Most people avoid thinking about funerals until a loved one dies. If you wait until then, it can be hard to make the necessary decisions. In Canada, the provinces and territories regulate the funeral and burial industry. Municipalities also have by-laws regarding their local cemeteries.

Burial

There are two methods of burial. The first is an earth burial, in which the body is usually placed in a casket and lowered into the ground. The second involves permanently placing the body and a casket in a mausoleum, or tomb, above or just below the ground.

Cemetery costs vary widely. Before you sign an agreement to purchase a plot, ask for a written statement listing all costs and a copy of the cemetery’s rules and regulations.

What Kind of Casket?

A casket can account for half the total cost of an average funeral service. Prices range from a few hundred dollars for a cloth-covered casket to thousands of dollars for a metal or hardwood casket.Most provinces require funeral homes to maintain either a catalogue with pictures and detailed written descriptions of the caskets and urns they offer, or to maintain a display room with samples of the caskets and urns that they offer. Plywood caskets can usually be purchased on request. In some areas, you can save money by renting a decorative casket shell for use during the funeral and graveside service. Discount or big box stores offer caskets in some cities in Canada.

Ask if you can use a casket or urn acquired from a source other than the funeral home (i.e. another retail outlet or homemade) and if the funeral home would charge a handling fee to use such containers.

Think carefully about spending more than you can afford. Consider asking a trusted friend or relative to accompany you when you decide which casket to buy. Consider too that a casket is not required for cremation but the crematory may require a cremation container to be used which is much less expensive than a casket.

Embalming: Extra or Essential?

Embalming is replacing blood with a chemical fluid to temporarily preserve a body. Consider the benefits of embalming and the wishes of the deceased and next-of-kin when deciding about embalming. Let the funeral services provider know your wishes as soon as possible.

In most provinces, embalming is legally required in some limited instances when transferring remains by air or otherwise to another province or territory, or out of the country, unless embalming is contrary to religious beliefs.

Cremation

Cremation means the remains are subject to heat until only ashes remain and usually costs less than burial.

In some Canadian jurisdictions, the body must be examined by a medical examiner and a Medical Certificate of Death signed by the attending physician before cremation can occur.

Some funeral chapels and crematoria require that the body be placed in a cremation container that is combustible, of rigid construction and equipped with handles. You may supply your own container that meets these specifications.

After a cremation, all that usually remains is two to three kilograms of pulverized bone and ash, and perhaps some parts of artificial joints. These materials represent no health risk. However, if scattering of the cremated remains is planned, please ensure you have the permission of the landowner, whether on crown land or private land, prior to the scattering of the remains. Most crematoria and funeral homes will provide temporary storage of the ashes until you decide what is to be done with them. You may also choose to bury the ashes in a cemetery plot.

Funeral Service

A funeral is a service in a church or temple, or funeral chapel, with or without the body or ashes present. The following services are usually included in the price the funeral home or cemetery charges:

  • moving the body to the funeral home
  • using funeral home facilities
  • embalming and cosmetic application
  • the price of the casket
  • using a hearse for transportation to the cemetery or crematorium
  • arranging funeral services
  • registering the death and obtaining the Burial Permit
  • preparing newspaper death notices or obituaries

Flowers, receptions, programs and publication of obituaries will add to the costs.

In most provinces and territories, funeral homes and cemeteries are required to provide families with a detailed cost breakdown of all the products and services they provide. This will enable you to select only those services you require and can afford.

Memorial Service

A memorial service is usually held without the body being present. For example, the body may have already been buried, cremated or donated for medical research. Family and friends who live in a different city than the deceased often hold a memorial service at a time when they can all meet. A memorial service is most often held within a few days or weeks of the death. Memorial services, as with funerals, can be large or small, and held in a church or temple, or funeral home chapel, hotel, private club, or family home.

A memorial service is most often held within a few days or weeks of the death. Memorial services, as with funerals, can be large or small, and held in a religious institution such as a church or temple, funeral home chapel, hotel, private club or family home. Arrangements are usually simple. Embalming, viewing and other services associated with a conventional funeral are eliminated, reducing the cost.

Planning Ahead

Prearranging a Funeral Service

When looking for a prearranged plan, ask the following questions.

