Understanding the Funeral Planning Process

Our website’s resource section is a helpful companion piece to a  one-on-one consultation with an expert advisor at Peaceful Decisions. Information found here will include answers to many funeral planning topics. What is a green burial? What funeral arrangement steps do I take as an organ donor? You’ll also find vital resource links to end-of-life planning.

Resources & FAQ

Funeral Planning From A to Z

What is the difference between a memorial garden and a cemetery?  What happens if a loved one dies at home?  What are the different methods for the disposition of a body?  Answers to these questions and more are found in Funeral Planning A-Z.  

A Pandemic and a Funeral

Most people could not imagine the extraordinary impact that the pandemic has had on our lives. For the thousands of families dealing with the death of their loved one, what are they to do now?

Traditionally, we mourn within a few days or weeks of death. Family and friends seek out ways to express their condolences to the grieving family in person. In the current climate of a pandemic, it is difficult to have a personal connection to those who grieve.

Funeral homes are struggling with the volume of deaths and how to assist families in paying tribute to the deceased during this pandemic. Some funeral providers may allow families to have a gathering at the time of death. And some are offering the final disposition of burial or cremation as the immediate solution and suggest scheduling a memorial service at a later date.

The Peaceful Decision Advisors are available to guide you through this challenging time. We can help you plan a service worthy of your loved one. Schedule time with a Peaceful Decisions Advisor today.

A Death Has Occurred

When a death occurs, the emotional shock can impact your behavior. The following information is meant to offer guidance on what to do in a variety of situations.  If the funeral home is known, contact them as they will be a  resource for you.  The selected funeral home will coordinate with all involved parties to transport your loved one from the place of death to their facility.  

Death in a medical facility
The majority of deaths occur in a medical facility (hospital, nursing home, hospice). At the time, the staff will need to know the family’s selected funeral home; you will either be directed to contact the funeral home or the staff will call them on your behalf.  The funeral director should speak to a family member to obtain permission to transport the deceased to their facility.

Death at home
If a patient dies at home and is under hospice care, the first step is to contact the hospice team to inform them of the death.  The hospice staff will initiate the process to pronounce the death and make arrangements with your selected funeral home to take your loved one into their care.

When a patient dies at home (not under the care of hospice), first call 911 for assistance.  The dispatcher will send first responders to provide guidance during this acute situation.

There are times when the Medical Examiner or Coroner may be alerted to the death. In most cases, the ME/Coroner will communicate with the family and update the selected funeral home when the examination is completed.

Advanced Planning

Advance planning, pre-need, or pre-arrangements are funeral industry terms. They define the task of planning, and the option of paying for your service and disposition before a death occurs. Most funeral homes offer this service to help you plan ahead of the need. Advance planning and funding can be complicated due to variations in the laws for each state.

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors are available to assist with your first steps in planning or reviewing your existing plans.


Anatomical or Organ Donation

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors want to help you understand the difference in donation.

The decision to leave your body to science or AKA anatomical donation is an option that many people choose as their final wish.  If you would like to know more about this option contact Peaceful Decisions.

Today, more Americans are aware of the important decision that one can make to impact others by registering to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. To help save and heal a life is an amazing gift and legacy. To learn more about organ, eye, and tissue donation, visit www.donatelife.net


Creating a Service

Your Options for a Type of  Service

The following descriptions of service types are meant as a primer, not a comprehensive tool. The most familiar service types are:  funeral, memorial, or graveside..

  • Funeral Service is defined by the deceased’s body being present for the ceremony.
  • Graveside Service is held at the place of final disposition (cemetery, mausoleum). 
  • Memorial Service is the most flexible because the deceased’s body is not present. This type of service offers the most significant options for venue and timing. 

Peaceful Decision Advisors can help guide you to make the appropriate service selection for you and your family.

Venue Ideas for a Service

People who choose a funeral service, traditionally hold the service  in a church or a funeral home, others may have the service at a graveside or mausoleum chapel.

  • Those who choose a memorial service, the option on location is limitless. The idea of a celebration rather than a funeral is becoming more popular. A gathering of family and friends, formal or informal, is a contemporary way to pay tribute.


