Dying Away From Home

dying away from homeOver the weekend a friend contacted me to let me know that his wife’s memorial visiting and service was this week. I was in shock. I hadn’t seen them in a year or so and I couldn’t believe it when he told me she died while on holiday in Italy. On top of the shock, he relayed part of the logistical, financial and nightmare dealing with the authorities in Italy.  Here is his story.  How would you deal with your loved one dying away from home?

This gentleman’s wife died in their rental car while travelling along the Amalfi coastline. He returned to the hotel and the authorities were called. Not speaking Italian himself, it is an understatement to say that the 4 hour long interrogation was awful. Eventually he signed papers having no idea what they were about. One of the papers authorized the use of a casket for his wife in the morgue. This was likely unnecessary as she wanted to be cremated.

As she died suddenly, an autopsy was done and he has the medical report and death certificate, but they are in Italian. I am not sure he will be able to work with these documents to close her estate in Canada without them being translated and notarized as an accurate translation.

Furthermore, his wife was the primary account and card holder on the cards they were travelling with. When he informed them that she died, his access to these funds was terminated. He had to scramble to many ATMs to access cash.

Finally after 6 days, he was able to have his wife cremated and eventually returned to Canada with her cremated remains.

Is there a solution? Absolutely! The Travel Repatriation product is the answer for death away from home, for any ‘what if‘ scenario you ask about. The only criterion is that your legal residence be in North America.

Imagine how much easier it would have been for my friend to have this assistance, guidance, translation and payment of all that was required simply, after one initial phone call.

If this is something you would like to know more about? I would love to hear from you. You can connect with 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,


2 Ways to Reduce Costs of Paying for a Funeral

funeral costs copyHave you ever wondered how you would pay for a funeral? I am sure you have heard that funerals are expensive – right?  Not necessarily! People are conscious of not spending a lot on a funeral and getting excellent value for what they do select. Here are 2 ways to help reduce the cost.

1. Pre-plan and Pre-pay

The very best way to spend less money on a funeral is to pre-plan and pre-pay for this. Why? if you pre-plan and pre-pay for a funeral in Ontario, the Funeral, Burial & Cremation Services Act, that came into effect July 1 2012, mandates that Funeral Homes must guarantee the future cost of goods and services that are prepaid with that funeral home. This means you are paying in today’s dollars for a future need. That is an important fact to consider as we all know that costs continue to rise. Can you think of anything else that you can prepay and the future cost is guaranteed? I can’t, and we know that all of us will need a funeral or a celebration of our life at some point.

2. Move Funds

Another way to have your money work hard for you is to move money from a TFSA into an Eligible Funeral Arrangement. Here’s how…

If you have made contributions into your TFSA, the money in this account earns tax exempt interest. Perhaps you have maxed out your TFSA and would like to know how to put more money into the TFSA. If this is your scenario, then make an appointment at the funeral home of your choice and find out the exact cost for the type of funeral you would like to celebrate your life.

The Funeral Home will prepare a goods and services contract for you to sign. Then move this amount of money from your TFSA into your chequing account and use these funds for the funeral prepayment. Once you have paid in full for the selected goods and services, the funeral home is now obligated to guarantee the future cost and the inflationary risk is on the funeral home. Additionally your funds in an Eligible Funeral Arrangement are also earning tax exempt interest.

Now you have created more contribution room in your TFSA and you can work with your financial advisor to top up your contributions.

A win win for life’s no win.

Need help? I welcome your feedback and your enquiries. You can connect with me via 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


Going Down Green – 5 Criteria for an Eco-Friendly Burial

eco friendly burialEco-friendly, natural or Green earth burial is gaining momentum. According to a 2013 study done by the Natural Burial Association of Canada, 50% of respondents viewed natural burial favorably, after they were aware of this option. On March 7, 2013 the Green Burial Society of Canada (GBSC) was incorporated as a society. At the AGM, this not-for-profit organization developed 5 criteria for green or natural burial designation:

1. No embalming
2. Simple covering of the deceased such as a shroud or simple box
3. No concrete liner or vault
4. Simple memorialization
5. Some aspect of habitat enhancement Continue reading

Kat Downey, Canadian Certified Executor Advisor (CEA)

CEA OntarioI am thrilled to introduce you to the CICEA and let you know that I successfully completed the 30 hour on-line course offered by the Canadian Institute of Certified Estate Advisors and successfully completed the Certified Executor Advisor Examination.

