Funeral Planning Checklist

The following list of information is provided to help you plan your funeral. Organization is the key to planning in the midst of grief and sadness. We hope the following list will lend a helping hand. Have it and keep it in a convenient place.

Notify Authorities

If the death occurs outside of a hospital or nursing home you may need to notify authorities of the death. Call police or your local emergency number to report the death. The authorities will call the coroner. Although it may not actually be necessary to call the coroner, it is a good idea to do so, especially if the deceased had insurance policies.
Notify close relatives and friends

The police are required to notify next of kin, but there will likely be other relatives that should be included, especially if they need to travel some distance to attend the funeral. Don't forget to include close friends.

• You or the authorities may call the Funeral Service providers that will be taking care of the arrangements for the funeral and calling hours.
• Notify any relatives who will be having a part in planning the calling hours and details of the funeral and set up a time to meet with the funeral home management to finalize the plans.
• Discuss who will be responsible for funeral expenses for billing purposes. If there is an executor for the estate of the deceased, this person usually handles this responsibility, but it is entirely up to the family to determine who should handle this responsibility. Often families will divide this responsibility between several family members.
• Gather the information you will need for the completion of the death certificate at the Funeral Service providers. Parent's names including middle initials, also the social security number and date of birth of the deceased, their place of work (Name and address) and occupation of the deceased. See Vital Statistics Form.

The Funeral Service Providers or Funeral Home/Mortuary Management

The funeral service provider will guide you through the much of the planning process. Use the following checklist to when meeting with your funeral service provider.

1. Consider embalming the body

This decision will determine the timing of many decisions you make.
o The law requires bodies that are not embalmed be buried sooner than bodies that are embalmed.

2. Clothing & Jewelry

If this will be a traditional burial you need to consider clothing & jewelry. (If this will be a cremation you can eliminate this step.)
o Clothing - You may want to bring this with you when you meet with the funeral home management to make the plans, but this is not essential.
o Jewelry - Remember any special pins or jewelry. Special pins would include but are not limited to Union and association membership pins. Also Watches, earrings, necklaces, tie tacks, cuff links, or anything that the deceased particularly liked or directed to be included.

3. Consider the type of burial

o Cemetery plot
If one has been previously purchased, bring the deed to the plot with you, if you have it, to the Funeral Service providers when you make your plans. If you know you have a plot but don’t have the deed in your possession, the funeral director can contact the cemetery overseer to arrange confirmation. Otherwise a plot will need to be purchased. The funeral director will assist you with this.
o Vault
Choose a vault. Your funeral director will describe the various types available.
o Mausoleum

4. Select the casket or container

o Wood ___ Metal ___ Cardboard (cremation) ___ Urn ___

5. Open or closed casket

Decide whether it will be opened or closed casket. Note: Some clergy persons insist that the casket be closed for the funeral service. If you have a specific wish for the casket to remain open during the service, be sure to specify this when selecting a clergy person to deliver the eulogy.
o Open
o Closed

6. Calling hours

decide on calling hours at the Funeral Home/Mortuary.
o Some families choose not to have calling hours at the Funeral Home/Mortuary. There is great flexibility and the time(s) selected should try to accommodate the needs of the family and friends.
o Traditionally hours have been from 2p to 7 p.m. as these hours can accommodate friends who have to work day or evening shifts.

7. Funeral services

If you plan to have a funeral service, you need to consider when and where the service will be conducted.
o When
Before burial or cremation
After burial or cremation
o Where
The Funeral Home/Mortuaries
At the graveside
Other (Specify)

8. Special Ceremonies

Some Fraternal Orders and the Military/police may provide special ceremonies for the funeral service.
o Check with the local branch of the service the deceased was enlisted in or the Fraternal Order for more information.

9. Seating arrangements for the funeral service

The funeral committee should be aware of the relationships of people attending to seat them appropriately.

