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Some Common Misconceptions About Funeral Planning

Kat Downey of Legacy Matters

In 1998, as a third career, I knew when I graduated as a Class 1 Funeral Director that I wanted to specialize in the prepaid funeral planning with private, family owned Ontario funeral homes.  Coming from a professional educator background, I knew that there was void to be filled in educating people and helping them to know what has to be done and what can be done when setting up their eventual prepaid funeral plans.

Over the years I have had the privilege of assisting thousands of people with funeral planning.  The type of celebration they selected to reflect their wishes, values, beliefs and budgets.  Preplanning and prepaying your eventual end of life celebration is the literally the last loving gift you can give your family.

Over the years not one family has been annoyed or upset that their loved one let them know exactly how they wanted their life celebrated.  In addition to this, the family did not have an invoice to pay within 30 days’ time.  In many cases the family got a refund.  Imagine the emotional and financial relief for these families.

In response to the CBC Market Place review of funeral homes I would like to comment on the following:

1. Embalming is not mandatory

Unless a person died from an infectious disease and wishes to be buried, embalming is not mandatory.  A few years ago when we had the SARS outbreak, one family comes to mind.  When their father died he wanted to be buried, and as the family had been visiting him, ill with SARS in the hospital – they the family were quarantined for 2 weeks following his death.  As the family wanted to bury their father, their father had to be embalmed to accommodate the mandatory quarantine waiting period.

2. Identification of the deceased is not mandatory

It is entirely at the funeral home’s discretion to have this policy in place or not.  Many family-owned funeral homes will most certainly accommodate this for a family and generally do not charge a fee to identify the deceased, prior to cremation.

3. You do not have to purchase an urn from the funeral home

Cremated remains are returned to the funeral home in a temporary container.  The cremated remains are usually in a plastic bag within a temporary container, made of plastic or cardboard. You may choose to provide your own urn or no urn at all.

4. A rigid solid bottom combustible container must be used for cremation

Many funeral homes will not use cardboard for this.  Although cardboard is solid it is not necessarily sturdy.  I am sure you could imagine that it would not be a good day at the funeral home for the bottom to drop out of a cardboard cremation container.

Knowing What IS and What IS NOT Included

If you have a prepaid funeral plan in place, be sure you know exactly what is prepaid and guaranteed AND what is not prepaid or guaranteed.

The 2012 Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act mandated that Funeral Homes in Ontario must guarantee the future cost of the fully prepaid goods and services selected.  Prior to 2012, it was at the Funeral Home’s discretion to have a policy in place to guarantee or not guarantee the future cost of the fully prepaid goods and services selected.

Knowing What Type of Prepaid Contract You Have

Do not assume what is in place or not in place.  If you’re unsure, ask for clarification. One family comes to mind.  Their mother said “don’t worry everything is looked after. When I die all you have to do is call the funeral home.”

What did that mean exactly?

The family was thinking that Mom had set everything up and prepaid her Celebration of Life. When they called the funeral home – indeed there was a completed file – BUT the plan was not prepaid.

Don’t be caught with surprises on one of the worst days of your life! If you would like to discuss any of these issues or if you would like me to review your plan I would be thrilled to do so.

You can find out more about preplanning funerals here, or read my previous blog on pre-paid funerals here.

I would love to hear from you and help get the conversation started.  You can connect with me via email or telephone, 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. Don’t forget to join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter too.

Until next time,


Katherine Downey is the #1 Funeral Preplanning Professional in Canada for the fourth time. She is a professional educator, author, licensed funeral director and insurance advisor. Not only is she a Certified Professional Consultant on Ageing and an Executive Advisor, but she is compassionately understanding.  To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly.

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