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The 20 essential steps to planning a funeral


Planning your own funeral service or that of a loved one is not something many of us want to think about. However, when it comes to dealing with funerals in a foreign country, in another language, and with most funerals in Spain taking place within 24 hours of a death, having a plan in place for what you want at your funeral can save your loved ones the considerable distress of making those decisions at a very difficult time.

That’s why Golden Leaves’ expert team is on hand to guide you through every part of the process, from help with your Spanish will, to finding the right pre-paid plan for you, and even how to repatriate your body back to the UK.

Here, we set out the 20 steps to begin planning your funeral, so that your wishes are carried out how you want when the time comes, and your family can begin the grieving process without the added stress of trying to organise a funeral in a short time.

1. Make sure you have a will

For expats with property or assets overseas it is essential to have a correct will in Spain. This way, you can avoid leaving your loved ones with a lengthy and expensive legal succession process, and confusion as to your intentions. Valuable tax savings can also be achieved with proper documentation.

2. Buy a pre-paid plan

Having a pre-paid funeral plan with Golden Leaves means you are able to arrange your funeral how you would like it to be held and will relieve your family of the burden, both financially and with regards to making decisions.

3. Decide what you would you want to see in your obituary or death notice and where do you want it placed?

Would you like a traditional or informal obituary? Where would you like it placed? Perhaps you have achievements that your friends and family do not know about and that would be an important addition to your obituary. Considering all these things will help your family put your obituary together when the time comes.

4. Decide on the type of funeral

Do you want your service to be religious or not? Or would you like yours to be an environmentally-friendly funeral?

5. Burial or cremation?

Deciding what you want to happen to your body after you die is one of the most important choices you will have to make when planning your funeral. While in Spain a burial is traditional, you may prefer to be cremated. Letting your family know ahead of time what you would prefer saves them the difficult decision later.

6. Do you want your funeral in Spain or UK?

While many expats are happy to be buried or cremated where they live in Spain, some people may prefer to have their body repatriated back to the UK. If you would rather be buried or cremated in the UK, set this out clearly in your funeral plan so that all the legalities of transporting a body can be taken care of for you.

7. Open or closed casket?

In some cultures an open casket is traditional, but it is your choice whether you would like your family and friends to be able to say one last goodbye at your service. Deciding this ahead of time could save your family that difficult decision when the time comes.

8. Decide on the type of coffin, urn or headstone you would like

There are now multiple options for coffins, urns and headstones, including eco-friendly ones, so decide now what you would like.

9. Transport

What sort of transport would you like your coffin to be taken to the service in? Whether it’s a hearse, horse and carriage, or an eco-friendly option, there are lots of choices when it comes to transport.

10. Choose the venue

Whether you would prefer your service to take place at a church or other venue, set out where you would like it to be held in your funeral plan.

11. Decide who you want to conduct the service

If you are having a religious funeral then perhaps you would like your local priest, rabbi or other religious leader to conduct the service. If you are going down the non-religious route, perhaps you would like a humanist or a non-denominational celebrant to lead your funeral?

12. Dress code

In western culture mourners traditionally wear black, but not everyone wants their funeral to be a sad occasion; some want it to be a celebration of life. So think now about what dress code you would like to set for mourners so that your funeral is a reflection of what you wanted.

13. Flowers or donations

While flowers are traditional at funerals, many people would now rather their guests gave a donation to charity instead. If you would like any particular flower arrangements though, set them out in your funeral plan so your wishes can be carried out how you wanted. Alternatively, if you would rather people gave donations to charity, think now about which charity or different charities you would like to receive the money.

14. What readings would you like?

Perhaps you have a favourite poem or bible passage you would like to be read at your service. Take time to pick what you would like now so that your funeral is a reflection of your life and values.

15. Who do you want to speak?

Speaking is an emotional often difficult task for your loved ones. Deciding in advance who you would like to speak at your funeral allows them to prepare themselves for the task.

16. Who would you like to carry your coffin?

Many people like to involve family and friends in their service by asking them to help carry their coffin, so have a think now about if there is anyone you would like to be asked to do this.

17. Pick your music

Some prefer traditional hymns, while others prefer uplifting music or even rock, so have a think about what sort of music you would like played at your funeral.
For help finding the right music choices for you, read our article on the most popular funeral song choices for every type of service.

18. Decide on the rest of the service

You may want to add in additional features to your service, including a memorial video. You can also request to have memorial favours, including packets of seeds to plant new life, handed out.

19. Your remains

Pick where you would like to be buried or where you would like your ashes to be scattered. It is not always clear where you are legally able to scatter ashes, so for help with finding the perfect location, contact Golden Leaves International who can help.

20. Decide on your wake

A wake is a chance for your family and friends to come together and share their memories of you, so picking where and how to hold it is important. Important considerations include where you want it held and what sort of food you would like served.

Planning the details of your own funeral gives you more time to think about what you would like, so you can ensure your wishes are carried out.
Once you have decided on the details of your funeral, let your family know you have a funeral plan and give them a list of contacts you want to be informed of your death and invited to your funeral or memorial service.
Although it is not always an easy topic to discuss, inform them of what you would like, even if it’s in writing in your funeral plan.
It will also help for you to keep all important documents, including the details of your pre-paid funeral plan, where they can be easily located by your relatives.

In conclusion

Planning a funeral may not be easy, however doing it in advance ensures that your wishes are carried out as you want and also prevents your family from having to make hard decisions at an already very difficult time.
For help planning your funeral, contact Golden Leaves International today, who will make sure your wishes are carried out in full when the time comes.


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