Creating Your Service:  What to consider

  • Disposition   
  • Type of service       
  • Celebrant/Officiant
  • Eulogy 
  • Readings, Bible verses, Poems, Letters
  • Music
  • Tributes
  • Reception

Contact a Peaceful Decisions Advisor to assist you in creating your personalized and unique service.

Embalming – Is it Necessary?

What is it?
In today’s society, embalming can be easily defined as a chemical process that temporarily preserves human remains. 

Is it the law?
Per the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule: Routine embalming on every death is not required. The time between death and burial or cremation can require embalming or refrigeration of the deceased. If a direct cremation or immediate burial is selected, then embalming is not required. Funeral homes may have a policy that embalming is required if a public viewing is scheduled. It is important to check with your state’s laws for confirmation.  Link to state resources. 

Permission to embalm is required in most states. The funeral professional should ask the family to authorize the embalming either verbally or in writing prior to the embalming process.

What are the costs involved?
The care of the deceased is an important task performed by the funeral professional. Care can range from cleansing, embalming, dressing, applying cosmetics. The fees for these tasks must be listed on the funeral home’s General Price List.

Below is a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule


The Peaceful Decision Advisors will provide guidance on the care of the deceased based on your individual needs. 

Federal Trade Commission: THE FUNERAL RULE

The Federal Trade Commission regulates the funeral industry nationally.

In the mid-1980s, the FTC began this oversight as a protection for the consumer. The “Funeral Rule” was written to establish guidelines for the funeral provider to give the consumer accurate information and disclosures on funeral goods, services, and pricing.

For detailed information about the consumers’ rights under The Funeral Rule, connect to this link:


Final Disposition

The final disposition is a decision that may be made prior to death.  The most common options include, earth burial, entombment, or cremation. The following information is offered as a primer about final disposition options.

Earth Burial
A cemetery is considered a sacred space for many people. It is a place to honor and remember their loved ones. 

Peaceful Decision Advisors can offer guidance about burial options.

Natural Burial
A Natural or Green Burial site is one that does not allow embalming, outer burial containers, or monuments. Interest in this type of final disposition is growing.

The Peaceful Decision Advisors are available to help you with your questions.

Green Burial Council.

A mausoleum is a building constructed to entomb the deceased. This building can house many deceased or it can be built for a single person or family. 

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors are available to help you decide when an entombment is an option for you.

More than half of Americans choose cremation as their final disposition choice.  It is important to know that you can have a funeral service with the deceased present prior to the cremation. If you prefer to have a memorial service, the remains can be present at the service. What to do with the remains after the service?  There are so many options to honor the deceased cremated remains.

Your Peaceful Decision Advisors can help guide you to the best decision for you and your family about cremation.

Alternative Disposition Options

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors are available to answer your questions about alternative types of dispositions.

FUNERAL PLANNING 101: The Arrangement Conference

The Funeral Arrangement Conference

The Arrangement Conference is the time that you meet with the funeral provider to; plan, schedule and finalize decisions about the type of service, disposition, funeral products, sharing the news of the death, preparing the death certificate, and establish payment for service and products selected.

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors understand that this task is daunting and we are here to help you.  Working one-on-one with an advisor or joining a class, the Peaceful Decisions team wants you to be educated about the funeral planning process before you need it.

Below are ideas and questions that are an important part of the arrangement conference.

  • Scheduling the service’s date and time 
  • Creating the service
  • Who will participate at the service
  • A eulogy
  • The obituary or death notice
  • Merchandise to purchase
  • Business contract with the funeral provider and payment options

 Peaceful Decision’s mission is to help educate and enlighten you to be empowered and prepared for this inevitable event.

Funeral Products and Merchandise

Funeral homes offer many types of products needed for a funeral or memorial service. Many people select the merchandise for their funeral at the funeral home. Caskets, outer burial containers, memorial packages, monuments are available for purchase at the funeral home. However, the ability to “shop” online has created opportunities to purchase funeral products directly.

Cremation Products

When selecting cremation as the final disposition, you should be aware that many states require the deceased to be placed in a “cremation alternative” container. This container can range from specialized cardboard to a wood casket. The intent is to provide dignity for the deceased and some safety to those handling the deceased.  



An urn is a vessel that will hold the cremated remains. The purchase of this item can be made at any time.  The choices for urns are staggering; any on-line search will provide several options.

