’t be able to get a refund if something happens, you’ll be locked in with that specific funeral home, and the plan is likely not transferable. If you pre-plan with a funeral home and it happens to go out of business, you’ll likely not get your money back. With that in mind, pre-planning without having to pre-pay is an option for some funeral homes. If you know which home you’d like to work with, but aren’t interested in giving them money in advance, you should speak with them about pre-planning without paying.
Recording your final wishes can help your family feel well prepared and proud that they’re doing the right thing after you’ve passed away. Providing your final wishes is an easy way to help your loved ones feel guided and secure in the way they plan out your funeral. Planning out funerals can be chaotic, frustrating, and overwhelming, especially for families in mourning. If they have a clear plan set in place by you beforehand, it’ll ease the burden for them in many ways.