Planning Funerals in Advance     

“Preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life” ~ Candy Chang, Artist

What is funeral service pre-arrangement?

Pre-arrangement is the planning of a funeral service before the need arises, often years before death occurs.  A funeral director records your wishes for the type of service desired, people to involve, religious preferences, and other details. You and your family will keep a copy of these preferences and the funeral home will also keep a copy. Many people use preplanning as an opportunity to personalize their funeral services and may choose to:

  • Hold a candlelight service, fly kites, or plant a tree in memory of their loved one
  • Select keepsakes with special meaning for their family and loved ones
  • Hold their ceremony in a special place
  • Request friends and families share personal stories
  • Display photos, videos, or objects that honor their life

What are the benefits of pre-arranging?

A major concern for those making funeral or memorial service arrangements involves making decisions. At the time of death, these are often decisions only the family can make; however, it is possible and increasingly common for a funeral, memorial service or life celebration to be planned in advance to reduce stress at the time of death. People make plans in advance for many reasons:

  • They have definite ideas about the funeral service or merchandise they want at their funeral.
  • They want their families to understand their wishes.
  • They want to save their survivors the pain of having to make funeral decisions at a difficult and confusing time.
  • They wish to spare their own family from having to go through any indecision, guessing or anxiety.
  • They want to have financial arrangements in place or have the funeral paid for ahead of time. 
  • They want to pay for their funeral in installment payments over time.
  • They want to lock in the cost of the funeral at today’s prices for tomorrow’s need.

Common types of funeral services

Traditional service
The ceremony includes the body and casket being present, and a viewing if the family wishes. Often, the service involves customized personal elements like the reading of literary or religious passages and/or a eulogy.

Memorial service
A memorial service often involves cremation and assumes the body and casket are not present although an urn may be. Some families may choose to hold a viewing before the cremation. The service itself is conducted similarly to a traditional service with personal elements like the reading of literary or religious passages and/or a eulogy.

Immediate disposition
Immediate disposition is when the deceased is either buried or cremated as soon as possible following the death. It usually forgoes any of the ceremonial elements of a traditional funeral or memorial service.

Celebration of life ceremony
A life celebration is often held in a non-traditional space like a bar or park either as part of a funeral service or done after a burial or cremation with the purpose of bringing  people together to celebrate the life of the deceased.

Questions to ask

Below are a few questions to ask your local Golden Rule Funeral Director about planning funerals in advance:

  1. How can I personalize a funeral service?
  2. After I decide on my preneed arrangements, what should I do?
  3. Can my arrangements be changed before or after my death?
  4. Does preplanning require pre-payment?
  5. Should I pay for my pre-arrangement choices ahead of time?
  6. What are some common ways to honor a loved one?
  7. What funeral keepsakes and/or mementos are available to commemorate a loved one?
  8. Can I transfer my arrangements to a different funeral home if I move?
  9. Where are the pre-paid funds held prior to the funeral? 
  10. Can I use a life insurance policy to pay for my funeral?

List of additional resources

Below is a list of resources to help you learn more about planning funerals in advance:

Have the Talk of a Lifetime → 

Funeral Wise →   

Federal Trade Commission →


US Funerals Online (“How a ‘Life Celebration’ Can Help Commemorate Your Loved One,” Jan. 9. 2013), Straight Talk about Funeral Pre-arrangement (OGR 2011), The Golden Rule Guide to Funeral & Memorial Planning (OGR 2011)

If you are a Golden Rule Funeral Home and want to give this information in print to families, click here.