5 Compelling Advantages of Planning Your Own Funeral

Updated on September 25, 2017
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Having contributed to and helped organise a number of funerals, Sonia shares salient thoughts and observations.

It's Painless to Plan Your Own Funeral using the "Cherry-Pick" Checklist
It's Painless to Plan Your Own Funeral using the "Cherry-Pick" Checklist | Source

Is Thinking About Your Own Death ...

... and planning your own funeral at the top of your to do list? Thought so! For most of us the words morbid, depressing and taboo spring to mind when death is mentioned so no wonder we end up not planning or actually talking about our funeral wishes.

But What If ...

... someone you loved and cared about passed away. Wouldn’t you want to ensure that they were given a send off that they would have loved and would have patted you on the back for?

Well, the same is true in reverse and, as detailed below, it really needn’t turn into too massive or too depressive a chore for you to actually plan and formulate some funeral wishes.

Advantages For Those Left Grieving, and For You

  1. Take a Load Off - Unlike most weddings and other important life events, people only get a short amount of time to plan and stage a funeral. Thus knowing what you want will give your relatives a head start and lessen their burden at a very emotional as well as demanding time.
  2. Increased Solace - Feeling reasonably confident that they are getting this essential and important job right can be of great comfort to a grieving person.
  3. Decreased Financial Anxiety - If you’ve made arrangements for how your funeral will be paid for, those grieving for you won’t have to quibble or fret about how they’re going to suddenly conjure up money to pay for everything.
  4. Easing the Agony - It’s also a big comfort when you yourself know that after you’re dead and gone, those grieving will not have to agonise over what you would have wanted for your burial service etc. It feels good to know you have saved them from having to second guess each and every decision they make.
  5. Posthumous Control - Even if you would not describe yourself as a control freak desperate to cling on to one last bit of power, overall you’ll benefit from the feeling that you can have things done pretty much your own way at your funeral. A few examples:
  • You know that awful photo of yourself you cannot stand which shows your “bad” side – well if you plan ahead which photo(s) are to be used, that unflattering/ugly one won’t be “immortalised” on the front page of your Order of Service booklet – the booklet that everyone will be looking at throughout the day, and taking home afterwards.
  • If there’s a particular type of foliage which most everyone loves but which you perceive to be little better than a spindly weed then, having made your wishes as to flowers known, you can rest assured it won’t be adorning the entire length of your casket - lying in state so to speak literally over your dead body! Instead, you’ll have just the flora you love most.
  • Moreover if you have strong views about being buried as opposed to cremated, or vice versa, instead of leaving it to chance, your earthly remains will be dealt with according to your needs. Thus, you’ll be able to rest in peace, rather than having to come back to haunt the poor soul who made the ‘wrong’ decision!

Yes indeed - there are a variety of way in which planning your own funeral has it benefits and, as explained below, the planning needn't be a heavy, burdensome chore.

FACT: Planning and talking about your funeral wishes will not hasten your death.

FACT: Opting out of funeral planning, and/or never talking about your wishes, will not stave off your death.

Thankfully, Funeral Planning Doesn’t Have to be Laborious to be of Benefit

Thinking about the pointers in the bulleted checklist below can help you formulate some basic but very useful funeral wishes, but do note it’s absolutely fine if you choose not to leave instructions for everything listed below. Everyone is different and what one person feels is an essential point to think about and communicate to others will not be the primary concern of someone else. So take your pick of:

The "Cherry-Pick" Checklist for Planning Your Own Funeral

  • Burial or Cremation (nb: there are a few other choices you might wish to explore e.g. burial at sea, natural/environmentally friendly alternatives)
  • Not everyone wants a traditional religious send off. You want to explore some alternatives e.g. green, humanist or perhaps interfaith.
  • People to inform about your death and their contact details. Sometimes there are people the next of kin would not think to inform – e.g. that childhood neighbour your family have never met and who you haven’t seen for donkeys years but still keep in touch with.
  • Who to invite to the funeral – you might think this is a duplication of the previous point, but in some circumstances although you want so-and-so to be informed of your demise, you don’t necessarily want them to attend.
  • What atmosphere do you want to prevail at the burial service and/or the reception? For example do you want it to be very sombre and formal the whole time, or would you prefer it to be respectfully celebratory throughout - or a mixture?
  • Are you content for everyone or just selected people to view your dead body at the undertakers, and/or at the funeral service in an open coffin?
  • If it’s to be a religious affair, what place of worship should your next of kin approach? Are there particular hymns/religious music, readings/scriptures etc. you want to be included? Are there poems, music, passages from a book that mean a lot to you which you wish to be read out?
  • How about drafting that Order of Service Funeral Booklet yourself!
  • Do you want to specify “no flowers” and/or ask people to consider giving money to your favourite charity in memory of you.
  • How about helping your loved ones out with some information to go in your Eulogy, or even write out your own Eulogy for someone to read out when the time comes.
  • Why not plan your own funeral reception? See the link (left) for ideas about a variety of options for a reception as well as learning about the actual purposes of such receptions. You might want to say what type of food to serve, the venue colour scheme, displays, slideshows or music to be included.
  • What about the clothes, and perhaps jewellery, you are to be buried in?
  • Do you have any headstone or grave marker preferences and do you want your date of birth on it. (nb: some people choose not to include the full date of birth preferring to include just the year of birth to deter identity theft!)
  • Perhaps you have a particular firm of funeral directors in mind for your relatives to consult with or, conversely for some reason, you may have specific firms you do not want them to use. If so, they need to be told.
  • Last but not least, if you have made a will or if you have indeed put a formal pre-paid funeral plan in place, people need to know where to go to set things in motion when the time comes, so be sure to let them know.

