How To Talk to Your Parents About Funeral Planning

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Few people want to think about a parent dying. Even fewer want to consider how to plan a parent’s funeral without guidance and a clear plan.

Before your parents pass on, discuss how to plan your parents' funerals. Planning includes practical consideration of the service, burial, and cost. But it also concerns the emotional process of discussing the death of loved ones and finding unique ways to celebrate their lives.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s important to discuss funeral planning to honor your parents’ wishes, find future closure and plan for costs.
  • Costs include the funeral services and burial fees, and various methods may allow you to prepare to pay these expenses.
  • Funeral planning discussions require tact, patience, and a notepad or computer.
  • Questions to ask before a parent dies should cover both logistical and emotional aspects.

Why You Need To Talk to Parents About Funeral Planning

It’s important to talk to parents about funeral planning so you can understand what your parents want at their funerals, long before the day arrives, National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) president Randy Anderson told The Balance in a phone interview.

Anderson sat down with his parents to discuss even the smaller details—for example, any special Bible verses or poems to honor and celebrate their lives. “The funeral isn’t about how you want it done, but how they want it done,” he said.

Also to discuss costs and if they’ve already bought burial plots, purchased burial insurance or  pre-need funerals, or have money set aside for funerals and burials.

Discussing the funeral also helps the family prepare and get closure after a parent passes, said Stephan Baldwin, founder of  Assisted Living Center, a health care directory for senior communities.

“Including their input makes the grieving process more personal,” he said in an email to The Balance. “Ultimately, funerals should be celebrations of life. Your mind will be a little less cluttered knowing that you could still add your parent’s touch to the end of their story.”

Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Their Funeral

As you prepare to talk to your parents about funeral planning, they may be hesitant to start the conversation.

“Seniors can get very defensive and overwhelmed by the idea of death, especially when it’s just sprung upon them,” Baldwin said. “It’s not that they don’t expect to move on eventually—after all, death is common among the elderly community. But discussing funeral arrangements can make the situation all too real.”

With that in mind, here are a few tips for planning a funeral with your parents:

  • Don’t wait until the perfect moment: Introduce the topic during everyday chats, perhaps by mentioning a recent loss in your parents’ social circle. “Use the anecdote to learn details about what your parents prefer for their farewell,” Baldwin said.
  • Use NFDA’s Conversation Cards: The cards feature questions concerning your parent’s life. You can then work interesting facts and trivia into the eulogy and obituary.
  • Ask your parents what they don’t want: Even a parent reluctant to discuss desires may be more willing to describe what they don’t want, Anderson said. For example, your parents may not want a memorial video or an open-casket viewing.
  • Reframe the conversation: Discuss funeral and burial planning as preparation for unexpected financial expenses, Baldwin said. “Funerals are somewhat emergency situations, and family members often aren’t in the right mind space directly after experiencing loss to organize any farewell ceremony. Lead with that idea to make the conversation less awkward for everyone.”
  • Use a photo album or other visual prompt: Use these to discuss crucial moments and memories for a unique eulogy or obituary. You can also start by reminiscing, using your memories. Take notes on what your parents share.

Questions To Ask Your Parents Before They Die

Here are specific topics to cover with your parents before they die about their funeral and burial courtesy, as recommended by the NFDA and the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC).

Vital Information

This information should be accessible to meet immediate needs after death. Questions to ask include:

  • Who do you want to be immediately notified after you die?
  • Do you have a will? Where can I find it after you pass?
  • Do you have a burial plot, burial insurance, or financial funeral plan?
  • Where would I find information on your insurance policies, investments, bank accounts, and mortgage?
  • What should happen to your email and social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? Are your logins and passwords easily accessible?


Many older people keep contracts in a safe deposit box. But if funeral pre-arrangements are made, place a contract copy in a known location accessible at all times. “If you die over a holiday weekend, you can't access those safe deposit boxes until the bank reopens,” Anderson said. Knowing how to care for Mom or Dad immediately after death can save stress and money.

Service, Memorial, or Funeral Questions

These questions can help direct your parents' funerals and burial proceedings:

  • Where would you want your service?
  • Do you have any requests for music, flowers, or readings?
  • What’s the one thing you want attendees to walk away knowing about you and your life?
  • Do you want people to honor your life by donating to a cause?
  • How do you want people to feel when they leave your service?
  • Do you want cremation or burial?
  • Is there a particular cemetery or meaningful location where you’d like to be buried?
  • Do you want a gravestone, plaque, or another way of being remembered?