10. Compose the Obituary

o Vital statistics
o Memberships and associations
o Hobbies
o See Writing an obituary

11. Publishing an obituary

Decide on which newspapers or other publications will be used to place the obituary notice.
o Internet via
o Local
o Regional

12. Flower arrangements

Decide on the type of flower arrangements to be provided by the family. Relatives and other well wishers may also need to be advised as to your desired floral selections.
o Casket Spray
o Lid arrangements
o Standing spray
o Matching baskets
o Specialty pieces (floral hearts, crosses, and bible)
o See Floral Selection Guide from

13. Pictures or photo album - Consider setting up pictures or a photo album to remind well wishers and family of good times or special events in the life of the deceased.

14. Other props

The family or funeral committee may wish to setup props that reflect the interests of the deceased.

15. Eulogies

Decide who will deliver the eulogy
o Clergy
o Friend
o Combination
o Video eulogy
o Other
o See Writing a Eulogy

16. Special Recognition

Consider special recognition for accomplishments of the deceased.
o Athletic
o Political
o Religious
o Scientific

17. Funeral Programs/Memorial cards (optional)

o Choose from offerings
o Have unique cards printed
o Print your own

18. Pall bearers

Arrange for pall bearers. Usually 4 to 6 men are needed.
o Ask friends or relatives (usually not next of kin)
o Ask Funeral Committee to arrange for this service.

19. Music at calling hours or funeral

o Generic Funeral Service providers selections
o Favorite recordings of the deceased
o Other soothing instrumentals

20. Grave site transportation

Consider who will provide transportation for the family to the grave site. Transportation of the deceased is usually provided by the Funeral Service providers.
o Friends and Family
o Funeral Service providers limo/hearse

21. Grave marker

A temporary marker may be selected if a permanent marker has not been purchased or engraved.
o Engrave present stone
o Purchase new stone
o Veterans plaque - Veterans may be eligible for a marker plaque.
o Special insignias - A member of a service or charitable organization may be eligible for special insignia to be fixed to the marker.

22. Wake or special gathering

Decide if there will be a wake or other gathering to celebrate the life of the deceased. Consider where and when to hold this gathering.
o Where?
o When?
o Food?
o Drink ?

23. Accommodating out of town relatives

Consider how to accommodate relatives.
o Assist with travel plans
o Airport pick up
o Lodging

24. Legal Matters – Contact A renown lawyer


The task of planning or preplanning a funeral can be overwhelming. This section of is designed to be a helping hand.
While we have done careful research to include information on funeral planning, vital statistics, flowers, vaults and mausoleums, etiquette, memorial cards, and legal issues, we realize we may have overlooked something you consider important. Please write to us and help us make this site a useful place to find funeral planning and preplanning information.
Useful forms:
These links connect you to some forms you may find useful in time of need or if you are in a planning stage. Each form includes a link to a printable version to better assist you in keeping track of your plans.
Other Issues:
Take a moment to click on the grief counseling link. If you have been asked to write an obituary, or give a eulogy, click on those links to review our advice on how to get started.

