Documents are Required for Funeral Planning. Here’s a Helpful Checklist.

Certificate of birth

When a loved one passes away, numerous documents must be located.

Birth and marriage certificates, military records, banking, and investment papers, and insurance policies all take on new levels of urgency. These documents may not be stored in an accessible location and finding them can be an aggravating experience. It's at moments like these that we pay the price for being disorganized. Frustration tends to enhance grief, resulting in added confusion and stress. So what can you do to alleviate the problem? Prepare in advance.

In this article, we have compiled a helpful overview of the documents that are likely to be required during the funeral arrangement process and after the service is over.


What’s needed at the funeral home appointment?

By taking a systematic approach to funeral documentation, things will be much easier for surviving family members when the time comes to make funeral arrangements or establish cremation services. In general, funeral or cremation paperwork requires the following documents:


  • Birth certificate
  • Recent photograph
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Military discharge papers (if applicable)
  • Advance funeral planning papers (if applicable)
  • Deeds to cemetery property (if applicable)
  • Life or funeral insurance policies (if applicable)
  • List of names of surviving family members and their locations


It’s important to note that your funeral provider has been through this process many times and understands that it may not be possible to collect all of these documents prior to your initial meeting. They are compassionate professionals, trained to offer support and assist grieving families in any way possible to secure the necessary information.


Plan ahead for after the funeral, too.

Simply signing the necessary papers to establish an estate plan and other end-of-life instructions isn’t sufficient. It’s also important that heirs are made aware of these documents and that they are stored in a safe, readily-accessible location. Take this time to locate and organize the essential funeral papers note above, along with any estate-related documents, such as:

  • An original signed will or revocable trust
  • Durable financial power of attorney form(s)
  • Durable healthcare power of attorney form(s)
  • Information about safety deposit boxes and the keys
  • Vehicle titles
  • Real estate deeds
  • Stock, bond, and annuity certificates
  • A list of brokerage and escrow mortgage accounts
  • Tax documents for the last three years
  • A list of all banking-related accounts (checking, savings, money-market funds, retirement accounts, etc.), along with log-in information
  • Insurance policies, including life, disability, homeowners, renters, automobile, and long-term care insurance
  • Pension, 401K, or IRA information
  • Details regarding any outstanding debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, personal or business loans, utilities, and taxes


Share the information with your family.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recommends that designated family members be informed of the relevant documents. They suggest keeping the information in a safe, accessible place such as a secure file cabinet and copying the files onto a thumb drive that can be stored at another location. In addition, the organization reminds readers of the importance of advanced preparation for unexpected events, such as health emergencies and natural disasters. Consider creating a grab-and-go folder that contains key documents and information.  


If you need additional assistance locating or safeguarding your documents, or if you have questions about the arrangement process, the compassionate staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is here for you. Please reach out to us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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