Eulogy and Obituary Questions

These questions help you get to know your parents before their deaths and prepare special ceremonies that are as unique as your parents:

  • What’s a treasured family recipe?
  • What words of wisdom do you want to share with future generations?
  • What’s one thing that brings you joy?
  • What’s your signature color, animal, or collectible?
  • What’s your proudest achievement?


The FAMIC and NFDA have a workbook that includes additional questions you can use in your conversations with your parents.

Funeral Costs To Consider

In 2021, the national median funeral cost with viewing and burial was approximately $7,848, according to an NFDA survey of members. The median funeral cost with cremation was $6,970. These costs do not include cemetery fees, and pricing differs by region.

Here’s a breakdown of funeral and burial costs to consider.

Funeral Service Costs

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule provides certain protections to consumers regarding funerals. These protections include the right to get prices over the phone, order services or goods by item (versus in packages), and receive written price lists.

Service costs to consider might include:

  • Basic services fee
  • Removal or transfer of remains to funeral home
  • Embalming and other body preparation
  • Cremation services
  • Casket or urn
  • Facility use and staff for viewing and a funeral ceremony
  • Service car, van, hearse, or limousine
  • Memorial printed package such as memorial cards, and register book
  • Flowers and music
  • Obituary notice
  • Death certificate

Cemetery Costs

Cemetery fees are on top of funeral service fees. The FTC Funeral Rule doesn’t apply unless the cemetery has an on-site funeral home. In general, you can expect these fees:

  • Right to be buried in the cemetery (right of interment)
  • Niche, ground, mausoleum, or other space for burial or cremated remains
  • Monument or marker costs
  • Ongoing annual maintenance fees for the cemetery

Fees range widely. In general, niche or ground spaces for cremated remains are the least expensive, while crypts in above-ground mausoleums tend to be the most costly.

Planning To Pay Funeral and Burial Costs

If your parents left money in a will for funeral expenses, remember that a will is usually not enforced until it’s gone through probate, Anderson noted. You may not be able to access that cash for six months or more. Know what your state’s regulations are, as rules for the options below might change from state to state.

Burial Insurance

Generally speaking, burial insurance or “final expense” insurance is intended to cover the cost of your funeral, burial, and other final expenses. Typically, it may be more useful for someone who has limited savings and doesn’t already have life insurance. Burial insurance coverage amounts and costs vary widely.

Pre-Need Plans

You may want to consider a pre-need plan, which you buy in advance with a lump sum or over time. You’ll make this purchase directly from a funeral home.

“It helps to set aside money for a funeral or buy a guaranteed pre-need plan from a funeral home, especially as prices continue to rise,” Anderson said.

Pre-need plans typically have guaranteed and non-guaranteed services. Guaranteed services cost you a set fee you pay even if the cost for those services rises by the time the funeral takes place. Non-guaranteed services, on the other hand, require you to cover the cost difference if the price rises after you sign up for the plan.


Ensure the amount you pay for the burial insurance isn’t more than what you’ll receive in insurance. If you sign a pre-need plan, ensure the funeral home is reputable and read the contract carefully to ensure you understand it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do prepaid funeral plans work?

Prepaid funeral plans allow you to pay for your funeral before death and may be regulated by state law. You agree to pay a certain amount in a lump sum or installments. If your funeral services are “guaranteed” by the funeral director, your survivors won’t have to cover the cost of services that increase in price between the time you get your prepaid plan and your passing.

How do I get money to help my family with funeral plans?

The deceased’s life insurance may provide coverage, but you might also find financial assistance through these resources:

  • FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance can pay up to $9,000 toward funeral services, cremation, a headstone, and other funeral-related expenses for those who died from COVID-19.
  • Military veterans, service members, their spouses and dependents, and certain others can apply for burial in national Veterans Administration (VA) cemeteries and VA burial allowances to help cover funeral costs.
  • Social Security may be able to provide a small lump sum after a death.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Funeral Directors Association. “2021 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Funeral Costs Not Rising as Fast as Rate of Inflation.”

  2. Federal Trade Commission. “The FTC Funeral Rule.”

  3.  Federal Trade Commission. “Sample 4: ABC Funeral Home Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected,” Page 2.

  4. Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage. “What’s the Difference Between a Pre-Need Plan and Final Expense Insurance?

  5. The Great State of Alaska Division of Insurance. “Burial Insurance.”

  6. Federal Emergency Management Association. “COVID-19 Funeral Assistance.”

  7. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Pre-Need Eligibility for Burial in a VA Cemetery.”

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