Grief Counseling
We do not propose to be therapists or counselors at this site, but, having been through our share of funerals and grieving for any number of reasons, we offer the following support and advice.
Grief is an emotion that is purely individual. Feelings of despair or sadness brought on by a sudden death, or by a death after prolonged illness, are the same, but different. For the most part, grief is a reaction to experiencing loss. In our society, the death of a friend or family member is associated with varying degrees of grief. We will discuss the issue of 'stages of grief', and the ability to mourn, and we welcome your comments and experiences. It is often through sharing that we find the most peace in our grief.
Recently a generous author, Tracy Carson, wrote and offered to share her book "Grandma is now a Butterfly" with you. Tracy created the book to help children understand and cope with the loss of a loved one. The story is based on the loss of her Mother and how she helped her children understand and cope with such a tremendous loss. You can make an order for your copy.
The text version of "Grandma is now a Butterfly" is available here: Explaining death to young children. Tracy offers the full version with illustrations on the book. Your support of Tracy's work is encouraged and we thank her for her generous piece.
Emotions Associated With Grief
While the emotions listed here are by no means the only emotions associated with grieving, they are the most prominent. You may also feel tired, depressed and/or confused. The action of grieving is complicated and may resolve itself in highs and lows, such as hopefulness one day and hopelessness the next. Some people go into a protective mode of feeling (or at least showing) no emotion at all. All of this is normal.
SHOCK: "I don't believe it!"
DENIAL: "It's not true. He'll come through the door at any moment."
GUILT: "I knew this would happen. I should have done something."
ANGER: "How could she (he) do this to me?"
FEAR: "Will this happen to me? To my children? To my family?"
Mourning is different than grieving. Mourning involves the public display of grief. In other words, the wearing of black, the church services to pray for the lost friend or family member, the seeking out of anyone willing to talk about the loved one. Not all mourning is done publicly, but mourning in and of itself is considered the public face we put on our grief.
Stages Of Grief
Defined by Elsabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, "On Death and Dying," Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969, the stages of grief are as follows:
DENIAL: A refusal to believe or accept what has happened.
ANGER: Blaming others for the loss. Blaming oneself for the loss.
BARGAINING: This can involve bargains with oneself, or with God.
DEPRESSION: Listlessness, tiredness, a feeling of being punished.
ACCEPTANCE: Realizing that life goes on, thereby allowing yourself to heal.
You should be aware of the fact that there are differing viewpoints on the validity of Ms. Kubler-Ross's stages of grief, and we present them here only to help you identify and work through your loss. You will notice that the 5 Stages of Grief are quite similar to the emotions mentioned above. The important thing to remember is that what you are feeling is personal and may or may not be identified by the words written here.

In our research on this subject, the overwhelming response of grief counseling sites, funeral information sites, and therapists offering online help, was to allow yourself to let the grief out. Tears are acceptable and time is advised. Do not suppress your tears, and do not rush your recovery.
At, Grief Work is suggested.
Grief work can be summarized by the acronym TEAR:
T = To accept the reality of the loss.
E = Experience the pain of the loss.
A = Adjust to the new environment without your [loved] one.
R = Reinvest in the new reality.
Visit the our web page to learn more about this valuable method of dealing with your grief. You are not alone. Recovering from the death of a loved one is a difficult task. See more writings at the links below.
Giving a eulogy is a noble gesture. Few are privileged to present one. If you have been chosen, accept graciously, consider it as an opportunity to contribute to the healing process and prepare to do some homework.
