Plan Your Funeral — Before You Need It!

When is the Best Time to Plan Your Funeral?

Any time is a good time to plan your funeral … except at the time of the funeral. Why? Because there are clear advantages to planning ahead. Can you imagine planning a wedding in just a few days? Or any celebration for that matter? Why leave the ultimate celebration of your life to the last minute?

We believe that planning a funeral in advance is a wise thing to do. Find out if it makes sense for you, and learn how to conveniently plan your funeral with our Wise Planning System.


At-Need vs. Preneed Funeral Planning

“At-Need” funeral arrangements are made at the time of death, usually by surviving family members or by a trusted friend on behalf of the deceased. Making funeral plans at the time of death is particularly difficult because the time frame is short and emotions are high as survivors are dealing with their grief. Not only is there much planning to do, but there are also imminent financial concerns. Payment for funeral services is due at the time of the funeral which can be quite expensive, a considerable hardship for most families – see our discussion of funeral costs to learn more.

“Preneed” plans (also known as “Preplanning”) are the funeral plans that people make for the living. Preneed funeral plans can be made at any time and offer many advantages.

Your plan can be as basic as stating how you would like your body handled (i.e. burial versus cremation) or as detailed as outlining every element of your ceremony from the music that’s played to who you would like to offer a eulogy. In other words, you are leaving instructions with your loved ones so they can handle the details.

The key thing to remember is that regardless of your financial situation you can preplan your funeral without making a significant financial commitment. Of course, it’s best to set aside the funds to accomplish what you want and there are many ways to do that. Our Paying for a Funeral page can help you understand your options.

Funeral Homes, cemeteries, and other funeral service companies can help you preplan a funeral for yourself, your spouse or a parent. Also, how-to guides, planning worksheets, and interactive tools are now readily available at websites such as to help you create a funeral plan. Planning online is a convenient way to plan and it puts you in control of the process. Our Wise Planning System is a great way to plan online.

Top 5 Reasons to Preplan Your Funeral

If any of the following statements describe you, then you are probably someone who will appreciate the benefits of preplanning your funeral.

  1. You want to ease the burden on your family. If your wishes are unknown when you die, they will be faced with making difficult decisions at a trying time. Will they know if you wish to be buried or cremated? Will they agree on an open or closed casket? Will they agree on how much to spend? Confusion and disagreements are common occurrences when there is no plan to follow. You can avoid this by leaving behind a plan.
  2. You want to assume the financial responsibility for your funeral. Planning ahead enables you to make financial arrangements to cover your funeral costs. Even if you are leaving behind sufficient money, will your survivors be able to access it? Funeral insurance and funeral trusts are sound financial planning options you can consider ahead of time.
  3. You want your family to have the benefit of a meaningful funeral. A funeral is an important event for a grieving family. Psychologically, it provides a sense of closure and enables the family to begin the healing process. Families benefit emotionally and socially by honoring the lives of their loved ones with a fitting ceremony and by giving them a proper send-off. It is difficult to make the funeral the best it can be when planning it in a short time.
  4. You want your final wishes to be followed. If you have specific preferences for the disposition of your remains and the nature of your funeral services, you can clearly express them in your funeral plan. You may have a preference for burial or cremation, the epitaph on your headstone, or the music and readings at your funeral. Or you may not want a funeral ceremony. Whatever your wishes, they need to be set forth in your funeral plan.
  5. You want to be self-reliant and have your affairs in order at the end of your life. Taking care of your funeral arrangements is a thoughtful and caring thing to do for your family. It is comforting to know that you have done all you can do to ease their burden. And you can be assured that they will appreciate that your caring for them continued after you are gone.

Plan Your Funeral Your Way

You are in control of your funeral plans with our Wise Planning System. You’ll be guided step-by-step through the process of how to plan your funeral using our planning tools. You can take advantage of the Plan Guardian feature that allows you to share your plan with those you trust to carry out your wishes. Be sure to let your loved ones know you have a plan!

The Quick Plan is the first step in the Wise Planning System. In a matter of minutes, you’ll have created a basic funeral plan and will find out your estimated funeral cost. There’s no cost and no obligation. Give it a try!

Try Our Quick Plan

Common Questions About Funeral Preplanning

What exactly is funeral preplanning?

Preplanning is the practice of choosing in advance how you would like your funeral to be handled. Some people create very detailed funeral plans while others sketch out a general outline. A funeral plan can be done in electronic form or as a hardcopy. However you decide to create your plan, you should make sure that you communicate your desires to your loved ones.

With regard to funerals, what is the difference between prepaying, preneed, preplanning, and advance planning?

The terminology can be a little confusing. All of these terms refer to having a funeral plan before death has occurred. When you see the term prepaying, it means a type of formal arrangement where you pay for funeral products and services ahead of time. You sign a contract with a particular funeral provider, such as a funeral home, for goods and services that will be provided at time of death. When you sign the contract you can make payment directly to the funeral provider in a single payment or installment payments.

