Updated: August 8, 2023
Although it may not be considered an advance directive, you may have wishes regarding what happens after you die. You can use something formal like a Letter of Instruction or Final Instructions document and include it in your Advance Directives/Living Will, or a letter to your family.
A lot of the preparation and events following your death may be traditional for religious, cultural, or other reasons. However, you may have some particular things that are important to you for your wake, funeral, and disposal of your remains. You can choose as few or as many details as you like.
Honoring Your Loved Ones section will go into more detail. Here is a brief outline of the possible choices you would prefer your family make about your wake, funeral, burial, and memorial planning.
Funeral homes are a business and strive to make a profit. At this time your family is vulnerable and may feel compelled to include expensive options for your wake that only benefit the funeral home. You may be able to help them avoid this by making decisions ahead of time about what you want. You can even make these arrangements yourself.
Research what may be offered and make your choices accordingly.
Choices about your wake and funeral may include the following:
A document called the “Disposition of Final Remains” is allowed in many states. It allows you to specifically list your preferences after you die, including your agent who will carry them out. Without specific instructions (which could also be stated in your will), the task falls on a relative, typically your spouse or children, who will make decisions based on what you have told them, what they think you would want, or what they would prefer.
Many states have unique rules about burial or cremation and scattering ashes; check your state rules before making any requests.
Choices about the final resting place.
You may choose how you want to be remembered which may include many possibilities.
Probably the most distressing but necessary task is to look into and budget for funeral and burial (cemetery) or cremation costs.
It is important to decide what you want ahead of time so your family doesn’t fall victim to emotional appeals for add-ons or package deals that you neither want or need, but would allegedly show more respect for you.
It is important to research funeral and burial options, comparison shop, and get quotes from at least three funeral homes.
Here is some information to consider when budgeting for these expenses.
More detail on funeral planning and costs can be found in the Saying Goodbye section