Peaceful Decisions offers ideas on unique urns, jewelry, art pieces, and innovative ideas for cremated remains.

Funeral Products

The necessary funeral products to purchase will depend on the type of service and disposition selected. 

The following information from the Peaceful Decisions Advisors is meant to help you understand the products available.

  • Burial Caskets
  • Outer burial containers
  • Green burial products
  • Cremation alternative containers
  • Cremation urns
  • Memorial jewelry
  • Unique options for cremated remains

Note: the FTC Funeral Rule allows the consumer to purchase funeral products outside of the funeral establishment. The funeral professional must accept the delivery of any items purchased by the family/friends.


Funeral Costs and Payment

During the Arrangement Conference, the funeral provider will offer a price list. Per the Federal Trade Commission, every consumer must receive for their retention a copy of the funeral home’s General Price List when pricing is discussed or requested by the consumer.  This document lists all of the current fees for services and prices for merchandise that a funeral home offers their client families.

When the arrangements are completed, the funeral provider will offer a Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected. This document provided all the services and merchandise selected.  This document should be provided to you for review and acceptance prior to services being conducted.

  [1] Federal Trade Commission, Complying with the Funeral Rule, August 2012.

How to pay for a funeral

This expense can be shocking to many families who are not prepared for a death. Are you prepared to answer the question; “how are you planning to settle the bill, today?

A Peaceful Decisions Advisor can educate you on the costs and payment options.

Sharing the News of a Death- How to Write an Obituary

When you need to publicly notify others about the death of a loved one, you may be confused about:

  • the differences between an obituary and a death notice
  • the associated fees
  • what to write

In some cases, when someone has been particularly well-known, a brief version of their life story is published as an obituary in the newspaper.

For most people, a shorter death notice appears on the obituary page. It announces the death, lists relatives of the deceased, and provides details about the memorial arrangements. Sometimes, it also includes biographical information. Either way, the more content, the more expensive, because each newspaper charges a set fee per line, and fees vary widely among newspapers. 

Peaceful Decisions Advisors are here to help you craft your obituary.  

Social Security

Social Security

Your Funeral Director typically will notify the Social Security Administration of a death. Currently, there is a one-time payment of $255 paid to a surviving spouse or dependent child.

For other eligibility information, contact Social Security at 1.800.772.1213 or the Social Security Administration website.

The Death Certificate- Vital Statistic Information

The death certificate is a legal document that is governed by state and local laws.

The funeral director is responsible to complete the death certificate with vital statistic information provided by the family (legal next of kin), or designee.

This essential information needed is available in the Pathway Planning Guide.


Who is Responsible for Making Funeral Arrangements?

A family representative is the most common person responsible for making end-of-life arrangements.  A person can designate a legal representative to fulfill the established plans.  This representative might be your spouse, child, friend, attorney.  Whoever you charge with this task, make certain that they understand your wishes. If no designee is determined prior to a death, the legal next of kin is responsible for decisions about final disposition.

When under stress, people can make poor decisions. Being educated and enlightened about your options will lead you to being empowered.

The Peaceful Decisions Advisors can offer guidance on helping you determine a suitable designee for your affairs.

Veteran’s Burial Benefits

Veteran’s Benefits

The veteran’s discharge paper, known as the DD-214, is critical to accessing the services and products the veteran may be eligible for burial or cremation. A flag, marker or monument, burial in a VA cemetery, and military honors are benefits available to many veterans. You can visit the following link to determine what benefits the veteran may receive. All honorably discharged veterans will receive an American flag that can be displayed at their service.


Viewing the Deceased

Depending on your experience, you may know this event as viewing, wake, visitation, or calling hours. 

It is a time set aside for family and friends to respect the deceased and the deceased’s family. 

Traditionally the deceased is placed in their casket for the visitation. This public “viewing” of the deceased typically happens before the funeral service. A viewing is possible for any type of service and disposition selected.

Resources & FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

How can my insurance policy pay for my funeral?

Many of our parents and grandparents paid for their burial spaces and put away monies to pay for their funerals via cash, savings accounts, and insurance policies.  Most funeral providers will work with your insurance company for direct payment called an “assignment”.  The beneficiary will sign paperwork directing the payment for the amount of the funeral to the funeral provider.  Any additional monies will be paid to the beneficiary.

