How to Properly Organize All Your Death Paperwork in Advance

By Richard R. Bruneau

Without properly organized documents prepared in advance, mistakes will be made. These mistakes not only cause chaos and confusion, but they can be mistakes that cost thousands of dollars. None of this needs to happen. For almost three decades I have been helping families put together the needed documents relatively quickly and without the need of expensive legal costs.

Since I set up prepaid funeral, burial and cremation plans, I have created one document format over the years that has proven valuable. I have named it the "Final Wishes Summary." This is the one document that summarizes all the most important information for survivors to know and understand with respect to final disposition of the body.

Final Wishes Summary Blank Worksheet

Funeral Plan Cost Itemization Worksheet

Write Your Own Obituary - Guidelines and Questions

Preparing For Your Own Death - Checklist

Obituary Worksheet - Short

Funeral Cost Checklist

Print out my worksheet “COST CHECKLIST” if you have nothing started: This will help you determine with more accuracy how much money your family would still need to come up with, and also how you can ensure enough funds are set aside for everything. You can mark what you’ve already taken care of, maybe with the original cost or total cost after funding. You can prepare a separate Cost Checklist for every funeral home you investigate or survey, or you can keep it to one sheet if you’re fairly sure who it is you want to do business with.

There are some other important reasons for having a final wishes summary on one sheet of paper. The most important is to prevent your family from making mistakes, especially costly mistakes. What types of mistakes can happen? They can overspend. This can occur quickly and easily if they choose the wrong funeral home.

The second worksheet, Plan Worksheet, which is the worksheet I use with my clients on every appointment, can be used to put together scenarios for funding what is next—based on your budget, resources, and timetable. Where you have something already covered, you can write “covered” or “not included.” If, for example, after using the Cost Checklist, you are thinking about a funeral service, casket, and burial vault as your first or next step, just fill in the amounts from either the funeral home’s General Price List (preferably from their “package offerings”) or from figures you get on the phone. For example, $2,995 for a church or graveside service (casket extra), $1,595 for a casket, and $1,800 for a burial vault (concrete box) setting fee included. This comes to a total of $6,390. From that point, you can consider your current funding options.

Once you understand basically how to use these two forms, you are ready to conduct a survey of funeral homes.

Other Forms Social Security Death Claim Form

How to Prepare Your Own Will
in Utah For Less Than $50

You can prepare your own will for under $50.00 in the State of Utah--without a lawyer. In some cases, you may want to consult a lawyer if your situation is complicated. Otherwise, you need not pay much money to do your will all by yourself.

Go to the following Web sites to find a will form to match your situation:

Rocket Lawyer

Total Legal

Utah's Requirements for a Will

Holographic Wills

Holographic wills are written totally in your own handwriting and cannot be witnessed. They must be signed and dated and cannot contain any other marks except your writing. It is usually not the formal will you leave, but it is more often used to decide the details of who gets smaller items of value or other personal property you may own. But it could be accepted as your only will if you have done nothing else. Otherwise, with no written will of any kind, you have died "intestate," i.e., without a valid will. But a holographic will is better than nothing. It can be replaced later by another typewritten will with witnesses, or it can be added upon with another will-so long as the separate wills do not contradict each other in any way.

Here's an example of how a holographic will could be written:

Harry Smith Will

1. To my son James I give my remaining two cemetery plots at Wasatch View Memorial Park, which also includes two uninstalled paid for burial vaults.

2. To my daughter Janet I give my collection of mechanical and carpentry tools.

3. To my good friend Alvin, I give my Monopoly game.

4. To my brother Edward I give my 1969 Ford Mustang convertible, which Dad gave me as a birthday present in 1980.

_________________________ Harry L. Smith

Dated: January 11, 2012

Self-proving Will

A will that is notarized is a self-proving will. It must be witnessed. The signatures of the witnesses are what is being notarized, not the signature of the person making the will. If a self-proving will is taken to court, the judge will not have to make the witnesses testify that they acted as witnesses. Their notarized signatures are all that is required.

