Arranging a funeral at the time of need


An at-need funeral refers to arrangements made at the time of a person’s death or immediately afterward. Essentially, it is the process of making funeral arrangements and decisions after the death has occurred, as opposed to an individual pre-arranging their funeral in the form of a funeral plan, whilst still alive. An at-need funeral typically involves working with a funeral director or funeral provider to make the necessary arrangements for a funeral to take place.

When a loved one passes away, it can be an overwhelming time, especially when you’re faced with the daunting task of arranging their funeral. However, it is incredibly important that close family and friends are involved in this process from the beginning, to help coordinate the many administrative and practical elements that come with a passing.

Unlike with a pre-arranged funeral plan, an at-need arrangement needs immediate attention and can sometimes cause conflict between parties at a time of high stress and sorrow. For this reason it’s always advisable to have the core decisions about funeral planning discussed with family members and clearly documented and communicated, so that when the time comes the deceased’s wishes can be implemented quickly and with clarity.

This is particularly important in helping reduce uncertainty about how a loved one’s wishes are being reflected, and allow family members to focus on grieving and supporting each other rather than worrying about funeral administration.

It is important for the journey of grief that the funeral or memorial service reflects the deceased’s life, values, cultural and religious traditions.1 The funeral is not only an important part of remembering a loved one and cherishing shared memories, but also for coming to terms with loss, and starting the next chapter of a grief journey.2

While a pre-planned a funeral can help with financial planning, lessening the burden on family members left behind;2 an at-need funeral allows for immediate financial decisions to be made by the deceased loved ones based on the circumstances at the time of passing, which is sometimes preferable. Family members may prefer to allocate a budget and make choices that align with the availability of financial resources left by the deceased, and build a funeral with the involvement of others.

When life ends, where do you begin?

When you lose a loved one, it can feel like your world is caving in. Here are some key steps to consider when arranging an at-need funeral for a loved one.3


1. Contacting a funeral home

The first step in arranging a funeral is contacting an appropriate funeral home or funeral director.3 Typically this is done soon after the death of a loved one whether that be at home, in a hospital, hospice, or a care facility.3 The funeral home will then guide family members through the entire process, from arranging transportation of the deceased to a funeral home to coordinating the details of the funeral service.

It’s important to look at all the available information when deciding on a funeral director. Most funeral directors will have a bank of customer testimonials or reviews on platforms like Trustpilot, which can provide an insight into how they conduct their business and highlight any areas that might not align with your expectations.


2. Organising funeral arrangements

Once the family have selected the right funeral home, the funeral director will work closely with the family to make arrangements for the funeral or memorial service.3 This includes every aspect of the funeral, including the selection of an appropriate casket or urn, choosing burial or cremation options, deciding on the right location and timing of the service, and making arrangements for any religious or cultural customs or traditions.3

This ensures that families are able to uphold the wishes of the deceased, ensuring their send-off is everything they would have wanted. It’s also an opportunity to discuss additional items like orders of service, transportation for friends and family to the service, and finer details such as the selection of music, hymns, poems and readings for the ceremony.


3. Fulfilling legal obligations

When a loved one dies there are several legal requirements that have to be completed.3 This can feel incredibly overwhelming and the majority people typically have very little understanding of such processes. In an at-need funeral plan the funeral director will support the family in completing any necessary paperwork and fulfilling all legal requirements related to the disposition of the deceased’s remains. This can include obtaining a death certificate, securing permits for burial or cremation, and arranging for the final disposition of the deceased.


4. Taking control of financial affairs

Dealing with family finances can always be a topic of much contention, particularly during a time when emotions are likely to be running high. When a loved one dies without a funeral plan in place, it can create a huge financial burden on the family left behind. An at-need funeral allows families to work closely with the funeral director to make sure there is full financial transparency throughout the funeral planning process, which can reduce any financial stress at a time when families and friends are grieving.


5. Sharing the plan with family and friends

Sharing your loved ones funeral plans with extended family and friends gives everyone the opportunity to share their wishes and preferences for the day, as well as giving them notice of the date and time of the funeral. This eliminates any confusion or uncertainty about what your love one may have wanted, reducing the likelihood of disagreements or misunderstandings among family members during an already emotionally challenging time, and ensures that family and friends can make themselves available to pay their final respects.

Open communication surrounding the day will better promote transparency, respect, and clarity, while also relieving burden and providing emotional support during a difficult time. It ensures that your loved one’s final arrangements align with their wishes and values.

1 Cruse Bereavement Support, 2022. Available at: Last accessed March, 2024

2 Age UK, 2024. Planning your funeral. Available at: Last accessed March 2024

3 Age UK, 2024. What to do if someone dies? Available at:,the%20death%20has%20been%20registered Last accessed, March 2024