9 Ways to Get Full Value from Your Funeral Plan

pre-paid funerals OntarioDid you know Funeral Homes must provide you with a current price list that describes all the goods and service they offer and that this price list must be provided without cost or obligation? And, by law, all funeral homes must follow the same format in their price list. This assists the consumer to be able to compare and contrast the prices and selections fairly. However for many people the price list can still be confusing.  The best way to directly compare cost, is to shop around ahead of time and work with the funeral home and licensed funeral director you are most comfortable with. Here are 9 ways to ensure you get the full value from your funeral plan.

  1. Obtain the price list from the funeral homes you are considering.  You can go to the funeral home and ask for one or phone the funeral home and ask them to mail you one.
  2. Phone the funeral home and ask for an itemized quotation for the type of funeral you are considering.  This quotation can be sent to you electronically or by mail.
  3. Comparison shop on line.  Most funeral homes have a website and some even post their prices for the goods and services offered.  Doing some work ahead of contacting the funeral home helps you understand the language and selections available for different types of funerals.
  4. If you are considering cremation ask about cremation casket options.  Every funeral home must offer an inexpensive casket that is solid, rigid bottom, and combustible.  The types of material used in cremation caskets can be particle board, fiber board, plywood, or cardboard.  There is a caveat here, in that if a person weighs more than about 250 pounds, the body will not fit into a typical cremation container. In this case a casket will need to be purchased.
  5. If you are considering earth burial, be absolutely certain that the cemetery by-laws state that a vault is mandatory.  A vault is an outer container that is placed in the grave first, then the casket is lowered into the vault, then the vault lid is lowered into place.  The vault serves to protect the casket, and support the weight of the earth on top of the grave.  Vaults range in price from $900.00 to $3,800.00 and are usually made of concrete or reinforced concrete that is lined with a vinyl coating, stainless steel, bronze or copper.
  6. Decline embalming.  The cost of professionally embalming a body ranges from about $250.00 to $650.00.  There is no legal obligation to have the body embalmed; yet again there is a caveat.  If the family wishes to have visitation the Public Health authorities may order that a body be embalmed if the decedent died of an infectious disease such as SARS or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
  7. Buy a casket elsewhere.  Funeral homes have a wide selection of caskets to select from, ranging from around $700.00 upward.  Some public retailers are now offering caskets for sale.  I think the issue for most people is how would they transport the casket to the funeral home?  If they are not able to deliver the casket themselves there will be costs involved to rent a vehicle, or pay someone else to deliver the casket to the funeral home.  Another option is for a family member to make the casket for the decedent.  Again do most people have the availability to do this and deliver the casket to the funeral home?
  8. Buy an urn elsewhere.  It is not mandatory to purchase an urn.  Cremated remains come back to the funeral home inside a plastic bag; this is inside a cardboard box or plastic container. The size of this container is about the size of a large tissue box.  If the decedent had a high bone density there may be more than one box of cremated remains.  The volume for the majority of cremated remains is around 1 to 1.5 L.  You can provide your own container and request that the cremated remains be placed inside of your container.  If you saw the movie ‘Bucket List‘ you know the type of container that is referred to here.
  9. Donate your body to science.  This is an option that many people think will by-pass the cost of a funeral.  However there are acceptance criteria in place that the decedent must meet before the medical school will accept the body.  Usually if a person had cancer the body will not be accepted.  There are also costs associated with this as the family must pay for the transfer of the decedent to the facility accepting the body.

In Ontario last year the average funeral cost was $8,800.00. The range in funeral costs can be from $1,500.00 to $22,000.00 and upward. Many people do not want to pay more than they have to for a funeral.  The best way to contain funeral costs is to prepay your eventual funeral. Specific provisions in the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 and the accompanying Regulations, mandate that funeral homes in Ontario must guarantee the future cost of prepaid goods and services, when these items are paid for in full. Therefore, doing your homework and making the comparisons, you can be assured you are getting the best value from your pre-paid plan.

I welcome your feedback. You can reach me by phone or email, leave a comment right here on the site, or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website.

Until next time,



Locating Missing Life Insurance Policies

funeral preplanning OntarioMy Father always said not to worry there is lots of life insurance.  However when he died and I was helping my mom to close the estate, we could not find any life insurance policy.  We looked in all the obvious places; safety deposit box, and important files at home, finding nothing.  For all these years Dad had indicated that there was a fair amount of life insurance implying around $300,000.00.  This is a lot of money and would make a tremendous difference for my mom. What can we do about locating missing life insurance policies?

Most people who have life insurance treat their policies as valuable documents. Accordingly people may store them so safely, that they forget where they are or they have not told their Estate Trustee where the policies are.  There are also circumstances when policies can be destroyed, lost or stolen.