In general, eulogies are remembrances of the deceased. They may be serious, full of stories of youth and family; or humorous, full of jokes remembered and shared with the deceased. Do not feel you have to provide a summation of the life of the deceased. Nor should you try to include everyone in the audience in your story. Just be yourself, and speak from the heart.
Gather information
To help prepare for the eulogy, gather your information carefully. Contact family members and friends of the deceased. Collect biographical facts such as marriage dates, places lived and any unique hobbies or memberships to clubs. You are trying to capture the character of the deceased so be sure to contact a variety of individuals who will be able to give you accurate information.
Some ideas for information to include can come from a variety of sources: Old photographs, newspaper articles about historical events or about the deceased, family stories, genealogical information, memories of family outings or events. These are the types of information that make a funeral service a celebration of a life rather than a morbid sermon or a recitation of doctrine, devoid of anything personal.
Develop a theme
We advise coming up with a theme for your eulogy. This may sound trite, or contrived, but it actually helps others remember the deceased fondly, as many people listening will relate to your topic as it applies to them and to the deceased. For example, at one funeral we know of, the speaker talked about the lady's youth relating how life was for the farm-women of her era. He talked about her participation in preparing meals for the threshers at harvest time, and how the phrase "eating like a thresher" came to be. (Threshing is vigorous, physically demanding work, and the men have huge appetites requiring mass quantities of food.) He did an excellent job of highlighting the events of her life and giving the audience a glimpse of another era.
Practice speaking
Finally, practice your presentation before going to the Funeral Service. Read your notes out loud to see how they sound. Ask a friend or family member to listen to you. Going over the eulogy two or three times before presenting it in public, will help make you more comfortable when at last you get up and address the family and friends in the Funeral Service or wherever the service is conducted. Consider having a glass of water at the podium. It is acceptable to read the eulogy all the way through, if you find it too hard to raise your eyes and make eye contact. Remember that no one is judging you. Be yourself and you will do fine.
Sample outline
The following outline is intended to serve as a general guideline. Much of it can be found in the obituary. The eulogy allows you to expand on that. It is not necessary to include everything listed here, but the greater the variety of material you use, the more interesting the presentation will be. It will also be easier to compose and will give ample opportunity to express what the deceased meant to you.
1. Biographical Information
A. Names of parents
B. Residence
C. Occupations (where they worked and how long)
D. Hobbies
E. Social organizations they belonged to
F. Marriage/children
2. Human Interest Information
A. Events that shaped the deceased's thoughts
B. Family anecdotes
C. Beliefs
D. Fond memories of your own
E. Beloved pets
F. Philosophies of life
G. Poems or Prose
3. Religious Service
A. Bible readings
B. Prayers
C. Sermon
4. Conclusion
A. Where Interment will be
B. Post funeral gathering information
C. Presence or absence of graveside service
Writing an funeral announcement or an Obituary
Customary information includes:
1. Full legal name of the deceased (nickname may be included in parenthesis)
2. City or town of residence
A. To avoid having the residence robbed while the family is attending the calling hours and funeral, specific information about the residence of the deceased and relatives should never be published.
3. Relative list including:
A. Predeceased list (relatives who have died)
B. Survived by list (relatives that are still alive)
a. Parents
b. Sons
c. Daughters
d. Grandchildren
e. Great Grandchildren
f. Sisters
g. Brothers
4. Work history
5. Place and time of the funeral and any calling hours
6. Place of burial
7. Optional information could include:
A. Special interests such as hobbies
B. Associations (such as membership in local or national organizations.
C. Special Affiliations (such as volunteer work for the A.S.P.C.A., etc.)
D. Military service

