Planning a funeral checklist

Planning a funeral will never be an easy task. But we’ve put together this planning a funeral checklist and detailed guide to help you get started with the necessary arrangements.

Here are the key steps to planning a funeral when someone passes away:

  1. Register the death (within 5 days) to obtain the death certificate
  2. Check if they have left any funeral instructions in their Will (or elsewhere)
  3. Check if they had life insurance or a prepaid funeral plan to help cover the cost and if not, think about your budget and how you’ll pay for the funeral
  4. Hire a suitable funeral director (if you wish to use one)
  5. Decide if it will be a cremation or burial
  6. Choose the coffin (traditional, eco-friendly, personalised etc)
  7. Decide the type of funeral service(religious, non-religious etc)
  8. Choose the funeral venue (place of worship, chapel, burial site etc)
  9. Organise transport for the family to and from the service (limousines, taxis etc)
  10. Choose the flower arrangements (or pick a charity for donations)
  11. Plan the service details (dress code, funeral music, readings, eulogy etc)
  12. Create the order of service
  13. Book the venue and catering for the wake (if you’re having one)
  14. Send out invitations (e.g. phone, email, social media etc)

Continue reading as we guide you through the process of arranging a funeral, from obtaining the right paperwork after someone passes away, to covering the funeral cost.


As mentioned above, it’s worth checking if your loved one had arranged life insurance before they passed away, such as over 50s life insurance.

If they have a policy in place, then you could make a claim to receive the guaranteed cash pay out to help cover their funeral costs.

Planning a funeral and finding payment for the funeral can raise thoughts of your own funeral in the future.

If you’d like to help protect your family from inevitable funeral expenses, then you may consider over 50s life insurance through Reassured.

You could secure up to £20,000 of cover (depending on your age, smoking status and budget), and assure a pay out when the time comes.

Acceptance is guaranteed for over 50s life insurance if you’re aged between 50 – 85 and no medical information is required.

Quotes start from just 20p-a-day through Reassured. Simply contact us for your free quote comparison.

How to plan a funeral

In this guide, we’ll explain how to plan a funeral step-by-step, covering the main elements including:

  1. When to start planning a funeral »
  2. How to pay for a funeral »
  3. Funeral director services »
  4. The type of funeral service »
  5. Burial or cremation? »
  6. Planning a funeral service »
  7. Planning a funeral reception »
  8. How long is a funeral? »
  9. The cost of a funeral »

Continue reading as we run through each step and outline all the things to consider when planning a funeral...

1. When to start planning a funeral

You can start planning a funeral when someone passes away and their death has been registered.

A death must be registered within 5 days. However, this can be extended for another 9 days if a medical certificate has been issued.

A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) will need to be obtained from the GP (if they passed away at home), or from the hospital (if they passed away in hospital).

Registering a death can be done at the Registrar office by a relative or someone present at the death. You’ll then receive a Certificate of Registration of Death.

Following this, you’ll be able to obtain an application for cremation or certificate for a burial so that you can start planning the funeral.

If you have appointed the services of a funeral director, they can help you acquire all the necessary paperwork.

Planning your own funeral

You could start planning your own funeral in advance and take out life insurance to help towards the cost.

Life insurance, such as an over 50s plan, allows you to leave a cash sum to your loved ones after you’re gone.

If you have any specific funeral wishes, the funds can be used to help fulfil these and relieve some stress for those planning your funeral.

If you’re aged between 50 - 85 then you could take out an over 50s plan with a pay out up to £20,000 (depending on your personal circumstances and budget).

Contact us today for your no-obligation, fee-free quote.

How much over 50 life insurance do you need?

Enter your financial commitments below to understand the level of over 50 life insurance you require.

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According to Uswitch, it’s estimated that 23,000 people in the UK will still be paying off their mortgage by age 75.

Although an over 50s plan can’t cover the full cost of a mortgage (as cover is capped at £20,000), it could help to contribute some funds towards keeping your family in their home.

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Research by Saga shows that nearly 6 million over 50s owe money on credit cards and loans, with average debt amongst this age group totalling £12,000.

Depending on your personal circumstances, an over 50s plan may not be able to cover all debts (as cover is capped at £20,000) but it could allow you to cover some debts in your name.

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SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2023 report found that the average cost of a basic funeral is £3,953, with the overall cost of dying totalling £9,200.

A pay out from life insurance can help to cover all or some of these costs.

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Age UK have found that many over 50s and 60s will be reliant on their pension to get by.

Life insurance can provide your partner with a helping hand on top of their pension.

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An inheritance can provide your loved ones with a cash gift to spend as they wish.

Alternatively, you could leave a portion of your pay out to a charity that’s close to your heart.

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If you already have a life insurance (or other financial protection) policy in place, and/or you have your own savings, factoring these into your sum assured could reduce the level of cover you require - helping you to save money.

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2. How to pay for a funeral

There are different ways to pay for a funeral. Your loved one may have made financial provisions for their funeral before passing away.

