If you have recently experienced a death in the family, then your life may be in a chaotic mess. Planning the funeral, contacting family, and arrangements can be daunting, especially if you have no idea where to start.

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Saying goodbye with flowers in hand

Don’t worry. Take a breath. This article will guide you through the funeral planning checklist, one step at a time.

Step 1: Contact the proper people

First call the police if the death occurred outside of a hospital, nursing home, or hospice center.

  • Call the person’s employer
  • Call and cancel all credit cards
  • If the deceased has an attorney, contact the attorney as he/she may be able to handle some of the arrangements and financial matters for you.
  • Contact the social security office and/or the disability office (if receiving)
  • Immediate family and close friends should be called
  • If a headstone is to be fabricated, you will need to contact the mason performing the work as soon as possible.

Step 2: Stop future debt

  • Cancel all magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • Close any bank accounts and contact the bank concerning any existing loans
  • Contact hospitals and doctor’s offices where outstanding bills may be
  • Forward all mail to an appropriate address or cancel the mailing address
  • Turn off utilities and cancel monthly services such as cable, internet, and cellphone

Step 3: Insurance

  • Contact the will attorney
  • Notify the insurance company of the deceased and inquire as to any final expense benefit which may be in place. This is separate from typical life insurance. A final expense insurance will help you with the immediate costs of services and debt management while life insurance will help you in a more long-term financial means.
  • Obtain all documentation on policies from the insurance company
  • Obtain a death certificate from the county

Step 4: Find a funeral home

  • Call the funeral home for rates and service types. It is better to be a bit ambiguous at this point rather than show up to a funeral parlor distraught and vulnerable. Do not commit to one provider until you have compared the services and the features of the nearby homes. Just because the deceased may be at a particular mortuary does not necessitate the need to use the funeral services of that mortuary.
  • Read online reviews. This is a great way to gauge the professionalism (or lack thereof) of the funeral service provider.
  • Tour the facility to see if the standards described are to your liking.
  • Get a cost sheet. This is vitally important. DO NOT decide on everything the day that you tour the facility. Rather take the sheet home and look at the different types of services offered.

The essentials of a funeral service

Coffin Death Mourning

The type of service that you choose will vary. However, there are some features that are fundamental and offered by every provider. The cost of these fundamentals should be compared and calculated into the overall funeral expense. These expenses are:

  1. Burial or cremation services
  2. Casket or Container selection
  3. If a casket burial, clothing selection for the deceased
  4. Public Notification (obituary services)
  5. Transportation to the plot/grave site
  6. Flower arrangements
  7. Professional Orator services (priest, rabbi, etc.)
  8. Police escort services

Step 5: People

For the funeral, you will need to have certain people present. Pallbearers (usually 6) are needed. You may also need ushers, an organ or piano player, a minister (if not provided by the funeral home), and a childcare provider.

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Step 6: After the funeral

  • Have a reception area reserved for after the funeral. Catering and food should be considered.
  • Follow up with the insurance company for any documents needed for filing for life insurance
  • Hire a cleaning crew for the deceased’s residence if you are not to do so yourself
  • Contact the will attorney
  • Contact the building and zoning/tax assessors to notify them of the death

Plan for the unforeseen expenses

The average funeral can cost over $9,000 for the essentials. Even with a final expense account, there could be costs that are not foreseen in the planning. It is advised that when planning a funeral you allow an additional 10 to 20% of your overall projected costs to any fees and services which may be overlooked. Such fees may include service charges, attorney fees, filing fees, document copying fees, shipping costs (for caskets not currently in stock), and notification services.

When arranging a funeral, keep a record of all expenses incurred as you may be able to use government services, the final expense insurance, burial insurance, or other means of deducting/reimbursing the cost of the funeral.


Meet Mark Orourke, a seasoned funeral insurance expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry (Bachelor in Finance from SDSU, CA). With a passion for helping families prepare for the unexpected, Mark has dedicated his career to providing personalized funeral insurance solutions. Meeting the unique needs of each client is what Mark always prioritizes.