Pre-Planning Final Arrangements

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At one time, final arrangements were nearly the same for every person, from the schedule of events to the choice of funeral home, church, hymns, and the cemetery. Today things are a lot more complicated. There are many choices, costs and personal preferences to choose. Final arrangement planning has become important, so your wishes are known in advance by your loved ones.

The one decision most of us put off talking about is the one to do with the inevitable day when we’re not here to make those decisions together. Choices that have to be made by the surviving partner and children are difficult ones. Most families that have gone through the process will tell you it is far better to make decisions in advance so that thoughts are clearer and the emotions not as overwhelming. That is what pre-planning is all about. It is for you to carry out your wishes and for your family not to be burdened of deciding what you wanted. Pre-planning is about love.

By pre-planning, you alleviate the stress that would otherwise be placed on your loved ones and family during one of their worst life experiences. It can also help establish a budget and even a pre-funding plan can be included.

Why Pre-Plan?

Depending upon circumstances, people are motivated to pre-plan and pre-fund for a variety of reasons:

  • It enables you to make wishes known to your family, ensuring that those wishes can be carried out, even if unforeseen medical expenses deplete savings.
  • Pre-arranging lets families take the time they need to carefully consider wishes and options without the pressure and emotions that occur following the death.
  • Pre-arranging allows us to consider the thoughts and feelings of family members, not just those who happen to be present at the time of death.
  • As an essential component of budgeting and estate planning, pre-arranging allows families to create a memorial service and funeral that captures their wishes, and allows families to anticipate the cost of funerals and plan for them.
  • Purchasing final expense insurance policies, or pre-need funeral insurance, can give many families the chance to fund their final expenses over time through affordable insurance payments. These specialized insurance policies are designed for older adults who can gain peace of mind knowing that their funerals will be paid for, and that their families will be spared any financial burden.
  • The Continuum of Planning: A Three-Step Plan

    Step One – The Conversation An honest and open family conversation about death is the first and most important step in pre-planning. Thoughts, preferences and wishes about our final arrangements with those closest to us should be shared. This is a conversation and not a monologue. Our choices have consequences for our survivors and we must consider what they may want from the service to make it meaningful and meet their emotional needs. This conversation should address disposition choices such as burial or cremation, service choices such as viewing, visitation, religious focus, and the participation of family, friends, as well as Veteran and service organizations.

    Step Two – The Funeral Director and/or Cemetery Director Another important step is to meet with your funeral director and cemetery director to discuss your wishes. Both should present options and offer suggestions to help you craft the service meeting your family’s needs. The directors can help you find ways to make meaningful choices while staying within your budget. Forms recording your biographic information, choices of venues, disposition, participants, music, scripture, and merchandise can be prepared and kept in the funeral home or the cemetery’s files.

    Step Three – Pre-Funding The third step in pre-arranging your final arrangements is pre-funding. Many people pre-fund as a part of their overall estate and family budget planning. Others look to pre-funding as a way to relieve their adult children of the financial burden that eventual death will bring. Some must quickly put funds away before they may be lost when a loved one goes under medical assistance. Because each state has its own regulations on bank trusts, insurance trusts, and other forms of prepayment, your local funeral director or is the one to ask about which options are available for you. Generally, the plan should be in a form that cannot be counted as an asset should you ever need to go under medical assistance due to an extended convalescence. It should minimize tax and relocation consequences. Depending upon your circumstances, one plan may be more appropriate for you than another. The more your final arrangement planning professional knows about your wishes and circumstances, the better they can help you. For example, if you are a frequent traveler, some policies can protect your family against the expenses involved in a death that occurs out of the state or out of the country.

    Keep your plans current and accessible Like all good estate planning, your final arrangement pre-arrangements should be revisited when major changes occur in your family, residence or wishes. Please discuss your arrangements with your family, and let them know where to find important documents recoding your wishes. Keeping these documents in a lockbox or with your lawyer may prevent family from accessing them until after the service, so keep a copy at the funeral home or cemetery.

    Death is a difficult subject to talk about, but avoiding the conversation just makes death more difficult to deal with when it comes. Final arrangement planning is no longer just for the dead and dying. We all need to share our thoughts and wishes about our funerals with those close to us. As we age, it becomes more and more important for us to formalize our plans and budget for the expenses. Your local final arrangement professional can help you to plan the service that is right for you, and find the best prefunding option as well.

    DECISIONS YOU CAN MAKE WHEN YOU PRE-PLAN

  • Burial, cremation or entombment (above ground)
  • Type of farewell – Family, Family and Friends and/or Community Gathering
  • Type of service (religious, non-sectarian, military, theme-based, etc.)
  • Type of farewell – family, family and friends and/or community gathering
  • Location of service, ceremony, tribute, visitation, etc.
  • Casket type: metal, wood, orthodox, etc.
  • Burial/urn vault
  • Urns/keepsakes
  • Transportation needs
  • Music/Video/Photographs/Program
  • Flowers and/or charitable donations
  • Readings, favorite poems, literature or scriptures
  • Obituary/eulogy
  • Cemetery location and choices
  • Final Permanent Memorialization – A tribute to a life lived and a permanent record for future generations
  • Estate planning and documentation of all personal information (e.g. Credit cards, insurance, investments, pensions etc.) that will need to be followed through with after death
  • Reception and catering arrangements


  • You have control over all of these details and the financial responsibility for your arrangements and can plan for these ahead of time!

    TALKING TO YOUR PARENTS ABOUT PRE-PLANNING

    If you are considering pre-planning for your parents, you may be wondering how to broach this delicate subject. The following may help you:
  • A parent asks you to be an executor or you already are the executor. This is an obvious opportunity to discuss the subject of final arrangements and to utilize the services of professionals to help you.
  • Your parent brings up the subject. This isn’t all that unusual, especially if there have been recent deaths of friends or loved ones. It is important that you listen carefully, taking note of their wishes and concerns.
  • Your parent is seriously ill. Obviously, this is a very sensitive scenario and one that must not be approached on the basis of giving up hope for recovery. Rather, the emphasis is on making sure their last wishes and final goodbye are satisfied.
  • The subject comes up through an experience. Many times, attending a funeral or visiting a cemetery will provide an opportunity to ask your parent about his or her wishes.


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