About 10 months ago, my beloved Uncle Colin passed away unexpectedly at the age of 54 in a traffic accident. His death was a complete shock to our entire family. Colin left behind a wife and teenaged son, who were obviously overcome by grief. Plus, Colin’s only sibling, my dad, is in his 70’s. So I was the family member most qualified to deal with all the legal and financial ramifications.
This was not a pleasant task. Arranging a funeral was completely new to me. I didn’t know the first thing about funeral planning. Turns out, there’s really no such thing as a “funeral planning authority” --- some official person who can guide you through every step.
If you want to know how to arrange a funeral, there are two options. You can muddle through yourself and figure it out as you go. Or you can find a guide written by someone who has. Check out my funeral plan below. Okay, it’s not really a plan for my funeral. Instead, it’s a funeral planning checklist of issues I wish I’d known about when acting as my uncle’s funeral planner. Check out the details below:
Be Open and Honest
Whether you’re planning your own funeral or planning a funeral for someone else, such as an older parent, you need to approach the process by being as honest as possible.
Without proper funeral outlining, an unplanned death can result in financial hardship and logistical confusion for the surviving family and friends. When explained in these terms most people understand the importance of thorough planning.
You can never start too young. Death statistics overall are actually down in the United Kingdom. This has an unfortunate side effect, however. Young adults often make no preparation for an accidental death. So if something does happen, their friends and family are left to deal with devising funeral arrangements.
Your best bet is to set aside a day to handle the entire outlining process. One day would have been plenty of time for my uncle and, I imagine, for most others as well. An impartial funeral planning website or guide (like this one) can help you stay organised.
To be perfectly honest, this tip does not come from any funeral preparation service I read about. Instead, it comes from my neighbour, a retired man in his 80s. His advice is to create a document called a Financial Factsheet.
This is an overview of everything in your name related to money. You’ll list all your bank accounts as well as all household services such as electricity, mobile bills and more. If you feel comfortable doing so, also list your login information for these accounts. If you don’t want to do that, that’s fine, too. The important thing is that your family knows about every account in your name.
Obviously, you can’t leave this document sitting out on your desk. There are a few options here. You can store the document in your home safe, but you want to make sure someone in the household can access the safe. Another option is a safe deposit box in your local bank. Again, you’ll want to make sure your spouse or someone else trusted can access that safe deposit box.
Another popular option is to store your important documents at the High Court of London. The HM Courts and Tribunal Service requires only £20 for storage. Retrieval is free.
Does death take away your debts? Fortunately, my uncle was debt-free so this wasn’t an issue. But the more researched about how to plan a funeral, the more I realised this is a common question.
So, here’s what I discovered. Any outstanding debts are paid by liquidating your assets. This happens first. Any assets left over are then given to your beneficiaries.
Not only can you arrange your own funeral, many people can arrange their own will, too. Simple outline software will walk you through the creation of a basic will.
However, you might feel more comfortable meeting with a solicitor. This way your will is sure to cover all of your needs. A will is especially important if you have a family and/or substantial assets.
Part of preparing for a funeral involves preparing your dependants for life without you. For instance, part of my funeral plan involved showing my wife some simple car maintenance tips as well as how to recover files from our family cloud storage space. These were two things I usually do exclusively.
When mapping out your funeral, you’ll want to plan for care for any dependent children. This is important even if the children’s other parent is still alive. Many people pick an adult family member or trusted friend to be a designated legal guardian.
Life insurance isn’t technically funeral preparation, but it’s still an important part of death planning. If you’re young, life insurance can often be a worthwhile investment. Level term life insurance is a popular option for young adults. Here’s what you need to know:
A pre paid funeral is where you purchase a variety of funeral services. You’re planning your funeral today so years later everything will be in order when you need it. A prepaid funeral involves a variety of funeral planning services such as:
There are a few ways to pre pay for a funeral. You can setup a savings account at your bank specifically for the purpose of purchasing funeral arrangements at a later date. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee the interest of the account will match general inflation. You could save for years and still end up having to supplement your funeral costs with additional funds.
Another option is direct withdrawal of money from your estate. The law allows banks to release funds from the deceased’s bank account as long as a death certificate and itemised receipt for funeral services are both presented.
A prepaid funeral offers a few advantages over those other options, however. When you pre pay for a funeral, you’re able to look down a set price. If you purchase a plan decades before when you need to use it, you can lock down a rate which will help you beat inflation.
Just be sure your provider offers a “guaranteed payment.” This means funeral expenses will be paid out at 100%. There are other “partial payment” options which cover only some of the funeral expenses. This can also be an option, especially if you’re on a budget.
Speaking of sticking to a budget, another advantage to prepaid funeral plans is the ability to break your payment down into low monthly instalments. If you purchase early enough, you can make small payments over a long period of time. This can save you a lot of money while providing a service only when you need it, and not before.
...and the process is pretty easy. Having to plan a funeral immediately after a death, I know how confusing it can all be. However, when planning my own funeral, I had a much less stressful time.
Instead of feeling afraid and overwhelmed, a pre-paid funeral left me feeling confident and in control of my family’s future. I could carefully consider what arrangements I wanted, what the impact of my loss would be on my family financially and other important issues.
There are a variety of funeral planning services out there. But the most important person involved in your funeral arrangements is you. So I encourage you to stop procrastinating, and to no longer be held back by fear. Follow the steps in the above funeral arranging guide and enjoy the peace of mind which comes from ensuring your family’s security both now and for the future.
Planning your own funeral may seem like a morbid task, but the truth is, doing so can alleviate your loved ones from a great deal of stress. You may want to start by looking over a free “how to arrange a funeral” checklist, which can provide you with a basic starting point.
You may also want to ask friends and family for advice and enquire about their experiences, especially if they have planned a service in the same local area as you. This often means they can put you in touch with local funeral homes, florists, caterers and other vendors you may need to contact. You may also wish to make things easy and choose a prepaid funeral plan that includes the basics of organisation.
After the death of a loved one, plans should first be made to transport the body from place of death to the chosen funeral home.
If you are charged with organising the ceremony and burial of a loved one, you may first want to check if they had drafted up any plans or even rough wishes that could help you organise something they would want. Turning to a funeral director during this time can be of help, as can consulting a checklist that can provide you with some steps to take when it comes to planning a funeral.
This ultimately depends on a number of factors - for example, cultural customs, personal preferences, finances and family wishes, and many more. Remains can either be embalmed or refrigerated until a funeral service is arranged. Of course, one way to make the funeral planning process quicker and smoother is to organise as much as possible ahead of time.
So long as the death has been officially registered, anyone is able to plan a funeral. If you have not taken steps to plan your funeral ahead of time, this task would normally fall to your nearest relatives after you pass. If there is no next of kin, a close friend may take charge of the organisation. Failing that, a local health or government authority may step in and arrange a simple ceremony or cremation if no one else is available.
Where can I find a “how to arrange a funeral” checklist?
At FuneralGuide.co.uk, we have a free funeral planning guide that is yours to discover. With nothing to download and nothing to pay for, this guide contains plenty of useful and practical funeral planning tips that can help you arrange your send off.