Another popular option is to purchase a funeral insurance policy that is payable upon death to cover the cost of the contract. This is typically referred to as preneed insurance. Preplanning or advance planning, on the other hand, is a process where you create a plan for how you would like your funeral handled. You do not have to commit to a funeral provider and your plan can be informal and non-binding.

All that said, these terms may be used interchangeably so make sure you know if they are referring to a binding prepaid funeral contract or just a non-binding funeral plan.

How does prepaying for a funeral work?

Some people choose to pay for their funeral expenses when they create their funeral plan. This ensures that the cost is covered and relieves their family of the financial burden of paying for their funeral.

Typically, prepaying involves entering into a contract with a particular funeral provider (a funeral home or cremation service). Of course you want to be confident that the provider or a successor provider will still be in business when the time comes to provide the funeral services. Prepayment can be made directly to the funeral provider or the contract can be secured with a funeral insurance policy. Installment plans are available with either option.

Funeral costs can also be covered without making a commitment to a specific funeral provider by purchasing a final expense insurance policy or depositing funds in a trust account or a payable-upon-death bank account.

Do you have to prepay when you preplan?

No. It is a common misconception that preplanning means prepaying. You do not have to prepay, but you can. Making sure that funds will be available to cover your funeral cost is a sound financial decision, if you are able to do it. You have various options. You can enter into a contract with a funeral provider and prepay the provider or secure the contract with a funeral insurance policy.

Another form of prepayment is to set up a funeral trust or a payable-upon-death bank account with the funds to cover you funeral cost. Final expense insurance is another option to consider if you prefer a monthly payment plan and do not wish to commit to a specific funeral provider in advance.

How does preplanning help you control costs?

When you record your funeral plan, you can specify the services and products that mean the most to you. For example, the type of casket may not matter to you so you may select a simple wood version rather than an expensive bronze style. Having multiple days for viewing or visitation can add considerably to the cost of a funeral. If the viewing isn’t important to you, you can let family know that through your preplanning. Families often overspend on a funeral so letting them know your wishes is a good way to control the costs.

How do I make sure my wishes are carried out?

The most important thing you can do to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to choose the people you designate to handle them carefully and make sure they are fully informed about what you want. Another important step is making sure that there are funds set aside to take care of your wishes. Our Paying for a Funeral page can help you get started.

Considerations When Buying Funeral Goods and Services in Advance

If you purchase in advance, you should know what’s to be delivered immediately and what’s to be delivered at the time of the funeral. When you take possession of merchandise, ownership transfers to you. On the other hand, when products are to be delivered in the future (i.e., at the time of the funeral), you have only received a promise … not ownership. Timing of delivery can affect your choices and should be a consideration in determining whether to prepay the provider or to set aside money in a funeral trust or funeral insurance.

Some buyers of pre-need funeral goods prefer delivery at the time of purchase to ensure that they have received what they paid for. You should consider whether this is important to you. Also, be aware that providers of pre-need funeral goods often prefer to make delivery at the time of the sale because ownership transfers to the buyer. This enables them to improve their cash flow by avoiding trusting requirements and could influence the suggestions they make to you.

State laws govern how these prepaid funds can be used. Most states have laws requiring that providers set aside a certain % of funds received in advance in a trust account. This pertains to goods and services that are promised for future delivery. However, the trusting requirement can vary from 30% to 100% and the provider manages the trust. You should be cautious about making prepayments directly to your provider if the purchased items are not to be immediately delivered, especially if the trusting laws in your state are lax.

The Pros and Cons of Accepting Early Delivery of Funeral Products

Certain pre-need items can be easily delivered in advance. For example, title to cemetery property is often conveyed to the buyer at the time of sale. In this case, you immediately own the rights to a specific cemetery plot even though it may not be used for burial until some indefinite time in the future. Grave markers are also often delivered at time of sale. The marker might even be engraved and set at the grave site in advance with the only remaining deliverable being to engrave the date of death.

Many goods and services cannot be delivered in advance. The various services of the funeral director, as well as the cemetery’s services of opening and closing the grave, must occur at the time of the funeral. Also, mausoleum crypts are often sold before the mausoleum is built. If you purchase a crypt that is not yet built, your contract should provide a completion date with a full refund if construction is not completed by that date.

Some funeral products can be delivered in advance but not without certain risks. For example, pre-need sellers may deliver products in advance by putting the purchased item in a storage facility until the time of the funeral. Be cautious if you choose to do this. For example, warehoused caskets and burial vaults can be susceptible to damage and deterioration if not properly protected.

How Much Will Your Funeral Cost? Try Our QuickPlan to Find Out.