How to Plan a Funeral

deniseandspikeMarch 9, 2006

I have a question for those of you that have been through this (I've been very lucky and haven't had to actually arrange a funeral yet). My mom is 78 and very healthy but wants to plan her funeral because she's very particular about wanting to be put in a mausoleum (she doesn't want to be below ground). My dad is a lot younger and won't go with her to get anything set up. I want to do this for her and maybe start paying for it because I know my dad doesn't have the money to do it. Where do I start? Does she pick out a funeral home and they have different cemetaries you can choose from or do you pick out a cemetary first? As you can tell, I'm clueless. Also, is it more expensive for a mausoleum crypt than a regular gravesite?

Thanks for any info you have to pass along.


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Your Mom is a wise woman. When my father passed away in 1999, he had everything in place, down to the music he wanted to have played, and he even prepared a tape! He wrote his obit, and wrote one for Mother, too.

Hmmm, I'd probably start with talking around with friends who have had a little experience recently. Because a lot of this is dependant on where you live.

The mortuary business has been long painted with a dark brush for taking advantage of people who are stunned by a death and grieving. I think this has been improved upon, but maybe not in all parts of the country. And then, many many of the mortuaries around the country are owned by a mega-corp. that's bought out a lot of the small family firms, but they keep the name.

We worked with a family-owned company right here when Mother passed away. When she was ill last summer, 6 months before she did pass away, I went in and started a file for her, so that when she died, they already knew who she was, so to speak.

I'd start with a local family-owned mortuary, and just sit down and find out what's available. They would have connections to all local cemetaries or mausoleums, and will be able to ship remains. Or you can take the ashes with you for burial at sea. I was asked if I wanted Mother's ashes to carry down to the National Cemetary in Arizona, but I let them do it for us.

If your Mother moves, and wants to come back home for burial, that's easy too.

In the case of my parents, they both had Foresight (I think that's the name) insurance policies that covered the costs. They bought those poicies years ago in Arizona, and the funeral director here in Calfiornia says that he sells the same as well.

So start asking everyone you know about recent experiences locally, and start with the funeral home that people have had the best experiences with. ANd don't be afraid to "shop around", either. You have the luxury of time!

And tell your Mother Good for You!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 3:09PM
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She would faint if she saw your post about ashes. She doesn't want to be cremated--just buried above ground. My sister has already told her that she wants to be cremated and my mother told her not if she has any say in it (luckily my sister is married so my BIL will get to make that decision).

I'll check with the funeral home first then. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone in our area that has opted for a mausoleum. My mom wants to be buried here instead of her birthplace (Louisiana). In Louisiana where the rest of the family is buried they are in gravesites sitting above ground because of the high water table (not in mausoleums though). Maybe that's where she got the idea she doesn't want to be in the ground.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 3:27PM
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Don't worry about the mausoleum part of it. The funeral home can help you with that. Almost any funeral home can do anything you want. The first thing is to find a funeral home with personal and practices that you are comfortable with.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 4:00PM
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My Dad just passed away in December and we pre planned his funeral about a week before he died. So glad we did because it saved us from having to make those horrible decisions when you are grief stricken.

The first thing you have to do is purchase your mausoleum. So you need to shop around to different cemeteries and such.

After you purchase the crypt, you should contact the funeral home of your choice to make arrangements.
They will ask you questions about everything. And you can even pick out your viewing casket, etc.

In New York , where I live, any preplanned funeral is regulated by the state. All monies collected by the funeral home are placed into a special preplan account.
You can arrange to pay a monthly fee or pay it in a lump sum on the persons death. My dad's funeral was pretty typical with a mid priced ranged casket. His funeral cost $13,000. The cost of a mausoleum can vary from $5000-to $20,000 depending on it's location. Eye level is the most expensive.

YOur mother is giving you the greatest gift to do this for you. God Bless her!!!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 4:54PM
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I would contact the mausoleum first. If you go through a funeral home for that there will probably be a "service charge". You might want to ask around about funeral homes. Around here families tend to be very devoted to the funeral home their family chooses. Or you could just pick one that she likes the look of and that has a good reputation.

You didn't say anything about the actual funeral. I don't know what your denomination is, but you probably want to speak to the priest/minister about the funeral rites. Or are you not doing a church service?

When my mother was sick she sat me down and gave me some directions (no wake, cremated, certain Psalms, who does the eulogy, etc.). It was helpful because when the time came I had to make decisions fast and my father really just kept looking at me every time there was a question. I even wrote her obituary and gave it complete to the funeral home to give the papers.

You need to consider music, readings, bearers of gifts, eulogy, pall bearers, casket, flowers, soloist, bagpipes, will there be a reception following the funeral (and where), obituary (including what papers. You may need more than one version. Some papers limit the length), etc.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 5:32PM
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Thanks for all the info.

I'll try to pick a funeral home near where her church is--that should make it a little easier. I did locate one that was family owned but when I did a search on them an article came up about them burying the body in a paper box instead of the coffin that was paid for. I'll scratch that one off the list.

I'll definitely check on the mausoleum first--I know of a place near her that looks very nice. I just wasn't sure if I could contact them before the funeral home--thanks for the advice on that one.

