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Some Common Misconceptions About Funeral Planning

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,

Kat

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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Can I Transfer my Prepaid Funeral Plan?

Last week when I was speaking the question of whether you can transfer your prepaid funeral plans came up from two different groups.  The answer is yes, you absolutely can transfer your prepaid funeral plan from one funeral home to another.

In a previous blog I wrote about Eligible Funeral Arrangements (EFA).  The rules of an EFA mandate that the money set aside in a prepaid funeral plan is always the purchaser’s money.  As such the assigned funeral home does not have access to these funds until the funeral is actually provided.  The purchaser’s money is held by a third party that must insure these funds to $100,000.00.  Further, these funds must earn tax exempt interest, which is paid into the prepaid funeral certificate.  As your money is held in an escrow account, it is very easy to transfer the funds.

Assignment of Benefits Form must be completed

To transfer the prepaid funeral funds there is an Assignment of Benefits form that has to be filled out and signed by the purchaser.  With this one form the funds are reassigned to the new funeral home. The process generally takes about 4 weeks.

Is there a fee to do this?

The Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act sates that an administration fee may be charged to do this.  The fee is 10% of the value of the prepaid funeral plan to a maximum of $350.00.  Since 1998, for the people that I have assisted to transfer their prepaid funeral plan I have never charged this fee.

Why do people transfer their prepaid funeral plan?

As we live in an increasingly mobile society, people transfer their prepaid funeral plans for many reasons.  More often it is because one spouse has died and the surviving spouse is downsizing, moving closer to family, or relocating to a retirement community.

Whatever the reasons are to transfer the prepaid funeral funds, people are relieved to know that this money is always their money and the choice of funeral home is entirely within their discretion.

If you would like to know more about the process and the many different options for choosing the right plan for you, I invite you to connect with me.

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!

Kat

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. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly

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Neurological Determination of Death for Organ Donation

I want to be an organ donor, but how are they sure I am really brain dead?  While it might seem a strange question, it is a more common one than you would think.  Especially in regards to wishing to be an organ donor.  The answer to which is what is called a neurological determination of death, which I will go more into detail below.

Firstly, make sure you’ve identified yourself as an organ donor

It is the ultimate altruistic act to consent to organ donation.  In order for organ donation to be viable the donor must have identified themselves as an organ donor and informed their Power for Personal Care of their wishes. Ideally the potential donor has also signed an organ consent card.  A potential donor may also register with the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry for Ontario through the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

What types of death enable potential organ donation?

The usual scenario to be a potential organ donor is a sudden catastrophic brain injury resulting from perhaps a vehicle accident or a sudden blow to the head.

While some people would like viable organs to be donated to a recipient, there is still some hesitation with knowing that they are biologically dead and therefore there would be no chance of meaningful recovery.

How are they sure?

To be sure there is no possibility of meaningful brain recovery, blood enzymes are tested and repeated again within 24 hours.

While this testing is being done, the donor is keep alive on life support systems, mandating that organ donation be done in a medical setting.

In 2003, the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation (CCDT), held a forum on Severe Brain Injury to Neurological Determination of Death and CMAJ 2006, March 14,174(6), S1-12. One of the outcomes from this forum was the development of the clinical practice and guidelines for neurological determination of death.  In June 2007, the CCDT developed and released a medical educational video on the neurological determination of death.

After the viable organs have been retrieved, the deceased is released into the care of their loved ones.

Does organ donation affect the celebration of life afterwards?

Often I am asked will organ donation affect the type of funeral or celebration of life I can have?  The answer is no.  If an open casket was desired, that is still possible.  The only impact will be a delay of the release of the deceased from the hospital into the care of the funeral home.

Life is short and the direction our life takes can literally change in a moment.  Hence the importance of having your wishes documented and prepaid.  Also be sure that your Estate Trustee knows where your important papers are such as your will and prepaid funeral certificate.

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!

Kat

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. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly

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Tombstone to Monument: Part 4, Digital Marker/QR Codes

According to Collins English Dictionary, the term tombstone originally referred to the flat stone on top of a grave or the lid of a stone coffin. The term dates back to 1711 and can also be another term for a gravestone or headstone. In present day, tombstones are now referred to as “markers”.

In this 4 part blog series I will talk about the four different types of markers: upright, flat, pillow and digital. This blog will focus on the digital marker.

