Following the loss of a loved one, there are upwards of 125 decisions to be made. One of those decisions involves arranging services.
It’s common for families to question how long they have before services need to be held. The answer to this is entirely dependent on the needs of the family.
If your loved chose to preplan services, talk with the selected funeral home about next steps. If your loved one didn’t choose to preplan services, it’s up to you to make funeral arrangements.
As you navigate the planning process, take into consideration these questions about the typical funeral timeline.
1. How much time does it take to make funeral arrangements?
Planning funeral arrangements for a loved one generally takes less than three hours. However, a funeral home can help you make arrangements according to your desired timeline.
So whether you’d like to have the funeral service in the next few days or the next few weeks, a funeral director will work with you and your family to accommodate your needs.
When planning arrangements, keep in mind most service items can be purchased directly through a funeral home. This typically expedites the planning process, as items are readily available for families to see and touch on-site. Depending on the item, it may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for the family to receive, but this is often faster than purchasing through an online retailer.
Under the Funeral Rule, you have the right to purchase items like caskets or urns from a separate provider. When planning services, you’ll want to factor in the timeline it takes for these items to arrive with the funeral home.
>>>Related Resource: Read What to Do After a Death
2. Do we have more time if we choose cremation over burial?
Before a burial takes place, it’s common for families to hold a funeral, gathering, visitation or memorial. Cremation is not a substitute for these services. However, these services may occur before or after the cremation takes place and may or may not have the body or cremated remains present.
In this case, families have more time to make arrangements if they choose to hold services after a cremation takes place.
3. Can embalming prolong the time you have between death and final disposition?
While not required by all funeral homes, some families choose to have the body embalmed. Embalming is the preservation and disinfection of a deceased body, which includes, but is not limited to, sanitary washing, dressing, casketing and more.
It also gives families time to arrange services with a funeral home, as it lengthens the time between death and final disposition.
Note if your family chooses to have a public viewing or gathering with the body present prior to the burial or cremation, a funeral home or crematory may require embalming.
4. What if my loved one died out of state?
The timeline of final arrangements greatly depends on where the death occurred. If your loved one passed away while out of state, a funeral home can serve as your advisor, coordinating legal details with other professionals.
Depending on the time it takes to coordinate details, this may delay services while the body is transported to the designated funeral home.
5. What if my loved one had a complicated death?
In cases where the cause of death is unknown, an autopsy may need to be performed. When this occurs, it’s necessary to call the police before issuing a death certificate.
An autopsy is a surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a body. While autopsies only take two to four hours to perform, it can take up to six to eight weeks for families to receive results.
In the event an autopsy is carried out, the selected funeral home does not have to wait for the results to move forward with burial or cremation.
6. What if we have friends and family members who live out of state?
When planning a funeral for a loved one, you’ll want to take into consideration friends and family members who will have to travel to attend the service.
If you’d like for them to have the opportunity to say their final goodbyes, you’ll need to delay services by a few days to allow them extra time to get there.
Preplan to Save Your Family Time, Money and Worry
Knowing there are many decisions to make after the death of a loved one, you too can lift the burden from your family by preplanning. If you’re interested in preplanning final arrangements, we encourage you to download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements: How Preplanning Can Save Time, Money and Worry. Our guide explains what preplanning is, and offers insights on the financial benefits of arranging ahead of time.