Obituaries can be written at the time of death or before. Many people find it helpful to write their own obituary notice in advance for the following reasons:
1. The surviving family members might not remember, or may struggle to remember, specific dates (birth, employment, retirement, previous deaths).
2. They might not know proper spellings of people's names, places, companies or organizations.
3. They might not know all of the deceased's memberships to volunteer organizations and community clubs.
4. The self-written obit could specify a favorite charity for donations that the surviving family wouldn't have thought of.
Sample Obituary
Doe, Jane
Rochester- January 1, 2002
We regret to announce the passing on of Jane Doe which occurred on 25th December 2001. Jane was born September 15, 1927. She was the daughter of William A. and Blanch (Smith) Jones. Jane is survived by two children, Janelle (James) Lockhart of Newport, VA, and Corey (Cheryl) Doe of Buffalo, NY, a brother Ward (Cynthia) Jones, of Rochester, a sister Jill (Robert) Riley of Greece and several grandchildren, nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her husband Jack Doe and a sister, Amanda Jones.
Jane was a RN and retired from Strong Memorial Hospital in 1990. She was also a member of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the American Revolution, and was president of the Greater Rochester Rose Association.
Friends may call at The Pleasant Valley Funeral Chapel, 123 Main St. Rochester, on Monday January 3 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9pm. The funeral service will be at 10:00 am at the Funeral Service providers. Burial will be in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Funerals serve several purposes. In addition to commemorating the life of the deceased, a funeral offers emotional support to the bereaved and an opportunity for friends and family to pay tribute to their loved one. The process of going through the planning and final disposition helps the family come to terms with the fact that a death has occurred. This is a necessary part of the grieving process. It is common for people to enter a period of denial when a family member or loved one has died.
Friends offering fond remembrances are often helpful during this time. Customs for expressing sympathy vary according to religious and ethnic customs. The following information is offered merely as a guideline for what is generally accepted in various circumstances during a funeral.
General guidelines for guests:
Expressing Sympathy:
Simple, brief expressions of sympathy are usually best. While most people find themselves at a loss for words, the family will appreciate a sincere expression of condolence-however brief. "I'm sorry," or, "I'm so sorry to hear of your loss," are the most commonly used expressions, and they are perfectly adequate when said in a sincere, sympathetic voice. If you knew the deceased well enough, it is often helpful to say so; "I always counted Boyo as a good friend," or, "Janice will be missed by everyone." Kind words are always welcomed. Follow the lead of the family member. If they want to talk about the deceased, lend an ear and a few minutes of your time. Being a good listener may be the best solace you can provide for them.
When attending calling hours, do not feel you have to stay for a lengthy period of time. Follow your instincts as to how long to stay. If the deceased was a good friend, you may feel it necessary to stay longer, to tend to your own grief at the same time as paying your respects to the family. If you have never met the family, introduce yourself and let them know how you are connected to their loved one. Colleagues and co-workers of the deceased may attend calling hours together, but try not to descend on the bereaved all together. Offer individual sympathy and a word or two of support; "I am so sorry for your loss," and/or, "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help."
If, indeed, you are able to offer assistance with childcare, or food gifts, or picking up out-of-town relatives, by all means, do so. These thoughtful gestures are invaluable. Sudden, or tragic deaths, may be so emotionally draining, your ability to assist the bereaved will be long remembered and appreciated. In the case of the elderly woman or man who has lost a spouse and may not have children close by to attend to their needs, a lending hand with transportation or running errands, can make the ordeal so much easier on them.
Many times funerals become a place to share memories. Visitors are encouraged to talk about their memories of the deceased. Sometimes the family learns new things about their loved one that they didn't know before! While we all accept the somber atmosphere of a funeral setting, sharing stories and laughter can personalize the occasion and actually help ease the pain. Sorrow is an individual suffering, but joyful stories shared freely can make the grief easier to bear.
Subdued colors are most appropriate for funerals. It is becoming more acceptable to wear brighter colors today, to celebrate the life of the deceased, but the truth is, etiquette requires modesty and somberness. Out of respect for the family, try to keep your dress simple but not too casual. Many orthodox cultures still adhere to the traditional black attire, and if you opt for that choice, you will never go wrong.
If the funeral is open casket, you are welcome to view the deceased and/or pray for them. This is not required. If there are calling hours but the family is not present, you may still view the body. If you wish to have a family member escort you to the casket, don't be afraid to ask. Regardless of your religious affiliation, a few moments of silence is always appreciated.
Cause of death can be a difficult subject. While most people will have read the obituary or may ask others how the death occurred, you should be prepared to answer this question. Especially in the event of a sudden death brought on by tragic or unexplained circumstances.
Specifying the cause of death in the obituary will help allay the "What happened?" questions. How you approach the inquisitiveness of visitors to the funeral is a purely personal decision. If the deceased has passed on due to an illness you do not care to discuss, such as cancer, accidebts, or suicide, prepare an honest answer to the "What happened?" question, but don't feel the need to elaborate. Visitors may merely be making conversation and hoping to give you a venue to express your grief.
It's standard practice to greet callers during calling hours. You do not have to keep track of visitors as they will approach you during their visits, but always welcome them with kindness and express your appreciation at their attendance.
In the event someone attends calling hours that you particularly do not like, be polite. In rare instances, an altercation may occur causing you to ask the funeral director to escort a visitor out. Your attitude will do much to keep disruptions from happening. Treat everyone with respect and let them know you are touched by their effort to pay their respects. A funeral is not the place to air grievances or foster rudeness.
