Timeline of Events: Planning A Funeral

These steps represent an approximation of the progression of phases to be considered while planning a funeral.

Phase 1

Loss of a Loved One

Losing a family member or friend can be one of the toughest events to go through in life. There are countless things that have to be done in the days following the death. Carson’s Village is here to help families get organized and get through those days as best as they can. Please take the time to look over our timeline as a way to help you understand what to expect. We have pulled together a list of many little things that need to be considered.

Things to Consider

How To Keep Moving After A Loved One Has Died

End of Life Conversations

Determine How Carson's Village Can Help

There are countless things that have to be accomplished in such a short time. Let Carson’s Village help you to organize your own village. Our service is completely free. Families are encouraged to utilize our online resources at their leisure or we can have a volunteer advocate assist the family over the phone or in person if one is available locally. Each situation and family is different and Carson’s Village is here to provide whatever support is dictated by needs of the family.


Carson’s Village Brochure and Overview

Medical Examiner / Coroner

Depending on the day of the week, a conversation will need to happen with the Medical Examiner/Coroner to discuss the release of the body. They will need the family to identify the funeral home to which the body should be released to. Also, a determination needs to be made about the clothes the person was wearing at the time of passing. They can either be sent to the funeral home with the deceased or destroyed.

Inform the medical examiner/coroner of the funeral home
Determine whether to keep the clothes of the deceased or destroy them


Shipping a Body

Contact Funeral Home for Appointment

Planning for the funeral should begin with the family first identifying a funeral home and cemetery. Prior to the family meeting with the funeral home, the family is encouraged to review the funeral home preparation guide. Many personal decisions will need to be made and it will help to have those conversations in private with plenty of time for discussion and not be put on the spot in front of a funeral home director. The Vital Statistics for a Death Certificate form will also ensure that the family is prepared for the meeting.

Funeral Meeting Preparation Guide
Vital Information for a Death Certificate
Funeral Cost vs. Cremation

Alert Family, Friends, & Children

Communications should start with immediate family members and close friends and then notify extended friends and family. As word gets out people may start coming by the house to offer support. To help organize your village, one person should be appointed as the single point of contact. This will ensure the same message is communicated out from the family and others know who to contact with questions as opposed to contacting the immediate family. This helps give the family space to grieve, and it reduces confusion. Also, keep in mind how to speak to any effected children about the loss.

Pick a single point of contact for the family and have them determine a lead for each social circle and get their contact information.
Send the social circle lead the link to the family page (if created)

Social Circle Organization 

Tips on How to Support a Grieving Family

Talking to Children About Death 

Organ Donation

Depending on how the person passed will determine which organs can be donated. For minors, the guardians will make the decision. For adults, the authorities will look to see if the person indicated organ donation with the DMV. The timeline for donations may vary based on the circumstances, but viable organs will be removed immediately after death and within 24 hours they will request to remove the heart valves, the cornea and whites of the eyes. Families do not have to donate. That is a personal decision, but we want to make sure that you are prepared for that call.

If you agree to donate, then the call will take about 20 minutes to answer all of the medical history questions. They can be very invasive questions which include sexual history and medical history. Whoever takes the call will need to be mentally prepared for it.

Action Items:
Determine the organ donation status
Give approval/denial if a minor
Anticipate a lengthy phone call if organ donation is granted

Organ and Tissue Donation

Notification of the Clergy

If the family belongs to a religious establishment, ensure they have been notified. The deceased’s religious leader will need to be contacted in order to facilitate counseling for family members and members of the deceased’s congregation. They may also be involved in making arrangements for any final religious services. donate. That is a personal decision, but we want to make sure that you are prepared for that call.

Glossary of Important Terms

There is lots of terminology relating to funerals, end-of-life actions, and grief that you will encounter in the first days of loss you may not have seen before. Familiarizing yourself with these terms will help prevent any confusion and allow for clear decision making. 


Browse Carson’s Village Glossary of Important Terms

Other Helpful Contact Info

Other helpful contacts are listed here such as crime scene cleaners, military contacts, and credit agencies. Some of these agencies may need to be contacted and notified of the passing.

Review the list to see if any of the additional contacts are needed.

Helpful Contact Information

Phase 2

Notification & Document Location

Hopefully the person that passed was organized and kept their records in proper order, but if not, the resource below can help walk you through the items that need to be located and who needs to be notified of the passing of your loved one.

Review the Notification and Document Location resource guide.

Notification and Document Location

Alert Workspace or School

If any school children were involved (either deceased or a child related to the deceased), then the school will need to be notified. They may need to have crisis counselors available for when the children return to school. The same will hold true if the deceased held a job. The workplace will need to be notified of the event.