Do I have to purchase a casket at the funeral home?

The “Funeral Rule” established by the Federal Trade Commission states that a funeral home cannot refuse to service a family who chooses to purchase a caster (or any item) from another vendor.  There are options to purchase caskets, outer burial containers, urs, and other memorial merchandise online or in specialized stores.  The Peaceful Decisions team is available to answer your individual questions about funeral merchandise.

I am not a religious person; do I need to have clergy at my service?

The decision to have a religious or non-religious officiant is based on the traditions, culture, and comfort level of the surviving family and friends.  If you or your family do not feel the “pull” to have a religious service, utilizing a Celebrant may be the best answer for you.  The Celebrant will interview family and friends and create a eulogy and service that is befitting of the deceased.

The Peaceful Decisions advisors are available for guidance on choosing a Celebrant.

I have paid for my funeral in advance, can the plans be changed?

Depending on the state regulations; a pre-paid funeral contract may be altered by the legal next of kin.  In many cases, a family is able to change the type of service and merchandise at the time of death.  The monies paid can be applied to the new arrangements.

Connect with a Peaceful Decisions Advisor for an Advance Planning contract review.

Do I have to purchase a casket for a direct cremation?

You do not.  However, the FTC states that a funeral provider must offer an “alternative container” for direct cremation.  the “alternative container” is typically constructed with fiber-board or pressed-wood and is necessary to protect the deceased’s body in the handling and transport to the crematory.  It is not decorative.

If I am unhappy with my funeral home, can I change funeral providers?

Yes.  There are times when this decision is made in haste, and when engaging the funeral home staff, there might be some dissatisfaction.  If extreme, making a change to another funeral home is an option.  Please note that the costs for services provided by the first funeral home must be satisfied.

The Peaceful Decisions team suggests that you begin the conversation about end-of-life planning and funeral home selection before the need arises.  We are here to help guide you on your path to education, enlightenment, and empowerment.  

How do I create a unique final service?

The first question of creating a personalized service is who was this person?  Answering the question of what were their accomplishments, their hobbies, their joys can provide a foundation for a memorable tribute.  Today, there are so many options to ‘personalizing’ service that it can be overwhelming when making funeral arrangements.

The Peaceful Decisions team can help you create a one of a kind final tribute for your loved one or yourself.  Our clients gain a sense of relief by starting this conversation prior to the need.

What is the correct time frame to schedule a funeral or memorial service??

The answer is up to you!  A memorial service, without the deceased’s body present, can be held at any time and at any place.  Scheduling a funeral service traditionally can fall into a set time-frame depending on where you live and your culture.  Choosing a traditional funeral with the deceased ‘s body present for burial or cremation with a viewing/visitation may limit your options.  To extend the date and time of service you might consider embalming.

I had a horrific experience with a funeral home, is there any recourse?

You are the client and have every right to share your concerns with the funeral provider as you experience challenges.  Contacting the regulating board that oversees funeral service in each state is the last resort for recourse.  A handy downloadable pdf guide to available resources is provided here.

Can Peaceful Decisions by my funeral director?

We cannot act as a funeral provider to complete the final arrangements.  Neither can we create legal documents, such as death certificates, wills, powers of attorney, advance directives, nor pre-paid funeral plans.

The Peaceful Decisions team consists of many subject matter experts on end-of-life issues.  Once death occurs, it may appear that the process moves at lightning speed.  It is important to understand that you have the power to slow the process.  You can reach out to the Peaceful Decisions team for guidance and information during your time of need.  We will respond within 12 hours of your initial contact.

Resources & FAQ


Looking for funeral standards by state?  Our handy resource list contains links to many important funeral industry agencies and partners.  

At the end of life’s journey, you can always use a trusted friend.

Let Peaceful Decisions take these last steps with you to light the way.

The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Industry Regulations

Legal Disclosure-Peaceful Decisions, LLC 

© 2023 Peaceful Decisions, LLC. All rights reserved.
KOLO Webmedia, LLC

Licensed video by piola666/iStock
Licensed artwork by Dave Allen/Pixels.com
Logo artwork by Andrea Campanella

Licensed photographs: iStock/fizkes; gremlin/monkeybusiness
other photographic artwork by Sue Poveromo