Steps to Planning a Funeral

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Planning a funeral is an emotional process involving a myriad of choices and decisions. Although it represents a sad moment in life, funeral or memorial services are an opportunity for family and friends to gather and remember someone special. Funeral services can be simple or elaborate but most are personalised to create a unique farewell and tribute for the deceased. The following steps are involved in planning a funeral:

Make the 'first calls'

There are many parties that can assist with funeral plannings and these people need to be notified immediately following a death. These include:
  • The attending physician, a coroner or medical examiner to officially pronounce the death;

  • Family members or legal representatives of the deceased to discuss a pre-arranged funeral plan if one exists.

  • A funeral, memorial or cremation services provider.
Funeral arrangements

A funeral director will assist in managing some or all of the funeral arrangements. They help plan funeral ceremonies, cremation services or memorial services and then direct the event in accordance with your wishes. Things to consider when planning the funeral include:

  • Will the body be buried, entombed, cremated or donated to science? If cremated, where will the remains be kept or scattered

  • What type of ceremony will be held and where? Will it be a traditional funeral with a casket or will it be a memorial service with no casket present? Will it be held at a funeral home, a place of worship or at the graveside?

  • Who will participate in the ceremony or service? Traditional funeral services often include clergy, pallbearers and speakers. Musicians or vocalists are often present at memorial services and cremation services.

  • What music, readings or tributes will be included as part of the ceremony?

Contact several funeral directors to compare prices and available options. It's important to remember to discuss any religious or cultural preferences that should be honoured at the funeral. Staff should also be able to assist with obtaining death certificates and in preparing and submitting the obituary.

Funeral items

If the deceased did not leave any preferred wishes, the responsibility of choosing a casket, urn, and headstone or grave marker is left with relatives. If the body is to be buried, there are many types of caskets and coffins to accommodate varied tastes, sizes and budgets. An urn is needed if the final arrangements include cremation. Even if the plan is to scatter the ashes, a container will be required initially. Finally, the family will need to decide on a grave marker. Memorial markers lie flush with the ground while monuments or headstones sit upright and vary in size. Grave markers can be made from stone such as granite or marble, or metals such as bronze. It's important to check with the chosen cemetery's rules and regulations before purchasing a grave marker.

Post-funeral arrangements

There are several financial, legal and administrative issues that must be addressed following the funeral. These may involve estate proceedings, death benefit claims, attending to assets and debts, and sending notifications to various agencies.
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