Contact the appropriate school(s) or workplace

Sample Emails to Social Circles
Alerting Schools

Organize the Village

You will find that many people want to be helpful and to do something tangible. This is where things can get a bit disorganized. It is important to get all of your villagers moving in the same direction. Every family will have different needs, and it is critical that those needs are clearly communicated to family, friends, and the community (for example, it would not be beneficial if someone brought in something with nuts since a family member has an allergy). Carson’s Village provides the ability to create a family web page that can be used to coordinate all communications plus any effort to raise funds or to organize the efforts to support the family.

Determine family needs
Determine food/services donation focus and amount
Set up Family Webpage

Set up a family page
Tips on Organizing Your Village
Sign Up Genius

Social Media Plan

Social Media is something that needs to be addressed from two perspectives. First, how should the news of the passing be shared on social media, and who will do it? Next, how should any social media accounts be handled/closed out? It may be important for the family to try to control social media. It should be made very clear with the Social Circle Leads that nothing should be put on social media without the express permission from the family. Social Circle Leads may choose to monitor social media for the first few days after the incident. Discuss with the family how they want the news to break. Eventually it will happen, and the family needs to control how that happens as best they can.

Determine how and when the news should be broken on social media.

Social Media Tips

Insurance / Budget for Funeral

The family will need to take stock of their financial options. The family will need to determine how much money they have available to spend as funeral homes will require advance payment. The family needs to be prepared with a plan for this. Also, there will not be any payment plan options. There are some limited resources that can help families pay for the funeral in certain situations. Should the family choose the optional open casket, the body will have to be embalmed. There is an additional charge for this service.

Get an understanding of the family’s financial position
Research financial options if necessary

Funeral Cost Resource

Financing a Funeral

Finding Affordable Caskets Online



Meeting with the Funeral Home

The meeting to plan for the funeral will be difficult and may take up to 3 hours if you are meeting with the cemetery director as well. The family needs to eat ahead of time and be prepared to dedicate the time for the task, though hopefully, it will go quicker with the preparation documents provided by Carson’s Village.

Review the funeral meeting preparation document
Bring the Vital Statistics document to the funeral home meeting

Funeral Meeting Preparation
Vital Statistics Document
Understanding Caskets
Facts About Cremation and Burial  

Phase 3

Alert Social Circles

Once all of the Social Circle Leads have been identified, consider using the sample emails to notify the existing social circles. Emails should inform the social circle members about how things such as social media notification should be handled as well as family needs and availability for visitors.

Identify and notify all of the members of the social circles.

Sample Emails to Social Circles
Social Media Tips

Future Appointments

The family needs to determine when children involved will return to school. A visit with the school counselor can help with this decision. If they will be out for some time, the family should be made aware of any materials and tests that the children might be missing. This work may have to be made up. Calls/emails to teachers can help determine next steps.

The family will also want to review the calendar to determine if there are upcoming appointments scheduled for the deceased. A reminder of a future appointment could be a trigger for a family.


In the case of an adult and/or primary source of income, review the calendar and make sure that all the bills are being paid. Make sure to address the short and long term financials. Be aware of all related insurance policies.


Determining the Value of Assets
Locating The Assets of a Deceased Loved One
Paying a Loved One’s Bills 
What Costs Can the Estate Cover?  
What Is Considered Debt?
Who Pays the Bills After Someone Dies?  

Phase 4

Begin Working on Obituary

An obituary will be needed for the funeral home and may be needed for the local paper should you choose to post it there. There is standard information that will need to be reflected and any personal information can also be added. Use the link below for ideas and further information.

Create the obituary

Writing the Obituary
Guide to writing an Obituary [EXTERNAL LINK]

Begin Gathering Pictures for Visitation

The funeral home will request that you provide them with a flash drive of pictures of the deceased for a slide show. You may also choose to bring in framed pictures for the visitation and service. You may also choose to set up a web-based photo account for your family and friends to be able to share pictures with you to choose from for the slide show. Or you can allow Carson’s Village to help you manage the pictures.

Collect the digital pictures
Collect framed pictures
Set up an online photo account with Carson’s Village or another vendor

Photographs – Organizing and Printing


Plan Service

Funeral services can vary. Some may use religious songs or songs that were meaningful to the deceased. Poems may be printed in the program or read aloud by guests. Guests may also choose to share personal stories about the deceased. Use these links for ideas on how you would like your loved one’s services to flow.

Determine the style of the service
Determine who will play a role in the service
Where will guests sign in or place gifts, cards, etc.


