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Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Funeral Attendance

I attended a few different funerals / celebrations of life in March.

The first few were after the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but before the recommendation by the CDC of social distancing. The last one, which was my mother-in-law, was after courts were closed, businesses were sending employees home, and my children were prohibited from going back to school. The events were all held in different forums – churches, funeral homes, person’s homes, etc. – and were different sizes ranging from about 30 visitors to well over 200 to pay their respects.

As an elder care estate planning attorney, I attend a lot of funerals throughout the year. My intent with this article is to share insight as to how best to manage hosting or attending a funeral during these confusion and stressful times, especially in light of the now recommended social distancing.

If Hosting a Funeral:

1.If the person is not being buried and no immediate need to gather, consider delaying the memorial until after the social distancing recommendations have been rescinded. People can gather at any time in the future to show their respect.

2. If a funeral is necessary sooner rather than later, recognize that everyone must make their own decisions about safety and that many people will not come in consideration of not infecting others just in case they may have been exposed and do not yet know it.

3. For those that do gather, smile, cry, and console, but try not to hug unless you know the person is not sick or has not been in a high risk situation (at a hospital, on a plane or cruise ship, etc.).

4. If food is provided after the service, have the servers wear gloves and place the food on the plates in a service line instead of doing buffet style where people get their own food.

5. Have tissues and hand sanitizer available in abundance.

6. Either live-stream the services or record it for those who cannot attend and then share the recording via internet, dropbox, or email link.

7. Post a special message through the funeral home website expressing your understanding of people not being able to attend and gratefulness to them for heading the social distancing warnings.

If Attending a Funeral:

1.Understand the family really appreciates your being there but may not want to be hugged.

2. Wait to see if the family initiates a hug and, if you are alright with it, reciprocate, and if not, then when approaching, stop a distance away from them that would make a hug difficult and say – “I would love to give you a hug but I would like to make sure we stay well. Please know how sorry I am.”

3. Pay your respects but don’t linger unnecessarily long.

4. If you have any symptoms or the possibility of being exposed to any illness that could be spread (pneumonia, flu, coronavirus), pay your respects from afar and do not attend the funeral.

5. Send monetary donations to causes important to the family instead of making them food, or order food from a local restaurant they can get delivered.

6. Use Facetime or video messaging to send regrets if text or email seem too impersonal.

7. Offer to meet with the family for lunch at a future date when the social distancing recommendations have been rescinded.

Everyone has a different opinion about what to do and what not to do during this time.

I certainly cannot and would not tell anyone else what they should do. Each person must decide for themselves. I will share; however, that in the current state-of-affairs, I personally will only be attending future funerals of immediate family members and send my heartfelt regards to my clients and friends who have funerals until the social distancing warnings have rescinded. My priority is to keep my children healthy and safe. My thoughts are with you, your family, and your health.


Looking to find an experienced estate lawyer in the Georgia area who is skilled in asset protection and estate plan preparation? Shannon Pawley is an attorney in Georgia with expertise in estate planning and asset protection. Shannon can provide assistance with creating an estate plan to include making a will and how to establish a trust properly. If you have questions about asset protection or questions about making an estate plan, reach out to Shannon and she will be glad to help answer all the estate planning questions you might have!

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