Financial provisions left by the person who’s passed away may include:

  • Savings and investments (the estate)
  • Life insurance or over 50s plan
  • Prepaid funeral plan

Alternatively, a family member or friend would need to pay for the funeral. It’s important to decide on a budget before making any arrangements.

Your chosen funeral director is required to provide you with a price list for all their services, allowing you to keep on top of costs.

If you’re struggling to afford a funeral and receive certain state benefits, you may be entitled to funeral expenses help from the government.

3. Funeral director services

Most people hire a professional funeral director to help them with funeral arrangements.

If you wish to use a funeral director, it’s important to find one who’s a member of one of the following:

Funeral directors provide a range of services, including:

  • Professional guidance and advice
  • Collecting the deceased and transporting them to the funeral home
  • Care and preparation of the deceased until the funeral
  • Liaising with third-parties, such as the crematorium or cemetery
  • Assisting with all the necessary arrangements
  • Funeral personnel such as pallbearers
  • Coffin, hearse and limousines

You can select a level of service that suits your needs and your budget. If you’re looking for a fair deal, it’s wise to shop around and compare quotes for funeral directors.

Additionally, it’s not compulsory to use a funeral director; you could arrange some (or all) of the funeral yourself which can help to reduce the cost.

4. The type of funeral service

Most funeral services are held in a place of worship, crematorium chapel, or natural burial site, but other venues are also used.

The most popular types of funeral service are explained in the table below:

Type of funeralWhat this funeral is likeOther important notes
ReligiousA traditional funeral with a religious ceremony. May include prayers, hymns or readings in line with your beliefs. Usually held in a church or chapel and led by a religious ministerCo-op reported this accounts for 2 in 3 funerals they arrange[2]. Funeral directors are highly experienced with this form of funeral
Non-religiousA traditional funeral which excludes religious aspects. Can be held in a crematorium, cemetery chapel, natural burial site or other venue. May be led by a celebrant, friend or family memberIn the Co-op 'Changing Face of UK Funerals' survey, 51% of participants think that more funerals will take place outside of traditional religious settings in the future[3]
Celebration of lifeA funeral focused on a person’s individuality, personality, unique traits and experiences. May include sharing of the deceased’s favourite music and memoriesCan be part of a non-religious funeral or as a separate memorial on a different day (for example, after a direct cremation if this is chosen)
Eco-friendlyAn environmentally friendly funeral, such as a woodland burial, using biodegradable materials for the coffin and memorial (grave marker)This can be religious or non-religious in nature and can include a service, but an indoor venue may not be available. More funeral providers are offering this type of funeral
Direct cremationFor those who prefer no funeral service. A cremation is carried out without an attended funeral service beforehandThis costs much less than a traditional funeral and a good option for those on a budget

5. Burial or cremation?

Whether to have a burial or cremation will need to be decided quite early on in the funeral planning process.

This is because family traditions, religion or personal beliefs can have a significant influence on what we choose.

According to SunLife, 75% of people choose a form of cremation over a burial[1].


The below chart shows the basic process of a cremation or burial to help you understand what to expect:

Planning a cremationPlanning a burial
Choose a crematoriumChoose a cemetery, churchyard or natural burial ground
Complete a cremation application (called a Form 1)Obtain burial permit for burial plot. You will also require a burial certificate (can be used as an alternative to a green certificate)
Secure a green certificate and the medical certificate signed by two separate doctors (funeral director can assist with all the paperwork)Secure a green certificate and the medical certificate signed by two separate doctors (funeral director can assist with all the paperwork)
Funeral service tends to be held in the crematoria chapel or other venue before cremationGrave can be marked with a headstone, plaque or statue. Only a natural memorial is allowed (such as a tree) for a natural burial
Cremation takes place following the serviceFuneral service and burial held - usually in a cemetery or private grounds
A private wake may be held if one has not been held yetA private wake may be held if one has not been held yet
Ashes can be collected after the funeral and scattered if you likeIf the grave hasn’t been marked yet, you will now be able to

6. Planning a funeral service

There are many things to consider when planning a funeral service.

Help from family and close friends to plan the funeral service and decide on each of the elements would be beneficial at this time.

If the person who has died left behind their funeral wishes in their Will or by other means, then you may wish to plan the details according to these.

While many funeral elements are usually tailored to the person’s personality, the below shows the most common aspects that would need planning:

