Planning a Funeral in Pennsylvania

November 11, 2019

If you’re handling the funeral arrangements for a loved one who lived (or still lives) in Pennsylvania, there are a number of things you need to understand. Planning a memorial service is often a stressful experience, especially if you’re trying to process your own grief at the same time. That’s why we’ve put together a guide for you to rely on while planning a funeral in Pennsylvania.

Understanding the Rights of the Deceased

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the law determines how the decisions about funeral arrangements are made. If the deceased specifically named someone before their death to handle the details of their memorial service and burial, then these wishes are almost always honored first. If there is no one named, then the surviving spouse of the deceased is given this responsibility by default.

In the event that there is no spouse, under Pennsylvania law the responsibility passes to the next of kin. This can be a parent, sibling, child, grandchild, or another relative. In larger families, this can sometimes cause a conflict when there are two or more next of kin who have an equal legal claim to the responsibility of planning a funeral in PA. This is why many will name someone in their will or in an advance directive prior to passing.

The Funeral Planning Process

Once it’s determined who has the ultimate responsibility in handling the memorial and interment details, it’s time to begin the planning process in earnest. If that’s you, this process begins with following guidelines (if any) identified in the deceased’s will. These guidelines can include whether the deceased requested a religious ceremony, whether they want to be interred in a casket or if they want their remains cremated, the location of a specific cemetery or burial plot, or even specific requests for their memorial ceremony or funeral.

Typically, these final wishes are honored unless unreasonable requests are made or if they are beyond the resources of the one handling the funeral arrangements. With the former, requests can sometimes be quirky, such as the deceased wishing to be buried wearing their favorite Eagles hat. To avoid problems with the latter, many people will either pay for their own final costs beforehand or place resources aside in their will specifically for the funeral and burial. In this way, they prevent their deaths from being a burden on the living.

Please also note that there is no specific legal requirement to follow all wishes. For example, if the deceased requested a natural burial and the closest cemetery location offering such an option is too far away, no one is mandated to fulfill this request. At the point that a loved one has passed, often the wishes of those who remain are the most important — you or other loved ones will be who visits the gravesite, so what is more desirable for you?

What Goes into a Funeral?

There are a number of different facets of funeral service planning in PA. While these will differ depending on the desire of the deceased, you’re more than likely to run into some similarities. These include preparing the remains, planning a memorial service at a funeral home and having the remains interred at a cemetery of the deceased’s choice. Often, choosing a cemetery will involve being buried next to an already-deceased  loved one or in a location close to a hometown.

Besides the more obvious choices, there is almost an infinite number of details that can go into each of these components. This is why it’s highly recommended to enlist the aid of a burial planner or local funeral home to help with organizing these myriad details. They will work closely with you to make sure the last wishes of the deceased are honored down to the last detail, such as:

  • Help with writing and publishing an obituary or other death notice
  • Deciding the type of casket, and whether it’s open or closed for the memorial
  • Any music requested to be played at the memorial or burial
  • Displaying pictures or video of the deceased
  • Handling floral arrangements
  • Processing any donations made in the name of the deceased
  • Details of any religious ceremony requested, including arranging readings
  • Managing the arrangement of a grave marker such as a headstone
  • Scheduling a lunch after the service for those who attended

Support and Recovery After Making Funeral Arrangements

Planning a funeral in Pennsylvania can be an exhausting process, even with the help of family, friends and professional funeral home staff. There are always dozens of little details that need your attention, such as making travel arrangements or organizing places for visitors from out-of-town to stay. Once everything is prepared, you’ll need the support of your loved ones in order to recover from the entire process, especially since you’ve likely been going nonstop to plan and implement everything.

In many cases, family and friends who have gathered together to mourn the passing of a loved one will spend time together after a funeral or memorial service in order to celebrate the life of the deceased, perhaps at a bar or restaurant the deceased enjoyed themselves. While you might be responsible for organizing this event as well, this is likely to be one of the first real opportunities you will have to sit down and breathe in the wake of all your planning duties. It’s important to take this time; you are in mourning as well, of course, and you’re entitled to comfort and support of your own.

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Funeral planning is almost always a stressful and harrowing experience. You don’t have to go through this process alone. Make sure that you rely on others where you can in order to make the planning process as painless as it possibly can be. Just because you’ve been named as the person responsible for handling funeral arrangements for the deceased doesn’t mean you have to take care of everything yourself.

In fact, it’s important to make use of all of the resources available to you. Don’t be so busy providing support to others that you neglect your own needs as well! Learn more about planning a funeral in Pennsylvania from trusted experts to ensure you have the tools, and the help, you need during this difficult time.

Plan in Advance

These days, many wish to relieve their loved ones of the stresses outlined in this article. That’s why advance planning is becoming an increasingly popular occurrence. Advance planning involves arranging and paying for all aspects of a funeral and burial ahead of time, sometimes years or even decades in advance. You can begin pre-planning your own burial now to ensure that whenever the time comes, everything is already taken care of.