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Preplanning Your Own Funeral

How to Preplan Your Own Funeral, Burial, Interment and Cemetery Memorialization

Learn how to preplan your own funeral, burial, interment and cemetery memorialization to make it easier on your family and for the peace of mind.  Preplanning your own funeral is smart and easy, doesn’t take any special knowledge or skills, and it’s the right thing to do for your family and loved ones. In fact, it won’t take too much time either. Few of us are experts, but thoughtfully preplanning your own funeral wisely is important to minimizing the time, effort, and anxiety required of your survivors. If you need helpful guidance on essential aspects of preplanning your own funeral, we have answers to help you get it done—and ease your family’s burden. Just give us a call anytime at 724-770-0100.

Rome Monument is intimately familiar with all aspects of “preplanning a funeral.” Getting you through the preplanning process is why we’re here and we’re always happy to answer your questions—any questions.

While most prefer not to think about end-of-life issues, preplanning funerals is very common and highly recommended. With a little focus and effort you can make sure your funeral happens in accord with your expectations and wishes and reduce uncertainties, anxiety, and costs for your family.  

Preplanning Funeral Arrangements —Many details require your attention when preplanning a funeral, so here’s a list of important highlights that will help you get through the process successfully:

  1. An Important First Step — Ascertain the role and responsibility of your family members in funeral-related processes. Securing family member agreement on who needs to be involved and who is responsible helps avoid confusion. Settling these matters in advance and communicating clearly with family is usually quite helpful.
  2. Talk with Others — While it’s not an easy topic to sit down and discuss with family, talking with family and close friends about the funeral plan and the process helps avoid problems, confusion, and missteps, and ensure that needs and expectations are satisfied and everyone has a positive, memorable, meaningful experience—allowing all to cope well while getting through the process. It also allows those close to you an opportunity to add value to the decision-making process and express wishes about aspects of the process or ceremonies they’d like to see implemented.
  3. Choosing a Funeral Home/Director — Selecting a funeral home is important and is one of the first decisions you must make. You can quickly decide by considering area options recommended by professionals, doctors, police, hospice, etc. They usually know which funeral homes are reputable, reasonably priced, can provide the services you require, etc. Ask friends and family for guidance too. Once you’ve identified a number of good options, contact the funeral homes directly about their services, rates, and availability. Get a comfort level. Then check online reviews of area funeral homes to confirm.  Click here for a list of select funeral homes in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Lawrence County, Washington County and Westmoreland County Pennsylvania with website addresses, phone numbers and street addresses.
  4. Funeral Director Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a funeral home be sure to have a sufficient dialog with the directors about the services they are providing. Be clear on what the funeral director is providing (service-by-service, step-by-step) and responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of funeral services right up front. Get it in writing and ask for disclosure of all fees and charges too.
  5. Make Religious Ceremony Arrangements — Contact your church, synagogue or other religious institution and make arrangements for a funeral service. It’s important to communicate your wishes and the wishes of your family on important aspects of the ceremony to the religious institution. Ask for a clear explanation of how the ceremony will unfold, and ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding ceremonial procedures and limitations and participants. Also, make sure you know who is in charge, i.e., who will be directing the ceremony and making final decisions. Make sure your family knows who within the religious institution is in charge of conducting funeral services and the individual you worked with to make the preplanned arrangements.
  6. Select a Cemetery — Arrange for and select a cemetery, a burial plot, and related interment services. This is something you should seek family approval on. Families can be very fussy about location, especially since they will be visiting you at the cemetery over many future years. Your plot selection should anticipate their ability to enjoy, reflect, and remember in that space. Make sure the environment is aesthetically appropriate.
  7. Make Cemetery Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a cemetery and chosen a plot be sure to have a sufficient dialog with the cemetery operator about the services they will provide. Be clear on what the cemetery is to provide (service-by-service, step-by-step) and are responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of cemetery services right up front. Get it in writing and ask for disclosure of all fees and charges.
  8. Memorials and GravestonesHeadstones, markers, or monuments can (and should) be part of your preplanning as well. While these are installed later, after burial or other interment, selecting, designing, and buying your memorial (and making arrangements for installation) in advance ensures that it is your selection (not someone else’s), and that your family will not be pressed to make difficult choices about a monument that memorializes your life forever.  You can purchase your memorial from a monument company, or a cemetery, or a funeral provider. Cemeteries and funeral homes often offer memorials and markers as part of a service “package,” and their range of choices can be limited. When preplanning your funeral give yourself time to visit with a monument company’s designers to fully understand the complete range of monument designs, materials, and options available to you. The monument company will design your memorial, create it, and install it at the cemetery.
  9. Monument Arrangements — Be sure to have a dialog with the monument company about the design, creation, storage, and installation services you are arranging. Gain a clear understanding of what the monument company is providing (service-by-service, step-by-step) and responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of monument services right up front. Once your arrangements are made, keep a record of the written service agreement with your funeral-related papers.
  10. Get the Step-by-Step Process Defined — The funeral director can assist you in selecting a casket or an urn, and will explain procedural options available for managing your remains from funeral home to any religious ceremony and then to the cemetery. You should discuss every step of this process with the funeral director to ensure that appropriate accommodations are made for family, attendees, and special ceremonial elements (e.g., bagpipes).
  11. Military Honors — If you are a military veteran, gather your service records and contact the appropriate service, ascertain availability of military funeral honors, and make arrangements for the military’s funeral participation, or make an arrangement with your funeral director to arrange military funeral honors, which funeral directors are accustomed to handling directly with the appropriate military service. Either provide your military service record (copies) to the funeral director, or ensure that such records are included with the general records you leave for your family and heirs. Ensure that your funeral director and the cemetery are informed of any military honors that will be performed and provide any information they need to ensure this part of the funeral service is accommodated.
  12. FTC Information --- Information on planning your own funeral from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency.

As you are preplanning, consider the following to ensure things unfold properly:

  1. Leave your important papers and records concerning your preplanned funeral arrangements in a conspicuous and accessible place for your family, executor, successors to find. Even better, inform them directly where these records are kept. Include receipts, agreements and notes showing the purchase of funeral-related services, a cemetery plot, or a monument, or revealing arrangements with religious organizations for funeral-related services, or with military services for military funeral honors. Ideally, all of these records should be in one location, and include details about all arrangements made.
  2. Leave written instructions for your family or successors explaining the funeral and related arrangements you have preplanned, and providing details on how to contact the cemetery, funeral home, church, caterers, monument company, and others with whom you have made the arrangements.
  3. Also, instruct your family what if any aspect of the prearrangement requires additional family input, decisions, action, or information, and what options are available to them.
  4. Obituary — Some particularly meticulous pre-planners also write their own obituary. While you’re making other pre-planning arrangements, also consider pre-writing some of the important facts about your life that you would like included in your obituary—and include these statements about your life and history and family with your other important funeral-related papers. You can also leave instructions to your family or your funeral director on appropriate and relevant publications in which you’d like your obituary to appear (e.g., maybe both in your hometown newspaper and papers where you now reside). Be sure you leave enough information to allow your survivors, family or friends to help craft an obituary that resonates and does justice to your life and family. If your family is not up for this ask the funeral director’s staff for help or a referral to someone they know who is qualified to do such writing.

Preplanning your funeral is not that difficult. It’s all pretty straightforward. It just requires some thought and appropriate guidance. It’s best to relax. Breath deeply. You can manage this.