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If you choose to pre-plan your own funeral, you have entered a win-win situation for yourself. When you pre-plan your own funeral you have the final word on what you would like and how you would like it done. It is also one of the most loving gifts that you can give your family. Family and friends really do want to know what type of funeral or memorial service you would like for yourself. When the end comes, many grief- stricken families agonize over funeral planning decisions. Pre-planning takes this stress away for them. It is also helpful if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness or severe injury. Instead of taking care of funeral arrangements and final affairs, you can focus on family, friends, religion, spirituality, etc.

No one likes to think about their own mortality; however, there is an amazing personal benefit to pre-planning: it can help you live a better life. Many people actually end up enjoying pre-planning as they realize they have some great options for funeral planning. It can be tremendously rewarding to step back and take a new look at your life. What were those plans you made so long ago and forgot about? When you plan your funeral you renew your self.

Funeral planning has changed quite a bit from the past. Today you can truly personalize your funeral or memorial service. Modern technology has made it so that you can-almost literally-speak from the grave.

  • Your first decision is whether you prefer burial or cremation. If you choose cremation, you still can have a viewing if you wish. Many funeral homes will rent a casket for the viewing at the funeral home, and then you may instruct your family to purchase a simple container for cremation.
  • The next decision, if you opt for a viewing, is whether you’d like the casket open or closed. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death and the condition of the body, open casket is not always possible.


If you choose to be buried, would you like to be buried in a cemetery plot? If so, do you need more than one cemetery plot in the same location for additional family members? Some people opt for a family headstone and add the names of family members upon their death rather than purchasing multiple headstones or monuments. You also have the option of being buried above ground in a mausoleum. Surprisingly, in many cemeteries this option can be comparable to the cost of burial in a plot once you consider the cost of the plot and monument as well as opening and closing the grave. (Please see our directories)

To compare cost on all options and have a guide of what questions to ask, we suggest you purchase the inexpensive downloadable forms we designed for comparison of funeral services, cremation options, and cemeteries available now by comparison forms. We also include a comprehensive list of items to take care of in regard to your final affairs (financial and personal). In addition our forms offer a system for storing this information. We have compiled over 40 details that will need tending to such as mortgage info, prescription drugs, computer passwords, clothing to wear, etc. These forms clearly indicate and organize important information your family will need and keep it all in one place.

Through pre-planning, you can possibly benefit greatly from purchasing a cemetery plot from another individual or cemetery broker directly. Many times people purchase a cemetery plot then later choose to be cremated, move, or are involved in a divorce, therefore placing the cemetery plot up for sale, possibly at a good discount. Pre-purchasing the cemetery plot or mausoleum gives you time to look at the location before purchase, evaluate the cemetery’s guidelines and rules as well as make sure that the offer is legitimate and the person is licensed. If you choose to pre-purchase a plot directly from a cemetery make sure you find out what type of markers and flowers are allowed and if you can transfer or sell the plot to someone else.

After choosing a plot, keep your deed with your other pre-planning forms or with your other important legal papers. Then be sure someone trustworthy knows where these documents are located.


If cremation is the right choice for you, you’re not alone. More and more people are choosing this option. It is estimated that cremation will account for 40% of all remains dispositions by 2012. If you have decided on this type of service, look at your options for cremation containers, and if having a visitation consider renting a casket for the funeral service, held at the funeral home.

While planning for a cremation, you’ll also need to decide whether you’ll be buried in a burial plot or placed in an above ground niche, or perhaps scattered in a memorial garden, out at sea, or some other special place dear to your heart. In all the aforementioned choices an urn is not necessary; the ashes will be given to you in a simple container that is already included in the cremation fee. Some religions, like Catholicism state that remains after cremation must be interred in a niche or buried. Others opt for a decorative urn and keep the ashes at home.

You may opt for a direct cremation which means there is no service at the funeral home but rather the possibility for a memorial ceremony or a simple committal service at a later date after the cremation. Another option is scattering of ashes with close family members only. Or you may want a religious service with closed casket followed by cremation. If having a direct burial or cremation please be aware that neither option can be performed until your body has been identified by a family member or a designated person, and a death certificate has been issued. Many families are separated by long distances; make sure there are at least two people with copies of your funeral arrangements so if one person is not available the other might be. Do not leave the information in a safety deposit box which may not be accessible on Sundays or holidays, or until after the will reading which usually takes place after the funeral.

Buyer Beware

Pre-planning can keep your costs down by giving you the time to comparison-shop different acceptable facilities and without pressure constraints. Remember, according to the FTC Funeral Rule, funeral homes must furnish you with a complete price list upon request. They will offer packages or individual item costs; you shouldn’t be forced to buy anything that you do not want. Compare at least three funeral homes. You will not need embalming, which is expensive, unless you are having a public open casket viewing; it is not needed for a brief family viewing. Actually embalming is not ever necessary according to the funeral home rule. Funeral homes must ask for permission before embalming. view directories

The Basic Service Fee is the only non-declinable charge allowed by law. This fee is not a set amount; therefore, different funeral homes will probably quote you different prices for this charge.

Some important things to keep in mind:

  • When comparison shopping ensures that you are not getting pricing from funeral homes that are owned by the same company. Nowadays corporations or other funeral home owners may buy a funeral home and keep the original name to give it a family-owned- business feel. Be sure you’re getting quotes from three completely different sources. Also remember, whether corporate owned or independent, all funeral homes are in business to make a profit. There are many more funeral homes than are necessary, some states have three to four times the amount needed to service a given state’s population.
  • A common funeral home practice, especially for people who have an immediate need, is to show three caskets so the family will take the one priced in the middle. Unfortunately, many times the lower priced caskets are not even on display or shown. Ask to view the less expensive caskets to see if there is one that better meets your needs or economic situation.
  • The Basic Service Fee typically covers the funeral home’s overhead and administrative costs, but can include other service fees. Ask for a breakdown of what is included with the BSF.

This website does not aim to beat up on the funeral home business. We just want the buyer to be aware, like any other business transaction. This particular transaction, however is often an urgent purchase at a vulnerable and emotional time. Funeral homes know their business and can be very helpful in making some suggestions. After you know what you want, call around and ask questions. Remember you can buy caskets direct online and save a lot of money. The funeral home must accept a casket purchased from another source and cannot charge you a handling fee. That’s the law. Directories

You may pre-pay all of your funeral arrangements, but that is not advised. Many of the pre-paid funeral arrangements are not regulated by states and don’t stipulate what happens if the funeral home goes out of business or the options you selected change. An additional situation to consider is what happens if you die away from home, move, or change your mind about the chosen arrangements. You may want to set aside a special bank account for your funeral with another person’s name on it so they will be able to access it only upon your death. Pre-paying for cemetery plots or urns should not be a problem. If you do pre-pay for a funeral, remember placement of an obituary, and ordering of flowers or headstone are additional fees for the funeral home to handle and would not be included in the pre-payment.

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