Alicia Butler Pierre is a Business Infrastructure Specialist. In her book, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success, she describes business infrastructure as a system that links people, processes, and tools in your business operations. This fully integrated system is what allows businesses to have repeatable and sustainable success or continuity.
Most companies have a business continuity plan (BCP) or system so that their operations and core business functions can keep going in the event of a disaster or unplanned incident. Death is one of the most unplanned incidents any of us will ever experience, and we need a plan too. It's called a Personal Continuity Plan (PCP), and it can take many forms depending on your needs. This article is going to focus on pre-planning your funeral or memorial. Before you tune out, let me explain why I'm writing about this topic.
As most of you know from a previous newsletter, my dad died last year on July 5, 2019. The aftermath of my dad's death compounded because I was the one left to settle his affairs. I believe every experience can serve as a teacher if we let it, and this experience taught me a lot that I want to share with you, my readers.
Planning a funeral is a complicated process because of the emotional toll that comes from losing a loved one and because the living is left to figure out the pieces of that person's life. It's a tough job, and I want to share what I learned so that you can help ease some of the stress for your loved ones.
One of the most important lessons I learned is the value of pre-planning and having a will so that those left behind know your wishes. In this article, I'm going to talk about the "process" of pre-planning your funeral or memorial by connecting the People, Processes, and Tools needed to carry out your final wishes.
Think of this as your personal infrastructure and also a different way of leading. Leaders set direction and provide guidance, and your family will need both as they navigate losing you.
As you read this piece, you may think it sounds clinical and unemotional, but I can assure you that it felt like a whirlwind of emotions and things to do when everything was happening. Now that I have some distance from the situation, I can think more logically about the best practices I learned.
Pre-Planning Your Funeral/Memorial
Let’s start with a high-level breakdown of some of the people, processes, and tools involved in planning your funeral or memorial.
Part 1: People
There are several people that you’ll need to help with your funeral or memorial. Let's review some of them.
1. Estate Planning Attorney
The Estate Planning Attorney helps you determine how to distribute your estate and draft your will, trust, and other estate planning documents. Once you create your funeral/memorial plan, you can give a copy to your attorney as a backup.
2. Executor of the Estate
The Executor is the person named in your will or appointed by the court, that distributes your personal property and pays any debts and expenses after your death. Make sure you talk to the person that you want to designate as Executor to confirm that they are willing to undertake the responsibility.
3. Life Insurance Company & Agent
The life insurance company promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money upon your death. Be sure to include the name and contact information for all of your insurance companies and agents in the estate planning documents for the Executor.
4. Funeral Home
Select a funeral home to prepare your body for burial or cremation and provide the necessary details about the company you choose.
If you are religious, the officiant who leads the service will likely be your pastor or another designee from the church. If the service is held at another location, choose who you want to preside.
You need pallbearers who can physically carry a casket for traditional services. Make sure you choose people who can bear the weight of an actual body and the additional weight of the coffin itself. A similar person is needed to carry the urn if you are cremated. Do not underestimate the weight of an urn. It can be quite heavy.
7. Eulogy, Readings, & Prayer
You need someone to deliver the eulogy, do the prayer, and people to read scriptures, poems, or other readings. Think about clergy, family members, and friends who would be willing to help.
You need musicians such as singers, a choir, a pianist, and others to play for the service.
9. Multimedia Specialists
If you want to show a video, you need someone to make the video, if you don't create it in advance. You also need someone to operate the audio and video equipment. Again, if your service is at a church, they will likely designate someone. If the service is in a different location, please select someone. You also need a graphic artist to format the obituary after you write it.
10. Repast/Funeral Reception
You need people to prepare food for the repast, which is the meal after the service, so include a caterer or list of people that you want to cook the food.
11. Clean-up Crew
Determine who will remove the flowers and clean the space after the service. If the service is at a church, the church will likely designate someone for clean-up, but your family and friends will be responsible for the flowers. You also need people to clean up after the repast.
NOTE: This list is not all-inclusive.
Part 2: Processes
Planning a funeral is a hairy process, to say the least, because:
Steps for Planning a Funeral
**YOU DO NOT HAVE TO COMPLETE THESE STEPS IN ORDER**
1. Write the Obituary
An obituary (obit) is an account of your life, so it can be challenging to decide what to say. When you think about it, you are literally summing up your life in about 2-3 pages. Here is some basic information to include in your obit:
2. Write the Death Notice
A death notice is a message in the newspaper to notify the public of your passing. It also provides the details for the funeral or memorial. The amount of information a paper allows may be limited, so keep the death notice short.