  • Does the funeral home have a good reputation? Check with your provincial government regarding the status of a funeral home’s license to sell pre-arranged funeral services, and if any disciplinary actions have been taken against the funeral home. Find out if there is a procedure for notifying your if the funeral home is sold, moves, or otherwise ceases operation. Some provinces require certain notification be given to the purchases of a pre-arranged funeral services.
  • What are your payment options? Does the funeral home offer funeral insurance products to fund pre-arranged funeral agreements?
  • Will interest be paid on the money in the prearranged plan? If so, compare rates at various funeral homes. Will you or your estate receive the interest or will the funeral home?
  • If you choose to pay in installments, will you be charged for late payment? Ensure the pre-arranged agreement includes an installment schedule for payments and ask for a copy of the installment schedule.
  • Ask what documentation you can expect to receive regarding the pre-arrangement (i.e. a copy of the agreement) and regarding the payment of funds in trust (most provinces requires notifications from the funeral home and/or the financial institution where the funds are held in trust). Ask how soon the funds will be deposited into trust. Most provinces have a time limit by which funds received for pre-arranged funeral services must be deposited into trust. Ask what the funeral home’s procedure is for notifying you if you miss an installment payment and what are your options for getting back into good standing.
  • Does the contract specifically describe all goods and services to be provided and all other fees charged?
  • Does the plan meet your religious needs? Does it allow for a service in your own religious institution such as a church or temple, or must you use the funeral chapel?
  • Is there any plan to cover the increased cost of the prearranged service due to inflation?
  • Is the pre-arranged agreement a guaranteed contract? Some province only permit pre-arranged agreement, if they are a guaranteed contract. A guaranteed contract means that the total price for all goods, services and fees indicated in the pre-arranged agreement is guaranteed to be the total price of the pre-arranged agreement and no additional charges can be added at the time the agreement is executed.
  • What is cooling-off period for you to reconsider the pre-arranged agreement and cancel it with no penalty. Most provinces require funeral homes to provide a minimum cooling-off period.
  • What happens if you move? Can you transfer your pre-arranged agreement to another funeral home, if you move or for any other reason?

Once your arrangements have been made, make sure you keep your documentation in a safe place and inform any family or friends of where they can find the paperwork, if and when needed.

Buying a Cemetery Plot

You can also buy a cemetery plot and a grave marker in advance. Before signing a contract, get answers to the following questions.

  • What happens if you move or change your mind for whatever reason? Would you be able to sell the plot or transfer ownership?
  • What are your payment options?
  • What penalty would apply if you failed to make the payments?

Mausoleums and Columbariums

An alternative to buying a cemetery plot is to purchase a compartment in a mausoleum (a structure, wholly or partially above the ground designed for a casket) or columbarium (a building or wall of niches designed for the storage of for cremated remains). As with prearranging a funeral or buying a cemetery plot, it is important to ask questions about fees and services ahead of time.

  • What are you getting for your money?
  • Is there an extra charge for the nameplate or for a flower vase to put in front?
  • What are the options for paying?
  • Can you get a refund if you decide not to use the niche?

You should also ask about the opening hours for a mausoleum or columbarium, since they are unlikely to be open all the time. This is particularly important if your family lives in a different city from the mausoleum or columbarium and will only be visiting occasionally.

Memorial Societies

Memorial societies are voluntary, non-profit organizations dedicated to helping people arrange simple, dignified and inexpensive funerals in advance. They encourage the donation of bodies or body parts for medical science.

Most memorial societies have either a legal contract or an agreement with one or more local funeral homes to provide services for members. Memorial societies that are unable to get such agreements give advice to people who want to prearrange their funeral. Members are given a form on which they indicate their desired arrangements. The society and/or the cooperating funeral home keep a copy of the form. If you move, your membership file can be transferred to the local memorial society near your new community.

Donating a Human Body or Organs

Medical science makes valuable use of donated tissues and organs, for research, teaching and transplants. The entire body, or just certain parts, may be donated but not all bodies are accepted for donation. You should contact a local medical school for information on this type of program.

If you want to donate organs to tell your next-of-kin about your wishes and to carry a copy of the signed instructions or a signed donor card in your wallet. Your driver’s license may have an attached universal donor card, which you can fill out and sign.