You will likely see people you have not seen in years! As with any gathering, you are the host or hostess and must make an effort to speak to each person who attends. While it is not your responsibility to seek them out, it is your responsibility to make sure there is a guest sign-in book. This enables you to know who attended in order to write the thank-you card. Try not to spend an inordinate amount of time with only one or two people. If you have a lot to catch up on, invite them to visit you after the funeral, or make plans for a luncheon date. This will help both of you in dealing with the effects of the death.
Thank you notes
Anyone who presented or sent a gift or card to the family, deserves a thank you note. Examples would be to thank anyone who has sent in a memorial contribution, brought food to the house of the grieving family, sent flowers, or in some other tangible way acknowledged the death. Those visitors who attend the calling hours do not require a thank you card.
It is suggested that thank you notes be sent within two weeks of the death. In the past, thank you notes included a personal letter from the grieving family, but today a simple thank you card with a signature, is accepted. Many people include a personal note or a hand written thank you, but that is a personal choice.
Thanking Clergy
A personal note is recommended for thanking your clergy person. If an honorarium or offering is sent, send it in a separate envelope. Do not include it with the thank you note.
A separate note to each pallbearer is recommended. Personal messages of thanks will be appreciated by each individual who graciously assisted in this important task.
For individuals, you may wish to include a personal word or two of thanks on the acknowledgement card. For groups or organizations, send the note to the leader of the group and remember to include all the members of the group in your note. If individual member names appear on the floral card, a separate note should be sent to each one. You do not have to include a personal message in this instance.
Flowers that were sent from a group of neighbors or employees, require a separate thank you to each name included on the floral card. You may or may not include a hand written message of thanks.
Friends who have helped out
Friends who have volunteered their help in any way-such as driving a car in the funeral procession, helping the family with arrangements or food, etc. deserve a separate written thank you. As stated earlier, it is not necessary to send thank you cards to friends or visitors that stop in at the home of the grieving family or that attend the calling hours at the Funeral Service providers.
If the neighbors or friends who have volunteered their help are close to the family, you may feel better thanking them in person. In this instance, use your own judgment to determine if a written note is necessary.
State Requirements:
In future you may be required to employ the services of a funeral director currently called as funeral committee in Kenya, as only licensed and registered Funeral Service providers can legally make arrangements for the moving and preparation of a body for cremation or burial. The minimum obligations of a funeral committee/director include:
• Filing the death certificate
• Transferring the body from the place of death to the Funeral Service providers
• Coordinating arrangements with the cemetery and or crematorium at home or in towns
• Making the necessary preparations involved with these activities
• Moving the body to the crematorium or cemetery
The law may requires Funeral Service providers to provide prices over the phone, if asked. You must be informed in advance of all charges involved with your selections and substitutions may not be made without your permission. There is no extra charge or fee for filing the death certificate or getting it medically certified. Unless disclosed at the time of the funeral arrangements, you may not be charged interest on an outstanding balance.
Be aware that respectable Funeral Service providers/directors will never pressure you to choose more expensive merchandise than you ask for. It is actually illegal for the funeral director or the Funeral Service providers staff to imply or state explicitly that any merchandise you choose is inferior or unsatisfactory in any way as a means of subtly pressuring you to make a different purchase. If you believe you are being pressured and wish to change Funeral Service providers, you may do so at any time. You will be legally obligated to pay for any services that you have agreed to that are already done, but the body may be moved to another Funeral Service provider regardless of the balance on your bill.
Embalming is required only for bodies which will be viewed or kept for visitation. The funeral director may not refuse to embalm the body. Neither can they charge an extra fee for preparing the body of a person who died from an infectious disease. You must be allowed to view the body if you wish to do so. The body needs to be containerized, but you do not need to purchase a casket from a Funeral Service provider. While state law does not require a vault, many cemeteries do, to prevent graves from sinking.
If your religion prohibits embalming, the body must be cremated or buried within 24 hours.
State law allows for:
1. An unfinished wooden container.
2. A container made of cardboard, pressed wood and canvas or other material. You may build or have someone build you a receptacle or purchase one from a supplier other than a Funeral Service provider. The Funeral Service providers may not charge you an extra fee to handle a casket or container you provide.
3. Military funerals must be provided for deceased veterans if the family requests it. The funeral director or your county veterans' agency can provide you with the information and details you need to know about these special funerals
Out of State/Country Deaths
When a death occurs outside of the state or country in which the deceased resides, your funeral director will work with an associate Funeral Service providers at the place of death. He will instruct the associate Funeral Service providers to prepare the body for transfer, file all required permits and authorizations and arrange for transportation of the body.
Laws Concerning Disposition of the Estate
The earthly possessions of the deceased are known as the estate. Any assets (or possessions) that are left must be used to pay debts the deceased may have left behind, then Federal or state death taxes. If any assets remain they must be lawfully distributed to those named in a will (if one exists), or according to state law if a will does not exist.
We are not qualified to advise you on the legal issues regarding estate planning or distribution. Therefore, we suggest you visit the link below and research lawyers or estate planners to your own satisfaction.