When the Time Comes: A Guide for Making Funeral Arrangements

A death in the family is emotionally taxing. And you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of planning the funeral and managing your loved one’s final affairs. But you don’t have to do it alone. Here is a guide to help you through each step with the important things you need to know when the time comes.


At the time of death:

  • Identify the person who will be making decisions for the funeral arrangements. This is usually the next of kin.
  • Contact your local funeral home. When you do this, you’re authorizing the funeral director to do the following: prepare your loved one for the funeral and burial, obtain the death certificate, and coordinate with insurance companies. You should be prepared to answer several questions including where your loved one is located, their full legal name, if you wish to have them embalmed or cremated, and who is the next of kin.
  • Notify family, friends, and employer of your loved one’s death.
  • Schedule an appointment with your funeral of choice to make funeral arrangements.
  • Gather relevant documents about your loved one including life insurance information, social security number, military papers, wills, and pre-planned funeral arrangements.
  • Ask family and friends to share photos, videos and other memorabilia and to help write the obituary about your loved one’s life.


Meeting with the funeral director:

  • Consider the type of service you want to have. It should reflect your loved one’s wishes and your family’s needs. Having supportive family and friends with you while you plan the memorial celebration is helpful.
  • Rely on the expertise of the funeral director, and ask questions. The funeral director will check background information for accuracy for the death certificate, which is a document filed with the government and will be needed for official matters such as closing bank and credit card accounts. The death certificate will include your loved one’s full name, social security number, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names, veteran status, and occupation.
  • Be prepared to with the date, time and location for the services. You’ll decide if you wish to cremate or bury your loved one and if you wish to have a viewing prior to the cremation or burial. If you decide to cremate, there are additional forms to sign. You’ll select a casket or urn, a cemetery in the case of burial, flowers, and an obituary style. Other planning such as transportation for family and friends, ministerial staff or speakers, and musical selections will be done at this time. Payment arrangements will be discussed. If you are using insurance policies, the funeral director will correspond with the insurance companies.


You may never feel prepared to deal with the death of loved one and the thought of planning ahead can be difficult to conceive. But with the support of family and friends, and knowing that you can rely on trusted professionals to handle the services, you can celebrate the life of your loved one knowing that you have support and guidance along the way.

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