As the first licensed Funeral Director in Ontario with the CEA designation, I can be a great resource to my clients and community.

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Leaving a Good Voice Mail Message

seniors and voice mailOver the past few weeks, my elderly parents have been moving; discontinuing phone and cable, confirming moving details, etc. This resulted in a number of telephone messages. A couple of things became very apparent to me that I thought I would share with respect to how people can leave a good voice mail message.

Few people actually answer their phone anymore. Yes there is email, however my parents are not used to doing business this way. Their preference is to use the telephone so we need to consider this in our communication.

When people left messages for my parents they spoke too quickly and rattled their number off too fast. My mom found this very frustrating. Complicating matters is that she wears two hearing aids. Very often mom had to listen to messages 4 and even 5 times before she could understand who was calling, the subject of the call and get their return number.

In the end I often had to listen to the messages and write them down for her. For a few of the messages I also had to listen a few times to get the name, number written down correctly and what the message was.

I have a couple of suggestions. They may seem totally obvious yet many people do not leave a good voice mail message.

1. Say your name slowly and where you are calling from
2. State the reason for your call
3. Say your call back number extremely slowly. For example state the area code and then silently count to 5. Then leave the first three digits of your number and again silently count to five. For the remaining 4 digits say the first two and silently count to 5 and then state the final two. The length of the pause should be long enough that you feel uncomfortable about the length of the pause.

Finish your message and state your name, the nature of your business and your call back number, again extremely slowly.

Regardless of our age and preferred mode of communication, it is still imperative and professional courtesy to leave a good voice mail message.

I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via phone or email, leave a comment 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,


The Importance of Naming a Beneficiary

Benefits of a beneficiaryWhy is it important to name a beneficiary on our life insurance policy?

A beneficiary is the person, charity or other organization that you name to receive your money or property from your life insurance policy, investment accounts or trust funds. For example: Mr. Anderson has a $30,000 life insurance policy and named his wife as the first beneficiary and his two children as the second beneficiaries. If Mr. Anderson dies before his wife does, then she will receive tax free, the $30,000 death benefit of his policy.

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Do you Have Your Advance Care Plan in Place?

Advanced Care PlanDo you Have Your Advance Care Plan in Place? An Advance Care Plan is a process of conversations and decisions while you are of capacity. Reflecting your values, beliefs, goals, wishes, resources and faith, an Advance Care Plan outlines your wishes concerning future care.

Future Care takes into consideration your wishes concerning personal hygiene, nutrition, shelter clothing, safety, as well as health care, medical treatments, services or interventions. In the event of a sudden and unexpected incapacity such as car accident; or a longer progressive incapacity such as Alzheimer’s disease, your Advance Care Plan outlines your wishes for future health and personal care preferences in the event you are incapable of consenting to or refusing medical treatment or other care. Continue reading

Why and How People Become Funeral Directors in Ontario

License Funeral Director OntarioThis month is the celebration of 100 years of Funeral Professionals. To the dedicated men and women who feel a sense of calling to become a funeral director, we salute you.  Have you ever wondered why and how people become Funeral Directors here in Ontario?

Often the students in the Funeral Services Program at Humber College or College Boreal express a sense of duty to learn how to assist families through the funeral process at one of the most painful and emotional times of their lives.

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What is a State Funeral & How is it Organized?

state funeralThe recent state funeral to honour the former Federal Finance Minister Mr. Jim Flaherty, peaked my interest as to how a State Funeral is organized in Canada.

Under the asepsis of the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH), a state funeral is a public event, held to honour and commemorate present and former Governors Generals, Prime Ministers and sitting members of the Ministry. Also a state funeral may be offered to an eminent Canadian at the discretion of the Prime Minister.  A State funeral offered, organized and executed by the Government of Canada – Governor General-in-Council, with the DCH as the lead agency, offers the public an opportunity to pay their respects to the deceased.

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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. Continue reading