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Until you have to actually plan a funeral, it is unlikely that you have thought about what documents will be needed during the process of arranging the funeral.
The funeral planning process usually begins with contacting a funeral home (Begin your search for local funeral homes). The funeral director will likely want to schedule an arrangement conference to go over the planning process and any predetermined funeral arrangements with those responsible for planning the funeral. You should try to have as many of the important documents outlined below ready for the arrangement conference to make things go as smoothly as possible
Oftentimes, these documents are not kept in a single place, or proper documentation isn’t kept at all, so it might be a bit more difficult to track them down, which is why it is a good idea to start compiling them immediately.
Please keep in mind, the following document list is not all-inclusive nor may they all be relevant depending on your loved one’s unique circumstances.
List of Important Documents
Below is a list of documents you should try to obtain by the arrangement conference. This list will not cover every possible document that may be relevant and you may not need all the documents that are listed. Every family’s circumstance is different. If you forget or miss something the funeral director or your loved one’s attorney should be able to give you guidance on whether you need it or where to find it. It is best to try to obtain as many of the below documents as possible (which are relevant) because one of the first things you will do with the funeral director is file for a death certificate (if you choose to go through the funeral home) and a Burial or Cremation permit if they are required in your state.
- Deceased’s Birth Certificate
- Deceased’s Marriage Certificate
- Prenuptial Agreement(s)
- Divorce/Annulment Documents
- Deceased’s Military Discharge Documents
- Citizenship Documents
- Social Security Card
- Driver’s License
- Any other relevant photo identifications
- Deceased’s Funeral Prearrangement Documents (if any)
- Deceased’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Last Will and Testament and any Codicils
- Anatomical Donation papers (if any)
- Revocable Living Trusts
Many of the above documents can be found in an estate plan. Most people will keep a copy of their estate plan with their attorney or in a safe place at home.
Death certificates are not needed for the funeral planning but will be needed later when administering your loved one’s estate (please see our Funeral Planning Checklist for more details). Death certificates can be acquired through your state’s vital records office, a private issuer, or most funeral homes can file the paperwork and obtain them for you for a fee.
Funeral Arrangement Information
It is important to have the following information for the funeral arrangement conference.
- Any wishes or plans regarding the funeral (such as funeral costs), memorial or disposition type (burial or cremation)
- Invitees (family members and friends)
- Contact Information for family, friends, business associates, clergy, and anyone else that should be notified of the death and invited to the funeral.
- Biographical information for the eulogy, obituary, or online Tribute Page
The information above can be obtained from many sources, hopefully, the wishes and plans for the funeral will be outlined in the estate plan or prearranged funeral planning documents.
Getting together the information and documentation is a difficult task that needs to be done promptly, but getting the information right away will put the planning process in the right direction and alleviate more stress later on. Don’t forget to ask your family, the deceased’s attorney, or the deceased’s doctor for help in locating any documents or information if you are unable to find them yourself.
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.