Personal Representatives

If you have minor children or an incompetent family member, your will should name a personal representative and a guardian/conservator. A personal representative is the person who does the work of seeing that the requirements of the will are carried out after you die. A guardian is the person who has legal control of a minor or incompetent person. A conservator is the person who controls the money and property of a minor or incompetent person.

Where to Keep Your Will

The originally signed copy of your will needs to be kept in a place your family can get to if you die. Some people keep their wills in a safety deposit box, but that makes it harder for your family to get to after you die. A filing cabinet or a strong box at home are better places. If you don't use an attorney, keep a second signed copy in a safe place.

If You Use an Attorney For Your Will

If you use an attorney to prepare your will, you should insist on having an originally signed copy. It is your will, not the attorney's. Be sure to tell your family where you keep your will. The lawyer may also keep an originally signed copy. If you revoke (cancel) the will, simply write the lawyer and tell him to destroy his copy.

Power of Attorney

“The most important aspect of competency for our purposes is the ability to make decisions about one’s own medical care, property management, and creation or alteration of a will. A competent person can delegate medical care decisions and property management decisions to another party by appointing that party to be his or her agent (known as attorney-in-fact).

The written document making such an appointment is called a power of attorney even if the person appointed as agent is not a lawyer. The person creating the power of attorney (the principal) can specify very explicit and limited powers to be conferred, such as the power to pay bills and to make bank deposits, or the powers may be general (full conference) powers. A general power of attorney cannot delegate the power to create or alter a will on behalf of the principal.”

McGill’s Legal Aspects of Life Insurance, 18.3

Utah Power of Attorney Form:


Utah Power of Attorney For Medical Treatment:


Powers That Can Be Included in a Power of Attorney

· Make decisions about medical care and treatment
· Manage finances
· Manage property
· Sell property
· Make gifts of property
· Acquire property
· Manage trusts
· Make retirement plan decisions and execute transactions

Note: No person can grant the power to create his or her own will.


“The written intent to avoid prolonged artificial life support is usually set forth in a document known as a living will. It addresses the principal’s desires regarding use of artificial life support systems when he or she is terminally incapacitated or permanently unconscious. Most states have statutes acknowledging living wills, but the statutes differ in how they define a terminal condition.” Ibid, 18.5

CLICK HERE for Living Will Form



“Anatomical gifts enable living persons with impaired health to improve their health through transplants of healthy organs and/or tissue. Medical technology currently permits transplanting such organs as kidneys, livers, lungs, and hearts. This type of donation must be carried out within a few hours of death and can be accomplished only if the death occurs in a hospital. Thus intended donors who die outside of hospitals cannot donate their organs for transplants.

Other parts of the body that do not require that death occur in a hospital may also be donated. These include the cornea for the eye, bones for the inner ear, and skin tissue for healing severe burns. These gifts may restore sight or hearing to living people and enable burn victims to survive.

Making anatomical gifts does not preclude a funeral. Donated parts can be removed before the funeral, or the funeral can be held before the body is delivered for research. There are statutes in some areas that prohibit anyone from paying for dead bodies; however, the donee is allowed to pay transportation costs for cadavers.

It is important to realize that not all intended donations are accepted. The gift cannot be used if the tissue is either diseased or mutilated. Organs cannot be successfully transplanted unless there is a recipient with blood and tissue types similar to those of the donor. Sometimes medical schools even have more donations than they can handle and must reject some. For these reasons, anatomical gifts may or may not affect funeral plans.” Ibid 18.7-18.8


I don't need your Social Security number.
There is a major funeral funding company based in the Salt Lake area that owns many mortuaries and cemeteries that insists on getting your Social Security number when you set up a plan with them. Don't fall for this. That number is only needed for a death certificate, not for a funeral or burial plan. The funding I use does NOT require your Social Security number. Turn down any plan that does.

Get professional, personalized service at the right price, on the best terms.

Call Richard

This agency only works with local, privately-owned funeral homes. This means you will be dealing with a trusted member of your community, not some distant corporation only worried about a bottom line.