Under certain circumstances the OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) will conduct a search of the member life insurance companies to potentially locate unclaimed life insurance policies.  As this search is extensive, there must be a premise that an un-located policy does exist and details of the deceased must be available.  Additionally OLHI will not conduct a search within 3 months of the date of death or beyond 3 years from the date of death.

Moreover, the applicant must have a capacity relationship to the decedent, such as the Estate Trustee, Liquidator, Administrator, Beneficiary, Heir or other specified relationship.

Also a portion of the request for a policy search must convenience OLHI that there is a reasonable basis to assume the decedent had life insurance, and that exhaustive efforts have been made to locate the policy.

The scope of the OLHI search is limited to member companies.  Although most insurance companies in Canada belong to OLHI, there may be a policy with a non-member company that this search would not locate.  The life insurance policy search also excludes group life insurance policies and policies held outside of Canada.

Finally the OLHI will only contact the: Estate Trustee, Lawyer, Beneficiary, or direct heir of the deceased if a policy is located.

If you would like more information, please click here to connect to the OLHI website. Their other contact information is:

Information Services
OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance
401 Bay Street, Suite 1507, Box 7
Toronto, Ontario
M5H 2Y4

Tel: 416-777-2043    Fax: 416-777-9750

I welcome your feedback. Please leave a link back to your own blog as well if you have one. You can connect with me via email or phone, leave a comment right here on the site, or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website.

Until next time,


Is a Funeral Home Needed When you Opt for Cremation?

Cremation and funeral homeI only want cremation so I don’t need a funeral home, right?

No, actually that is incorrect.  Many people think that if they simply want their body to be cremated when they die, there is no need to involve a funeral home.  This is not correct.  The closest next of kin, legal representative or Estate Trustee needs to call a Funeral Home.

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Prepaid Funeral Plan for Loved Ones this Valentine’s Day

funeral planning expert MississaugaIn the Toronto Star February 8, 2014 article by Bob Aaron, he suggests an “offbeat gift suggestion for Valentine’s Day this week.  This year, he suggests preparing a Will and POA for Property and Personal care as an “expression of love, caring and compassion.” I would add one more item to this list – prepare a prepaid funeral plan. Continue reading

Tissue Donors Set Record in 2013

tissue donationTissue donors set a record in 2013. In the Tuesday February 4, 2014 edition of the Toronto Star, Barbara Turnbull reported on Eya Kotulsky’s heart wrenching decision to consent to have her dying son’s tissues donated. As Ms. Kotulsky stated “what good could come out of this? I was trying to salvage some nobility or something. I suddenly thought to myself, he could be a donor.”

Potential organ or tissue donors are people who are considered brain dead, due to a traumatic event such as a car accident.

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What is Embalming – Does a Body Have to be Embalmed?

what is embalmingClients have asked me, what is embalming and does a body have to be embalmed? The answer is yes and no and it depends. I thought it would be helpful to define it and outline some parameters under which embalming is authorized or required.

Embalming means to preserve and disinfect part of all of the dead human body by any means other than by refrigeration.  With the written or verbal permission of the Estate Trustee’s or the person who signs the funeral contract, the body can be embalmed.

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Sending Cremated Remains to Poland

Polish flagLast week I worked with two adult daughters who want to send their mother’s cremated remains back to Poland.

There are two scenarios to consider. One is when taking the cremated remains personally and the second is if the cremated remains are going to be shipped to Poland.

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Ontario Office of the Public Guardian & Trustee – Roles & Responsibilities

bigstock-Family-Law-22123721The role and responsibilities of The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT), under the auspices of the Ministry of the Attorney General – Family Justice Services Division in Ontario, are to safeguard the legal, personal and financial interest of private individuals and estates. The focus here is on the private individual.

Recently two people shared with me that they had to go through this process with the OPGT office to be appointed Guardian for their mother and aunt respectively.  The process was time consuming, emotionally draining and cost several thousands of dollars.

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Burial of Ashes at Sea for Canadian Veterans

canadian burial at sea

Family members and veterans participate in a burial at sea ceremony on HMCS Sackville during which the ashes of 21 members of Canada’s military placed in the waters outside Halifax harbour on Sunday, May 5, 2013 during a ceremony marking the Battle of the Atlantic. (Devaan Ingraham, Canadian Press)

Have you or a family member considered having your/their ashes buried at sea? This service is available for current and former Canadian military veterans, former members of the Coast Guard and Canadian Merchant Marines,  as well as their spouses, regardless of when they served.

It is the responsibility of the next of kin to forward the urn to the Command Chaplain, with the following 3 required items.

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