Unless your friends and family are mind-readers

you need to plan and communicate your final wishes to them

Again, you don’t have to make a decision and leave instructions for everything on the checklist above. It’s fine to “cherry-pick” and leave some decisions to your next of kin. Although any help your family can get from you will be appreciated when the time eventually arrives, don’t be afraid to state that you’re undecided about particular aspects of the funeral if indeed that is the case. Let them know that you want them to decide on x, y or z - so that when the time comes they’ll feel comfortable to choose.

As a start, or at the very least

take into consideration what you have liked or disliked at funerals you have attended in the past.

Funeral Costs

The high total cost of even the most modest of funerals can come as an eye popping lightening bolt to relatives at what is already a time of great emotional distress. Therefore do check prices as you contemplate your final wishes as it can otherwise be very difficult for the family to comply with all you desire.

On top of this, bearing in mind you will hopefully be around for a good many more years to come, rising prices are inevitable – meaning you’ll have to revise the costs upwards from time to time. Now if this notion of ever escalating costs is alarming to you, you’ll be pleased to note there can be a way around it.

Some people like to take up the option of a “frozen” pre-paid funeral plan and many undertakers offer this option. In brief, when you die the price to be paid will be at today’s prices/the date you took out the plan, rather than the “inflation hit” prices prevailing at the actual time you die. Do carefully check out all the small print, but in general the frozen, pre-paid plans can result in considerably less financial strain on your estate and your relatives. And speaking of ...

Freezing

Once a person dies, all their bank accounts are likely to be frozen by the various financial institutions, pending often lengthy legal formalities such as probate. However, with a well thought through estimate in mind which also bears in mind inflation, you could talk with your bank manager about unlocking your account for certain necessary payments to be paid out after you die. Ask if the bank will accommodate advanced written permission from you to make payments from your account directly to undertakers/caterers/florists/church/cemetery etc. so that your relatives won’t have to pay out for your funeral themselves, and then wait “forever” before anything gets reimbursed to them from your estate.

For this to happen the bank(s) will require certain documentation, including a death certificate, to be provided to them by your next of kin or executor.

Another option which can make things easier on your grieving next of kin is to have a joint account with one of them. Joint accounts will not normally be frozen by banks when one of the account holders die so if you fund this account with the purpose of paying for your burial service etc, then the relative you have the joint account with can pay for the necessary outgoings without undue rigmarole. Just be sure to choose someone conscientious and trustworthy as your joint account holder!

Although Some People Like to go as far as ...

... visiting several funeral directors to make detailed comparisons, writing their own obituary, leaving directions for how their death is to be announced on social media, choosing pallbearers and deciding who they want to deliver their eulogy, readings/poems at their service and/or writing letters of comfort to those they are leaving behind – nothing is compulsory.

For those who are more inclined to chew over matters related to aging well and being best prepared for later years, a friend of the writer of this page has positively sung the praises of a book by author Ray Brown. Aside from planning for your own funeral, Winning the Endgame: A Guide to Aging Wisely and Dying Well, deals with aging and death in a very matter of fact but very witty, practical and comprehensive manner. He found it thought provoking, sad at times but, importantly, overall there was none of the doom and gloom you might expect from a book concerned with death.

But Again, if You Don’t Want to Dwell ...

... on the subject too much, as far as your final wishes go, it’s fine to just set aside a little time to have a think about funerals you’ve been to in the past, read about or seen on TV and to sort out in your own mind what you liked or disliked and base some wishes and instructions around this.

Ideally, costings should be borne in mind too, but at least if you give your loved ones something to go on, even without firm costings but letting them know that you’ll be content if, when the time comes, they decide on which of your wishes can be done within budget, then that’s good enough - and hugely better than not leaving behind any known funeral wishes whatsoever.

The Big Funeral Takeaway ...

... here is that - as outlined in the "cherry-pick" bulleted checklist above - only a relatively minimal amount of time need be spent on planning your own funeral. Then just note things down and get that "dreaded" funeral talk out of the way/communicate your wishes. And "voila" - you can relax in the knowledge that you've done all you can to have the send off you want, and you'll have substantially lightened the burden of those tasked with organising the event when the time ultimately comes.

Advance Planning Will Minimise Decision Making for Your Family at a Time of Great Stress

Planning your own funeral and sharing your likes and dislikes with your next of kin is so much better than your family having nothing at all to go on when they eventually have to make your funeral arrangements.

© 2017 Sonia Sylart

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    • SoniaSylart profile image
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      Sonia Sylart 2 months ago from UK

      Yes indeed :-)

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago from U.S.A.

      I started following you because when I read your bio, I knew you, my wife, and I share a deep respect and love for human beings and all the things that make us quirky and fun. We all are souls having a "human experience."

      That's why information like you provided in this Hub is so important: We need to be ready to leave this path with everyone at peace with our departure. Thanks.

    • SoniaSylart profile image
      Author

      Sonia Sylart 2 months ago from UK

      Hi Tim

      First I must say how tough for your wife, yourself and the family to experience two bereavements within so short a time - my condolences.

      It's good that these days people feel they have more than one choice and green/natural funerals are becoming more and more popular - with time, people won't be perplexed and have to wonder "What's a green funeral?"

      I always appreciate your comments - and this one prompted me to look at an enjoyable film/movie clip from utube about Tom Sawyer funeral!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Sonia, another superb article. Last year, my wife and her family buried both my mother and father in-law. It was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. However, I wish we had your list to help us. Our situation was complicated by the fact that neither of her parents wanted to prepare a will. We are just now finishing estate related issues.

      Yet, Lori, my wife, and I want a "green burial" site. We want to decompose back to the Earth. This article is useful in that regard. Tom Sawyer may have wanted to check with you before planning his fake funeral. (A Mark Twain reference.)

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