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Have you ever gone to a funeral and thought about what it will be like at your own funeral? For many people, that’s as far as their thoughts go on funeral planning; they assume that their loved ones will handle the arrangements when they are gone. That’s probably not the best approach – not only will it put a burden on your family during an already difficult time, but it also prevents you from having things done the way you want them. Check out the article “Why it’s smart to plan your own funeral–and do it now” for a more detailed look at why it makes sense to plan your funeral now.

It’s becoming more common for people to plan their own funerals as part of their will and estate planning. Here are some tips for planning your own funeral:

  • Decide if you would like to have your remains buried, entombed, or scattered so that your family doesn’t have to make that decision. And be open-minded about it. You don’t have to have a traditional somber funeral. People are increasingly planning “life celebrations.” For example, IWantAFunFuneral.com is “taking goodbye celebrations up a notch” with the theory that “if smiles aren’t involved, then you’re not doing it right.”
  • Decide if you will make arrangements without paying or if you will pay in advance. Prepaying for your funeral now can save money since the cost of funerals usually escalates each year.
  • If you decide to prepay for your funeral, consider if you will buy only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or if you will purchase services as well. Determine what your state’s requirements are for handling funds for prearranged funerals. Also ask if you are protected if the firm you purchase from goes out of business and if you can cancel the contract and get a refund if you change your mind. If you do prepay, be sure that your loved ones know and have the receipt to avoid them paying again.
  • Don’t put your wishes in your will, because your will may not even be read until after the funeral. Do put your wishes in writing and give copies to your loved ones and your attorney. Avoid putting the document in a safe deposit box, which is not accessible on weekends or holidays.
  • Compare prices from at least two funeral homes.
  • Ask for a price list, which funeral homes are required to provide.
  • Familiarize yourself with your rights according to the laws regarding funerals and burials in your state; know which goods or services the law requires and which are optional.
  • Review your written funeral preferences every few years and make changes as you see fit.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has series of articles called “Shopping for Funeral Services” that provides an in-depth overview of all that is involved in funeral planning, including types and costs of funerals, FTC rules and rights regarding funeral planning, a glossary of funeral terms, and tips for comparison shopping, buying a site and dealing with problems that arise in funeral planning.