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Keeping Funeral Costs Affordable

Keeping Funeral Costs Affordable

By Carla Hindman, Director of Financial Education, Visa Canada

Anyone who has put a loved one to rest knows that funerals can be expensive. The overall cost will depend on the goods and services selected by you and your family, but can add up quickly with considerations such as transportation of the deceased from another province or territory or out of the country, using the funeral home's facilities, embalming, casket, cemetery plot, headstone, flowers, obituaries, limousine and more.

Because death is a frequently avoided topic, many people aren't armed with information about the many variables – and costs – involved in planning a funeral. As a result, just when survivors are grieving and most vulnerable, they're bombarded by decisions that must be made quickly, often without knowing what their loved one would have wanted.

The key message for the living is to decide on preferred funeral arrangements ahead of time and to convey those wishes to your family – ideally in your will.

Another important lesson: Know what funeral-related goods and services cost so you – or your survivors – don't feel pressured into buying things you don't want or need. In Canada, the provinces and territories regulate the funeral and burial industry so requirements may vary, but some things to consider:

  • Request a quote from more than one funeral home and ask for an itemized price list of all goods and services, whether you call (even anonymously) or visit in person.
  • In most provinces and territories, you have the right to choose among their offerings (with certain province-mandated exceptions) and are not required to purchase package deals containing unwanted items.
  • Before you agree to purchase a plot, ask for a written statement listing all costs and a copy of the cemetery's by-laws.
  • In most provinces and territories, embalming must be authorized, but it may be required when transferring remains by air or otherwise to another province or territory, or out of the country.
  • Prior to purchasing a casket or outer burial container from a funeral home, ask for descriptions and prices and consider that a casket may not be necessary for cremation.

If your beliefs don't require following specific funeral protocols, here are a few ways to reduce costs while still honoring the deceased and their survivors:

  • For many, cremation is a viable, less expensive option to burial. If you plan to hold a viewing first before the cremation, ask whether you can rent an attractive casket for the ceremony.
  • Some families prefer not to hold a public viewing. For them, "direct cremation" or "immediate burial" may make sense. Because the body is promptly cremated or interred, embalming and cosmetology services are not necessary, which can save hundreds of dollars. Also, with direct cremation you can opt for an unfinished wood coffin or heavy cardboard enclosure for the journey to the crematorium.
  • You can purchase a casket or cremation urn from a source other than your funeral home. The funeral home cannot assess handling fees or require you to be there to take delivery.

Also, consider whether the following government funding may apply:

  • Active Canadian Armed Forces Members or Veterans may be eligible to have funeral and burial costs covered; and if the member died in service, the next-of-kin may be entitled to have related travel expenses paid or reimbursed.
  • A Canada Pension Plan (CPP) death benefit may be available to the person responsible for paying for the deceased's funeral expenses, the surviving spouse or common-law partner or the next-of-kin, if the deceased meets requirements and contributed to the CPP for a minimum of three years.

The death of a loved one is always upsetting, but you may be able to ease your family's emotional and financial burdens by planning ahead.

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.

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