  • The obituary - Let others know about the death and inform them of the details of the funeral. These may include an appropriate photo and a few sentences about the life of the deceased. It can be published in the local newspaper or posted on social media
  • The coffin - Traditional coffins are usually made from solid wood or wood effect materials. Eco-coffins are made from natural, biodegradable materials such as cardboard or willow. It’s sensible to check with the burial site or crematorium which types of coffin they allow
  • The flowers - A significant part of any funeral with many variations you could choose for the day. The most popular funeral flowers include roses, lilies, carnations, sunflowers and daffodils. You may like to ask mourners to make donations to a chosen charity instead of sending flowers
  • The hearse - If you’re using a funeral director, they’ll likely arrange a traditional black hearse for the procession. However, at the request of the person who's died or their loved ones, an alternative hearse can be used - providing it’s able to carry the coffin
  • The transport - Usually, a limousine is provided by the funeral home to drive the family in cortege behind the hearse to the cremation or cemetery. It’s not compulsory to have a limousine at the funeral and loved ones can travel to the location of the funeral service by car or public transport if they wish
  • The procession - Most funeral directors will give you the option to choose the procession route to the cremation or cemetery. The cortege may start from the funeral home or from a family member’s home, and finish where the service will take place
  • The music - A loved one’s favourite song or one that reflects their personality can be used to make a service personal. Several pieces of music may be required throughout the service. For a religious service, you may wish to search for popular funeral hymns
  • The order of service - An order of service can be done by a professional, the funeral director, or by yourself at home. This will consist of lyrics for music, times and names of those providing readings, information on the deceased - including a photo and/or a quote, and wake details
  • The eulogy - This a speech about the life of the person who has passed. You could ask a family member or relative to write and/or read the eulogy. Alternatively, someone could read a meaningful poem or a short passage in their memory
  • The pallbearers - Pallbearers are commonly family or close friends who are chosen to carry the coffin from the hearse to the burial site or crematorium. The funeral home personnel may be able to carry the coffin if you prefer
  • The dress code - Traditional black is usually worn but is not compulsory. A colour theme for all mourners and funeral personnel can be requested. You’ll also need to decide the outfit for the person who's passed. The funeral home will prepare and dress them
  • The memorial - For a burial, you’ll need to think about the style and wording of the headstone. For a cremation, this would either be choosing a suitable urn, or deciding where to scatter/bury them. At a natural burial site, the use of a traditional headstone won’t be permitted but you may be able to plant a tree or leave another natural memorial. Certain memorials will require maintenance as time goes on

7. Planning a funeral reception

Following the committal, at a crematorium or cemetery, you may wish to hold a wake at a nearby venue, such as a village hall, pub or hotel.

This usually includes organising some catering for the occasion.

This presents a great opportunity for friends and family to get together and share memories and pay tribute to the person who has passed.

If you’re worried about your loved ones struggling to afford a reception or other funeral aspects, why not consider an over 50s life insurance policy?

The average cost of dying is currently £9,200[1]. With an over 50s plan you could secure up to £20,000 (depending on your personal circumstances and budget) to help cover some of these costs for your loved ones.

There may even be funds left over to provide an inheritance for them to spend as they wish.

8. How long is a funeral?

On average, funerals can last between 30 - 60 minutes. However, the length could be shorter or longer depending on whether a service or wake is included.

The below table shows the length of the most common funeral types:

Funeral typeLength (approximately)Other notes
Cremation45 - 60 minutesUnlikely to exceed an hour (unless you choose to pay for the extra time)
Direct cremationN/A due to no serviceDue to no family or friends attending, length is solely dependent on a wake or memorial service if you choose to have one
Burial60 minutesMay be followed by a short burial service by the graveside
Direct burialN/A due to no serviceDue to no family or friends attending, length is solely dependent on a wake or memorial service if you choose to have one
Eco-friendly burial30 - 60 minutesA short burial service may proceed this

9. What is the cost of a funeral?

Currently, the average cost of a funeral is £3,953[1].

However, the cost of the funeral you’re planning will depend on various factors, which include:

  • Location of the funeral - Funeral costs, including cremation and burial fees, vary across the UK
  • Burial or cremation - A cremation is less expensive than a burial. The average cost of a cremation is £3,673 and the average cost of a burial is £4,794. Direct cremation is the cheapest option, at £1,511 on average.
  • Funeral director services - Whether you use a funeral director, and if so, the specific services you choose to include
  • Personalisation - What you choose to spend on the floral arrangements, coffin, transport, venues, catering and so on

Compare over 50s life insurance to help cover your funeral costs

In 2022, 19% of UK families said they experienced notable financial concerns when paying for a funeral.

Making financial provisions in advance to help pay for your own funeral could help to alleviate money worries for your family when the time comes.

One way you can do this is by taking out over 50s life insurance through Reassured. This type of policy can provide up to £20,000 of cover (amount depending on your age, smoking status and budget) to help towards funeral related costs.

The benefits of securing over 50s life insurance through Reassured include:

  • Acceptance guaranteed to UK residents aged 50 - 85
  • No medical information required
  • Fee-free, personalised quotes from leading providers
  • Sum assured (pay out amount) up to £20,000 (depending on your personal circumstances and budget)
  • Quotes available from 20p-a-day

Give yourself peace of mind knowing that your loved ones won’t be left paying for your funeral out of their own pockets and contact Reassured today.

We can provide you with no-obligation and personalised quotes, free of charge.

Sources:

[1] https://www.sunlife.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cost-of-dying/sunlife-cost-of-dying-report-2023.pdf/

[2] https://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/arranging-a-funeral/organising-the-day/download-pdfs/

[3] https://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/campaigns/funeral-trends/

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