Wow--all that other stuff is a lot to think about. I'll sit her down and see what she says. She's Catholic so some of that may be standard with her church.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 6:00PM
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Great idea and how wonderful for you that your mother is willing to have these things done. In our situation it was a shock and we were at the mercy of those funeral hounds!! Never want to experience that again. Sorry I can't help. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 8:28PM
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I second and third the accolades for your mother's making her wishes known. My father (in his 80s) refuses to talk about death, burial, assisted care/in-home care--you name it, if it has to do with death, dying or ageing in any form, he will not discuss it.

I fully believe he intends to live on the wild side forever, or until my mom dies, whichever is first, and then drop dead at the same instant she does.

He makes me crazy. Hug your mom and thank her for being upfront with you!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 11:07PM
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I talked to her last night and she already has a couple of places in mind--I'm going to call them today and see if we can get appointments set up.

I told my mom I would start payments on whatever she picks out and she tried to argue with me that she doesn't want me to spend my money on that. I told her I would rather pay it out in payments now than try to come up with a lump sum later on. I'm sure we'll have a few more fights about it before it's over. I contacted my sister and she's agreed to go with us so we can all be on the same page.

We both agreed we would leave my dad out of the loop and when his time comes, if he hasn't planned appropriately, there's always the old pine box at the VA cemetary waiting for him.

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I'm hoping we won't have to deal with this for quite a while but you never know what will happen. My grandpa and great-grandpa both lived to be over 100 yrs old and my mom can still run circles around me. We've been very fortunate.

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 9:27AM
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On Costco's web site, I have seen ads for caskets...just something to keep in mind. My area also has at least one discount casket place. I don't know if the funeral homes have a surcharge if one provides one's own casket, since I'm sure caskets are a big moneymaker for them.

I wonder if those mausoleum niches have room for two caskets in one niche? I would think there would be room for a casket plus urn, if cremating your dad after he has passed away is an option.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 9:45AM
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About paying----- talk to the funeral director about an insurance policy. Yes, many state regulate these things differently, but it may work for you. And for Heaven's sake, the folks at the Mausoleums and cemetaries are just as capable of a hard sell as the funeral directors. Get a price from one plave, say the mausoleum, and take that price to the funeral director, and ask if they can get you a discount from that. Yes, a discount.

And read up on a lot of this before you actually go out and talk to people. If they are like dealing with KD and appliance salespeople, then you can expect to hear a lot of BS. On the attached website, look for the "Helpful Resources" and read those, too. Or Google Funeral planning, and you'll get a ton of good info.

Best to be prepared before you talk to salespeople.

Here is a link that might be useful: This is the company my parents used.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 10:45AM
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Her church will also know about funeral homes and funeral directors... who they most often work with, who people like, who's affordable. The pastor their can be a big help... even the office staff if you just call and say you are her daughter, they should be happy to help you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 1:22PM
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My mother went into a nursing home when she was 93. She had about $12,000-$13,000 left, most of which we used to pay for her funeral in advance. If we hadn't, the money would have gone to pay for the nursing home until it ran out, at which time she would have gone on Medicaid. My brothers and I would then have had to pay for her funeral ourselves when she eventually died. Paying down a funeral in advance is an allowable expense prior to going on Medicaid. Medicaid clients cannot have more than $1500 in assets. (When she died, she had $60.15 in her bank account; $54 in quarters that I found in an old sock from Bingo winnings; and about $1000 in her personal nursing home account. The $1000 went towards her gravestone -- it cost $1600! -- my three brothers graciously allowed me to keep their shares of the $60.15 and I still have the sock of quarters -- can't bear to do anything with them.)

I don't know what yours and your parents' financial situation is (and, for that matter, whether or not Medicaid will exist in the future), but if your parents do not have insurance policies that are meant to cover their funerals, then this is another thing to consider before you yourself start paying for your mom's funeral in advance. Expecially considering how long-lived your families are. Planning ahead like this is a very far-sighted and wise thing to do. I've been meaning to do it for myself, but it's not the kind of thing you put on your weekend "to do" list. Grocery store, dry cleaning, funeral planning.

Also, I would start with the church. Congregations often "own" designated areas in certain cemeteries.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 2:49PM
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Add another voice to the chorus of those praising your mother's foresight and clear-headedness. My father passed away almost two years ago, and he had everything planned out, pre-arranged, with i's dotted and t's crossed. One of the most thoughtful things he did, which few people think of, was to throw out old papers that *he* knew were unimportant (things like financial documents from closed accounts) that other people would otherwise have to have investigated, and to label old photos of little-known relatives so their identities would not be lost forever.

Since you're in Houston, you may be aware we have a Pine Box (discount funeral supplies) and as someone else already mentioned, Costco. Hospices and hospitals also know who in the funeral service business is reputable and affordable.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 4:51PM
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Your Mom is so wise. Pre-planning certainly will allow for good decisions to be made.

My FIL passed away suddenly 10 days ago. I am still in shock. Making the funeral arrangements during this state of mourning was horrific at best. I can't get past the feeling that we were being taking advantage of insofar as the charges we had to pay.

Kudos to your Mom for taking this route.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 9:00AM
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