It's your funeral - funeral wishes list
This is a comprehensive list of headings to give clear instructions on your funeral wishes to your family, friends or executor so that you have the funeral you want.
Use it also to plan the funeral of a loved one who has died or whose life is coming to an end..
We have put a My Funeral Wishes document in your Lifebox which you can fill in.
Having your wishes clearly described will be a huge help and relief to your family.
You don’t have to complete all the list at the same time...and you can edit the content.
- Name: Full Name, current address, date of birth. This identifies you (or the loved one) whose funeral wishes are listed.
- Next of Kin and their full contact details.
- The person(s) responsible for carrying out these wishes: Names and contact details of those you have chosen, and who have agreed, to carry out these wishes. Consider family disputes before deciding who should be responsible for your funeral.
- Pre-paid funeral plan: Detail any plan or insurance or other financial provision that you have made and the location of all relevant documents.
- Your Will and your executor: If you have written your will, state the date it was signed, where it is (the original should be with your solicitor) and the name/contact details of your Executor. Keep a copy in your Lifebox.
- Repatriation: Do you want your body to be repatriated to a country other than the one where the death took place? This is important if you spend a lot of time abroad, say in a holiday home or if you have moved abroad. Or if you come from another country and you want your body to return there.
- Donating organs or your entire body: Do you wish to donate suitable organs, or your body for medical research?
- Burial or cremation: The most important decision to take about the funeral. If you want a ‘green’ funeral, or one that is as environmentally friendly as possible, state it here.
- Funeral Director: The second most important decision. You may know the funeral director you want to organise the funeral. If not, visit the National Association of Funeral Director’s search facility and shop around. Visit them and talk about your needs (see questions below). Judge how sympathetic they are, ask to see recommendations and their NAFD qualifications.
- Religious, humanist or a mixture of religious and secular: Be honest to your beliefs, lifestyle and views.
- Funeral event venue: Where do you want the funeral service or ceremony to take place? Church or other place of worship, cemetery/crematorium chapel, home, hotel, or other suitable venue. This is not normally the where the body or ashes are interred but where family and close friends gather to acknowledge the life that has passed. However, for woodland burials an open air ceremony can be appropriate.
- Who you want to attend the funeral event: Take into account the size and location of the venue. Dress code: black for traditional, sombre event – colourful clothing for more celebratory mood.
- Final resting place (interment): Family graveyard; local church; local cemetery or crematorium; favourite place for your ashes? Give details of any Exclusive Right of Burial - pre-paid deed for a specific plot. Ensure your choice is practical – many church graveyards have run out of space. There are rules concerning public places where ashes can (or can’t) be spread.
- Who should attend the interment: You may want only close family members to be present when your body or ashes are interred.
- Officiant: Who do you want to officiate at the funeral? Humanist officiant, religious officiant, civil officiant, interfaith celebrant?
- Reception or post funeral gathering: Where do you want the reception to take place? Home or convenient social venue suitable for the type of reception you wish to be held. As well as those attending the funeral event and interment, other friends, more distant family members, neighbours, colleagues are also invited if you or your close family wish.
- Who to invite to the reception.
- Coffin: There are now a growing variety, with degradable material such as willow, wicker, cardboard becoming more popular thanks to cost and environmental concerns. There is also a growing trend for bespoke designs.
- Carbon offset your funeral: A good way of ensuring your funeral is eco-friendly.
- Hearse and pall bearers: Hearses can range from the Victorian horse drawn carriage to a motorcycle sidecar. Pall bearers can be chosen family members and friends.
- Flowers or donations: Flowers are expensive, and also usually damaging to the environment, so think about requesting donations to an appropriate charity.
- Music, poems and readings: Choose the music, poetry and readings to mark your life (or the loved one whose funeral you are planning)? There are funeral and reception playlist templates in the music section which can be put in the Lifebox.
- Return home: Do you wish the body to be returned home before the funeral? State how many days, or hours, or just the night, before the funeral. Agree this with your family members.
- Embalming: Should be considered if you wish your body to be returned to your home for any length of time before the funeral, and if you wish your body to be viewed. Most embalming fluid is toxic and therefore your body can’t be interred at a woodland burial site and you won’t be having a green funeral.
- Viewing: Decide who, when and where you want (or not) your body to be viewed. Choices would be at the funeral home; at your home; during the service/ceremony.
- Clothing and Grave goods: What do you you want to wear when placed in the coffin? The funeral director can provide coffin garments. Or you can leave this world in the same way that you came into it - naked. You can also choose what you want to take with you - known as grave goods.
- Public notices: Do you want a notice in a national, regional or local newspaper? Many now have websites on which notices of deaths can be put.
- Order of Service/Ceremony sheets: Your funeral director will have some standard Order sheet designs. There are also a number of websites that have various templates. What do you want your Order sheet to communicate? Do you have a favourite photo you would like used.
- Tributes and eulogies: Who should speak about you? At the funeral event, at the interment, at the reception, at the memorial event? Write some helpful biographical notes.
- Messages: Write a suitable message for those mourning your passing. Consider if this is best communicated at the funeral ceremony, where there will be little time available and where people will be grieving, or at the reception following the funeral, or later at a memorial party. Consider a audio or video recording that can be stored in your Lifebox to be played at the event you select.
- A Party: Consider having a memorial party to celebrate your life. Maybe a fund raising event for a suitable good cause. You can either leave the details to friends and family, or you can list the venue, the music, the guest list, the food, the drink, the messages.
- No Funeral event: Instruct your family to have no funeral event other than your burial or cremation. This will save money and stress. You may feel it better to be remembered in a more positive way by having a remembrance party or memorial event in your honour several weeks later.
- Permanent Memorial: Do you want a headstone? Plaque on a memorial wall? A tree? A bench along your favourite walk? An online memorial? What do you want your epitaph to be?
- Last letters and emails: You may want letters or emails to be sent on your death. If so, the documents are ready for you to fill in inside your Lifebox. Tell your executor or next of kin to look at these send as you have instructed.
Read the relevant pages in mylastsong.com to get information on some of the subjects on the list. It’s also worth discussing the issues with a funeral director and the people you select to carry out these wishes.
If these wishes are complex, it is better to select suitable friends or family members rather than your executor. The executor will have a lot to do to organise the probate.
If you use your solicitor or a will writer to be your executor, he or she will charge...normally a percentage of the value of the estate. They will charge more to carry out complex funeral wishes.
Do not rely on your will as the place to put your funeral wishes as a will is not normally read until after the funeral.
Sign the document
Once you have finished compiling your funeral wish list, sign it and put the date next to the signature. You may wish to get a witness to sign which will give the list a greater influence when read by your family members.
When thinking about your funeral arrangements, think of the other end of life affairs that need to be put in order.
The Put your affairs in order section gives help on the legal and financial issues you should be addressing.
End of life care issues are dealt with in the care section.
Information that can last a long time
As well as this list, think of all the other things you might want to put your Lifebox.
It can contain information about your life, your family, and your achievements which can be available for future generations to understand more about you, the person you were and the life you led. (PH)