Funeral Planning Checklist

If you’re planning a farewelling now for someone who has died, we understand this is a difficult time. Use this funeral planning checklist to streamline your planning and help you personalize. We’ve broken it into the five most important sections to make it more manageable, and you can click any of the links within to read more about any topic.




If a loved one has died, these are likely the first things to deal with, after you contact immediate loved ones. Use these guidelines to keep you on track, and ask for help where you need it. Before you start, you may find this article helpful because it talks about things people don't know.


  • Verify whether or not the person was an organ donor or wanted their body donated to science. Collect paperwork
  • Find out if funeral arrangements were made in advance (often funeral plans are found in a will or in a separate folder from a local funeral home)
  • If there is no will, determine whether any final wishes were shared
  • If they’ve died at home and they were not under the care of a doctor or hospice, contact the police
  • If they’ve died in hospice or hospital, select a funeral home. 
  • Contact your chosen funeral home (here's help with how to choose one) and make initial decisions with your funeral director



Depending on your situation, you’ll need some combination of the below, so hopefully this list will be helpful as you plan. It can be good to gather documents into one central file for safekeeping.


  • Organ Donation Paperwork
  • Farewelling File/Funeral Plans
  • Identification Documents (Drivers License, Passport, Birth Certificate)
  • Social Security Card
  • Marriage License and/or Divorce Record
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Statements for Bank, Retirement, Investment, Credit and Loan Accounts
  • Passwords and Pin Codes to all Accounts
  • Deeds or Proof of Ownership for Home, Car, etc.
  • Business-related Documents
  • Insurance Policies
  • 10 copies of the Death Certificate (request these from your funeral director (you may need them to access accounts, etc.)



This is a chance to honor your loved one in a personal, beautiful way, taking into account their wishes, their values, and even their style. Remember that ceremony and ritual may help us to heal. Often there are at least two parts to a funeral: the service and a celebration or gathering following (or in place of) the service.


  • Share wishes/plan timing/personalize the service with your chosen funeral director
  • Notify Veterans Administration to receive funeral benefits if applicable
  • Confirm the funeral service format (religious, non-traditional, eco-friendly)
  • Contact officiant/celebrant/religious leader
  • Select personal readings for the service
  • Choose and coordinate anyone who will speak at the service
  • Write a eulogy or speech
  • Select any desired flowers for the service
  • Choose music for the service
  • Create a program or prayer card for the service
  • If desired/permitted, select food and drinks for service
  • Choose and pack your loved one’s clothing and any accessories for the service (include any items that will be buried with them)
  • If you’ll have a celebration (pre- or post-service or in place of a formal service) to honor your loved one, choose a venue
  • Select food and drinks
  • Add personal details to the celebration
  • Share details of the service and celebration or other events with family, friends, and loved ones
  • Appoint someone to bring items to the service and celebration
  • Arrange any special transportation



We’ve listed the below in order of priority. The first are more pressing, while the others can wait a bit till you have the time. Do check for any documents you may need under the  Well Documented section of this checklist, as those might be required when closing out accounts, etc. Note that not every one of these items will necessarily apply in your planning.


  • Collect any personal items from the hospital/hospice
  • Freeze active credit cards
  • Secure home and property
  • Arrange for pet care
  • File claim for pre-paid funeral expenses or life insurance
  • Notify important contacts:
    • Personal and/or Business Attorney
    • Workplace colleagues
    • Landlord
    • Member organizations (military, volunteer, civic, religious, etc.)
    • Car companies to cancel lease
    • Department of Motor Vehicles
    • Social Security administration
    • Insurance providers
    • Other ongoing service providers (telephone, cable, cell phone, automatic prescriptions, etc.)
    • Voter Registration Office
    • US Post Office
  • Organize any details regarding their home
  • Close bank, investment, and retirement accounts
  • Settle debts and credit accounts
  • Cancel subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, streaming services, home deliveries
  • File a final tax return
  • Complete the processing of the will and distribution of any assets
  • After the will has been processed (this can take time), donate, store, sell or give away any applicable items.



This section is less about practicalities and logistics and more about staying connected to the memory of your loved one. 


  • Write and submit an obituary
  • Select/design memorial headstone or etching
  • Organize any donations in the person’s name
  • Resolve social media and digital accounts.
  • Write thank-you notes
  • Share your memories via photos and stories
  • Create traditions. Find inspiration here to honor and celebrate your loved one