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Making Final Arrangements — Ceremonies

When formulating your estate plan, you should contemplate body disposal and ceremonies. Writing out a statement of your preferences will likely save money and save your loved ones from additional heartache. Typically, at least one ceremony occurs when a person dies. Sometimes several ceremonies are held, either before or after burial or cremation. Most loved ones are likely to be comforted by attending a ceremony that reflects the wishes and personality of the deceased person.

Pre-Burial or Pre-Cremation Ceremonies
Pre-burial and pre-cremation ceremonies have many concerns in common. For either type of ceremony, you may wish to address:

  1. the location of the ceremony
  2. whether clergy should be invited to participate
  3. specific music you would like played
  4. preferences for a eulogy and the name of the person you would like to speak
  5. directing survivors to send flowers or monetary donations.

For a pre-burial ceremony, you can also instruct whether you want your body to be present in a casket, whether you would like the casket open or closed, and whether you want your body to be wearing any particular clothing or jewelry. For a pre-cremation ceremony, you can also direct whether you want your remains present at the ceremony, either in a casket or other container, or whether you would like a photograph displayed.

Informal Gatherings

Before your body is buried or cremated, you may wish to have a simple gathering of family and friends in a casual setting. This may be either at a private home or at a social establishment such as a restaurant or an organization’s quarters. If you would like to have an informal ceremony held after your death, you should ponder the concerns mentioned above.


A traditional funeral is a brief ceremony and is most often held in a funeral home or a church. The body of the deceased person is usually present, either in an open or a closed casket. Other than these generalizations, there are no requirements in order to constitute a funeral. If the deceased person followed a specific religion, the funeral may include a blessing, mass, or prayer service. In addition to the concerns mentioned above, pallbearers and transportation also should be addressed in planning a funeral. Pallbearers are the people that carry a casket, which is usually needed to and from the place where the ceremony is held, and from a transportation vehicle to a grave site. Although you may choose as many pallbearers as you wish, the number usually ranges from four to eight. If you have a preference about the type of vehicle that will carry your body to the cemetery from the funeral ceremony, you should express that in the statement.

Graveside Ceremonies

In addition to or instead of holding a ceremony before burial, it is common to hold a short ceremony at the grave site. During such a ceremony, a religious leader may say a few prayers or a loved one may say words of farewell. If this is something you want, you should include it in your statement by describing who should be there, who should speak, and what they should say.

Memorial Ceremonies

A memorial ceremony is an informal ceremony held to remember and celebrate someone who has died. The body is not usually present because the ceremony happens some time after burial or cremation. There are no restrictions as to where memorial ceremonies may be held.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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