Services Provided by a Funeral Home
Poem Samples
Program Samples
How to Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service [EXTERNAL LINK]

Identify Common Triggers

Everyone responds to situations differently. Some people would like all the pictures taken down and others want to leave everything as is. Is there any of the deceased’s laundry that needs to be removed from the washer or medications from house? How would your family like to handle this situation? We have a list of common triggers that might need attention.

Review the document to identify any potential triggers

Common Triggers

Clothes for the Funeral

Clothes can be a last-minute scramble especially for children that might not have dress clothes. Some thought should go into this ahead of time to ensure that everyone is dressed to match the family’s expectations.

Inventory clothes for those attending the funeral, especially the children

Phase 5

Submitting an Obituary

The funeral home will provide you with the exact day and time they will need your finalized obituary. You may also consider providing a copy of the obituary to the local newspaper and your Social Circle Leads for them to distribute to your social circles

Provide copy of obituary to funeral home
Provide copy of obituary to local newspaper (optional)
Provide copy of obituary to Social Circle Leads (optional)

Submitting an Obituary [EXTERNAL LINK]

Deliver Items to Funeral Home

In preparation for the visitation you will be asked to provide the funeral home with specific items. This is an easy be task to delegate to a family member or family friend. The funeral home will need your flash drive of pictures, any framed photos and memoriabilia. The funeral home will also request that you bring the clothes the family would like the deceased to be buried in as well as any mementos you would like to be placed in the casket with your loved one.

Provide pictures
Provide clothes for deceased
Provide mementos (optional)

Items to Place in a Casket [EXTERNAL LINK]


The visitation is typically held at the funeral home and is a time when friends and family members gather together to remember the deceased and offer condolences to the family. It is common practice to have the body present; the casket may be open or closed according to the family’s wishes. The funeral or memorial service is normally the next day followed by burial or cremation of the body. There is typically a receiving line which can subject the family to long bouts of standing and speaking to guests. Be sure to have water, snacks, tissues, chapstick and/or breath mints as needed for the family as they can get cornered at times and may need some relief. There may even need to be a signal to allow the family to break from the situation briefly. The family may choose not to hold a receiving line. In this case, guests will need to know the expectations regarding their interactions with the family. Immediate family may choose to be in the room with the casket or may prefer to be in a foyer or waiting area. In some cases, the family may choose to have a closed casket to guests but an open casket for just close family members. If this is the case, the family will be instructed to arrive thirty minutes or so prior to the Visitation to be able to view the body in private. There is typically a sign in book for visitors to indicate their attendance and possibly words of condolence. Having a table available to collect cards, gifts and a box to allow guests to write notes to the family is also something else the family may want to consider.

Determine if the family wants an open or closed casket
Determine if the family wants a receiving line.
Have supplies ready for the family to ensure they are supported
Determine where the family will stand to receive visitors

Phase 6


The funeral can be a very difficult time for the family as this may be the last time they see their loved one. The family may choose to enter the room prior to the guests or may want to visit with the guests prior to the start of the service. At the conclusion of the service the family may choose to form a receiving line or may not be up to conversing with guests. At the end of the funeral, someone will need to provide next steps to the guests as to the burial site and/or the location of the reception. Often times these locations and directions are also in the funeral program. Similar to the visitation, there is typically a sign in book for visitors to indicate their attendance and possibly words of condolence. Having a table available to collect cards, gifts and a box to allow guests to write notes to the family is also something else the family may want to consider for the funeral setting as well.

Determine if the family wants to enter the funeral prior to guests.
Determine next steps after the funeral to share with guests
Where will guests sign in or place gifts, cards, etc.


The reception is a gathering after the funeral and can be a good opportunity for people to spend time together and remember the deceased. Funerals are often an opportunity that brings people together who may not have seen each other in some time and the reception can also provide an opportunity for people to reconnect. With this in mind, the family may consider having the reception at a venue that allows for guests to visit and relax. Tall tables, chairs, couches and food can help set the environment for talking and reconnecting. The family may consider having the event catered or have family and community members bring food and drink items. The sign in book that was used at the visitation and the funeral may also be set out at the reception to ensure that all guests have had the opportunity to sign.

Choose the venue
Will the reception be catered or potluck
Where will guests sign in or place gifts, cards, etc.

Settling the Estate

Settling the estate and beginning the probate process (if necessary) can wait until after the funeral. When locating and dividing the loved one’s estate, finding any trusts and/or wills is the job of the executor, often informed of their role before passing. While dealing with the loved one’s estate can be simple, and probate can be avoided, every case is different and with any doubt, it’s always best to check with a trained probate lawyer. 

Probate Essentials: What Every Executor Must Know

What Makes Up an Estate? 

Paying a Loved One’s Bills 

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