Planning Your Own Funeral: How to Make Arrangements For Yourself

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Planning your own funeral is really an extension of estate planning. Those who include funeral plans in their will tend to view it as the best way to save money for their loved ones. It’s also a way to relieve your family of having to worry about funeral costs during their time of grief. Plus, you get to help set your legacy by specifying exactly what kind of service and details you’d like to have.

If you’re interested in the reassurance and peace of mind that planning provides, here’s a guide on how to make funeral arrangements for yourself. 

Getting Started with Planning Your Own Funeral

There are three main areas of planning to consider. Before you start your planning, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What type of burial do you want? 
  2. What type of service do you want? 
  3. How will you arrange for payment? 
  4. How will you make your wishes clear?

Give yourself time to think about your answers before setting anything in stone with a funeral director, a burial planner specialist, a lawyer, or your family. To help you mull over your answers, here are some considerations to make.

How to Make Funeral Arrangements for Yourself: Preparation for Burial

The first decision you might make is how you want to be prepared for burial. Many people have thought about this ahead of time and make their wishes known to their families through a will, by completing a funeral planning checklist such as this one, or by pre-arranging and pre-paying their burial at a funeral home or cemetery. Your first decision will likely need to be between cremation or burial:

  • Cremation is on the rise in America. People who are cost-conscious often choose this type of burial, but some also choose cremation because they feel it’s more environmentally sound. For instance, the amount of land required for traditional burials in a casket with a vault can often be more than what’s required for cremation burials. 
  • Traditional burial means the body is placed in a casket and buried in the ground. 
  • Natural burial is a third option that involves neither cremation nor embalming. Remains are placed directly into the ground and natural decomposition is allowed to take place. This type of burial is on the rise too, but is not nearly as common as cremation or traditional burial, and requires a special location. 
  • Other options include within a public or private mausoleum.

If you choose cremation, you’ll need to specify what you want done with your ashes once your funeral service is complete. Ashes can usually be placed in an urn and buried in the ground, placed in a columbarium, scattered in a cemetery scattering garden, or given to family members to scatter or keep.

You may want to also think about the following when planning your own funeral: 

  1. Whether you want to donate your body to science. 
  2. The type of casket you want for a traditional burial. 
  3. How you want to be dressed. 

What Type of Service Do You Want?

Services come in a wide variety of styles these days. They range from the traditional religious funeral to a memorial service with no casket present to a graveside service to a funeral service with an open casket.

Then there are more personalized options that you can opt for, such as the music you want to have played during the service, the readings you want read, right down to every last detail like what you’d like people to wear when they attend your funeral service (casual clothes for a celebration of life?). People are getting more and more creative with these choices, so remember to research and consider all your options when you’re planning your own funeral.

Also, think about the following: 

  1. Who do you want to lead your funeral service? 
  2. Where do you want the service to be held? 
  3. Who do you want to speak or read at your service? 

Consider Your Payment Options

There are numerous options when it comes to paying for funeral services.

Some people set aside funds for their own funeral and add to them when they can. They arrange for the account to be “payable upon death,” which means the beneficiary will have immediate access to the money without having to go through a legal process to get it.

People who have life insurance policies can consider adding funeral services to their coverage. There is also burial insurance as an alternative.  

One of the most common ways to cover funeral costs is to make arrangements to pay some or all of the costs ahead of time. It’s a good idea to prepay for at least some of the services, because you can save money this way — paying today’s prices instead of higher costs after years or decades of inflation. You will also be helping out your loved ones, who won’t need to try to determine what you would’ve wanted or figure out how to pay for it, since it will already be taken care of.

Potential Problems to Prepare For

It’s hard enough to know how to make funeral arrangements for yourself. But now add the considerations you’ll need to make for your friends and family’s feelings and that’s where things can get a bit tricky. You’ll definitely want to discuss your wishes with your spouse or other family members or friends who are close to you.

The reason is that you’ll want everyone on board with the plans you’ve made. Remember: they have needs and wants too, at the time of your funeral. You definitely won’t want your plans to make them feel estranged, uncomfortable, or burdened. Ideally, you want to plan a funeral that’s meaningful to everyone.

That brings us to the last question: how will you let people know about your wishes? That’s an important question, because loved ones need to know what you’re already decided or arranged. Otherwise your wishes may not be fulfilled. Some people make the mistake of putting their plan in a safe deposit box, but it can take weeks – even months – for your family members to get access to your safe deposit box. That’s too late.

A good answer here is to keep your funeral plan with a vested third party such as a funeral director or a planning specialist at If you’re planning your own funeral, we offer all kinds of helpful resources.  We invite you to learn more about the various types of burials, search for cemeteries by state, or download a free burial planning guide.

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