Here is an example :
MOUNT BEND — Thomas Doe, 87, died May 28, 2017, at his residence. Services will be at 2 PM EST Saturday at Harvest M.B. Church in Mount Bend, MD, with the Rev. Billy Jones officiating. Boyd Funeral Home of Mount Bend is in charge of arrangements. Mr. Doe was born May 15, 1930, in Hillwood County. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Alton Doe, Carl Doe, and Missy Eerie. He is survived by his daughters, Lucinda Doe and Marie Fowler; sons, Jerry Doe and Arthur Doe; sisters, Rue Williams and Mary Doe; and brothers, Galen Doe and Tyson Doe.
3. Determine Type of Service & Location
Decide if you want to be buried or cremated and then select the location for the service and burial, casket, vault, or urn that you prefer.
4. Select Clothes & Accessories
Select the clothes or colors that you want to be buried in. Also, determine any accessories, makeup, or other items that are important to you.
5. Decide on Floral Arrangements
Pick the type of flowers you want. You may want your favorite flower arrangement or certain hues if you wish to have a color-theme.
6. Purchase Guest Book & Pen
Remember to buy a guest book and a pen. The guest book provides your family with a record of who attended the service or paid their respects. It also allows people to share messages with your family.
IMPORTANT: The funeral home sometimes provides a guest book, so confirm this before you buy one. If they do, make a note so that your family knows.
7. Gather Mementos
Also, remember to gather and buy any mementos you want to be included in the service. If you are doing a memorial, you might want to do a memory table containing photos, trinkets, and other souvenirs.
For example, my dad drove trucks for over 40-years and enjoyed hunting. So, I included my cousin's diecast 18-wheeler truck, a deer head trinket, a hat, his glasses, and other items on the table to celebrate the things he enjoyed in life.
8. Memorial Tribute
If you want a memorial video, gather the pictures, video footage, music, and other multimedia you wish to include. Script the video and include a note with the videographer's name and contact information (unless you decide to develop it yourself).
9. Plan the Repast
Determine the location, menu, caterer, or people to prepare dishes for the repast. Also include the names of people to serve and clean-up afterward.
10. Leave a Donation for Church/Officiant
Remember to give a donation or memorial gift to the church and/or officiant of the service.
Part 3: Tools
The last link in the process is tools. A tool is any item you need to pre-plan your funeral or memorial, including documents, computers, software programs, and other equipment and supplies. Also, added are tools that your Executor will need to manage your estate after your transition. Here are some examples:
1. Last Will and Testament
Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding how your property should be distributed upon your death.
2. Death Certificate
A death certificate is an official document issued by the government that declares the cause, time, and location of your death. The Executor of the Estate will need a death certificate for legal purposes, so include a statement for him/her to obtain one in your funeral plan and will (as a backup). I did not know about a death certificate before.
3. Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance benefits pay final expenses and help replace lost income after you die. Provide a copy of the policy, agent contact information, and any other relevant data.
An obituary provides a final account of your life and the order of service.
5. Death Notice
A death notice is a newspaper article that notifies the public of your passing and provides information about the upcoming funeral or memorial service.
6. Intellectual Property Guidelines
Copyrights, patents, and trademarks can be sources of income for your family after you die, so make sure your Attorney and/or Executor have copies and guidelines about what to do with them.
7. Social Media
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so forth are tools that most of us use, and they must be closed upon our death. These accounts are particularly important if you own a business because they are also a source of intellectual property.
As of this writing, most social media platforms memorialize accounts. The content remains visible, but the profile no longer appears in public places.
8. Other Accounts & Passwords
It's important to note that you must leave passwords to all of your accounts for the Executor to close them.
Basically, think about everything you do online that requires a password and compile a list. If the Executor doesn’t have that information, they cannot close the accounts. When I started thinking about all of my accounts, it blew my mind. Click HERE for a sample Estate Tracker.
9. Guest Book
A guest book is used to record who attended the funeral service, memorial, or paid their respects in some other way.
10. Food Menu
Include a list of food and beverages you want to be served at the repast. Remember to add cups, plates, utensils, and napkins and indicate if you want to use disposable or reusable items.
11. Additional Materials
The items that follow are a suggested list of additional materials needed to develop your plan:
I know this newsletter probably felt overwhelming, and that was the point. Death is overwhelming, and yet, it's also a natural part of life. The benefit of thinking about it now and planning ahead is that it is less stressful for your family when you're gone.
I'm sure I forgot something, a lot of somethings in fact. But this newsletter is already quite long, and I didn't want to add any more information. Also, every situation is different, so some things your family simply won't know until the time comes.
I hope this article "at least" made you consider the benefits of leading your family one last time by pre-planning your funeral or memorial. I promise next month, will be business as usual.
Until next time...
Latarsha Horne is an ICF Credentialed Coach who helps new and emerging leaders feel more confident, decisive and empowered to take charge and do their jobs. Her coaching style is energy-action based, open-minded, and straight-forward. If you want to be challenged and grow, she's the coach for you.