Funeral Service Regulators

Alberta

Funeral Services Regulatory Board
Edmonton Office
11810 Kingsway Avenue

Edmonton, Alberta  T5G 0X5

Telephone: 780-452-6130
Toll Free: 1-800-563-4652
Fax: 780-452-6085

Email

British Columbia

Consumer Protection BC
Victoria Office
5th Floor
1019 Wharf Street
PO Box 9244

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9J2

Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181

Email
Websitewww.consumerprotectionbc.ca

Manitoba

Funeral Board of Manitoba
254 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-947-1098
Fax: 204-945-0424

Email
Websitewww.funeraldirectorsboard.mb.ca

New Brunswick

Board for Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors
New Brunswick Office
1063 Main Street
PO Box 31

Hampton, New Brunswick  E0G 1Z0

Telephone: 506-832-5541
Fax: 506-832-3082

New Brunswick

New Brunswick Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association
New Brunswick Office
515 Everard H. Daigle Boulevard
PO Box 7245

Grand Falls, New Brunswick  E3Z 2R5

Telephone: 506-473-3063
Fax: 506-473-3494

Email
Websitewww.nbfuneraldirectors.ca

Newfoundland and Labrador

Embalmers and Funeral Directors Board of Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Office
PO Box 839

Lewisporte, Newfoundland and Labrador  A0G 3A0

Telephone: 709-535 2827
Fax: 709-535 8440

Email
Websitewww.nlfuneralboard.ca

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors
Nova Scotia Office
c/o Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
PO Box 2723

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 3P7

Telephone: 902-453-5545
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0702

Websitewww.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/paal/ndxemb.asp

Nunavut

Consumer Affairs
Department of Community and Government Services
PO Box 440

Baker Lake, Nunavut  X0C 0A0

Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321

Ontario

Board of Funeral Services
Toronto Office
77 Bay Street
Suite 2810
Box 117

Toronto, Ontario  M5G 2C8

Telephone: 416-979- 5450
Toll Free: 1-800-387-4458
Fax: 416-979-0384

Email

Prince Edward Island

Department of Environment, Labour and Justice
Compliance Officer
Consumer Services Section
PO Box 2000

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7N8

Telephone: 902-368-4580
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283

Websitewww.gov.pe.ca/jps/index.php3?number=1027199&lang=E

Quebec

Office de la protection du consommateur
Quebec Office
Suite 450
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard

Québec, Quebec  G1K 8W4

Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976

Saskatchewan

Funeral and Cremation Services Council of Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Office
3847C Albert Street

Regina, Saskatchewan  S4S 3R4

Telephone: 306-584-1575
Fax: 306-584-1576

Email

Yukon

Consumer Services
Department of Community Services
Third Floor
Andrew Philipson Law Centre
2130 Second Avenue
PO Box 2703

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2C6

Telephone: 867-667-5811
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408
Toll Free 2: Local 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609

Email

Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices

Alberta

Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
3rd Floor Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-4088
Toll Free: 1-877-427-4088

Email
Websitewww.servicealberta.ca

British Columbia

Consumer Protection BC
#307-3450 Uptown Blvd
PO Box 9244

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9J2

Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181

Email
Websitewww.consumerprotectionbc.ca

Manitoba

Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
302-258 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728

Email
Websitewww.manitoba.ca/consumerinfo

New Brunswick

Financial and Consumer Services Commission
225 King Street, Suite 200

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 1E1

Toll Free: 1-866-933-2222
Fax: 506-444-4494

Email
Websitewww.fcnb.ca

Newfoundland and Labrador

Service NL
PO Box 8700

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  A1B 4J6

Telephone: 709-729-2600
Toll Free: 1-877-968-2600
Fax: 709-729-6998

Email
Websitewww.servicenl.gov.nl.ca/index.html

Northwest Territories

Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
5201-50th Avenue, Suite 600
PO Box 1320

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories  X1A 2L9

Telephone: 867-767-9161 ext 21022
Fax: 867-873-0309

Email
Websitewww.maca.gov.nt.ca/en/services/consumer-affairs

Nova Scotia

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 3K5

Telephone: 902-424-5200
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720

Email
Websitenovascotia.ca/sns/access/individuals/consumer-awareness.asp

Nunavut

Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
3090 – 9th Street
P.O. Box 440

Baker Lake, Nunavut  X0C 0A0

Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321

Email
Websitewww.gov.nu.ca/

Ontario

Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Box 450
1201 Wilson Ave, Station A

Toronto, Ontario  M3M 1J8

Telephone: 416-326-8800
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Phone (TTY): 416-229-6086
Phone (TTY) 2: 1-877-666-6545
Fax: 416-326-8665

Email
Websitewww.ontario.ca/consumerprotection

Prince Edward Island

Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
Shaw Building, 4th Floor
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7N8

Telephone: 902-368-4580
Telephone: 902-368-4550
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283

Websitehttps://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/consumer-services

Quebec

Office de la protection du consommateur
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard, Suite 450

Québec, Quebec  G1K 8W4

Telephone: 418-643-1484
Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976

Websitewww.opc.gouv.qc.ca

Yukon

Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
307 Black Street

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2N1

Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609

Email
Websitewww.community.gov.yk.ca/consumer/index.html

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