According to Wikipedia, a QR code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.

QR Codes Share Your Life in a Single Graphic

While we’ve yet to see any QR codes on tombstones, they are currently being used to check in at the funeral (much like Foursquare) and to also notify the family who was in attendance.  This is a new digital way to replace the physical guestbook.  I can see this being especially useful for larger funerals, where there may be hundreds of guests in attendance.

Many people do not fully comprehend or know what QR Codes are, but once they’re told about how the QR codes, or Remembrance Codes as they’re called in the funeral industry work, they are amazed.

Who else thinks that in the future, names and dates will be eclipsed by QR codes that share a story about a loved-one’s life?

Even more interesting is the placement of QR codes on monuments or markers.    With the technology available now a QR chip can be attached to a memorial marker.  This provides a detailed memorial of the deceased.  This can be accessed with a smart phone and quite literally the marker becomes a living interactive memorial.

I have not personally seen this yet, but I highly believe it will become more useful in the near future especially, as I mentioned, for large or high-profile funerals..

If you would like to know more about the process and the many different options for choosing the right memorial marker for you, I invite you to connect with me.

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!

Kat

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. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly

Ps.   Tombstone is also the name of a city southeast of Tucson, Arizona named by prospector Ed Schieffelin who found silver there in 1877 after being told all he would find was his tombstone.  Tombstone became one of the richest and most lawless frontier mining towns.

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What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service Part 2

There are several ways to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one.

In part 1 of this blog I mentioned that a funeral service means that the body of the deceased is present at the service.  Now I will go over the details of a memorial service and the primary difference between a funeral service and a memorial service.

A memorial service means that the body of the deceased is not present at the celebration of life.  The deceased may have been buried or cremated prior to the memorial service.  Or in other more tragic circumstances, the body of the deceased may not be available to hold a funeral service and the family elects to have a memorial service instead.

Visiting is very common with a memorial service.  Visiting could be a day or two before or a few hours prior to the memorial service on the same day.  Visiting is not obligatory, yet many families value this time to have the support of their family and friends.

A family could hold a memorial service in addition to or in place of a funeral service.  For instance, the family may elect to hold a funeral service in the town where the deceased lived and died. Then hold a memorial service at a later date in the town where the person was born.

Whether you prefer a funeral or a memorial service, the important piece is to think through how you would like your life to be celebrated.

Take a quiet moment and ponder what this looks like for you.  Then take massive action.  Set up your plans and prefund them at the funeral home of your choice.  Finally, let your family know you have done this, especially your Estate Trustee.  Do not include your funeral or memorial services in your will, as the will is typically read after the celebration of life.

One family comes to mind that experienced this unfortunate issue.  When their father died they had no idea how he wanted his life celebrated.  They discussed this and elected to have him cremated and then held a memorial service.  Later when they read his will, they found out he had wanted to be buried – oops!  Unfortunately cremation is irreversible and this family had to live with their decision.

Don’t put your family is this position.  Take charge of your celebration of life and set it up the way you want now.

If you are unsure where/how to start, then I invite you to connect with me.  I work with my clients to make this process easier and to avoid any headaches during an already emotional time after the deceased has passed.  To help start the discussion, I offer a free consultation to see the available options and how to get started preplanning.

I would love to hear from you.  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!

Kat

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. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly.

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What Needs to Be Done When Someone Dies?

I had three calls this week from colleagues asking me to guide them through the process of what has to happen when a loved one dies.  Unfortunately in each case there was no preplanning nor had the families had any conversations about what type of funeral the deceased wanted.  Imagine their total bewilderment and shock at having to make important once in a life time decisions – all while they are in a state of total emotional overwhelm.

I think we could all agree that this is not the optimal state of mind to be in to have to make funeral decisions.  Especially when there are so many steps involved that haven’t been thought about.  To give you an idea of this comprehensive list, I have prepared a short list of just a few of the many steps involved in what needs to be done when someone dies. Read more

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Who Will Preplan & Prepay Your Funeral Arrangements if you Can’t?

Alzheimers and funeral preplanningIt is estimated that by the year 2020 – 1 in 4 people will be diagnosed with cognitive related issues under the Alzheimer’s umbrella. The onset of cognitive decline may be slow and progressive or rapid and unexpected. The Alzheimer’s Society advocates “Speak Up” – get your affairs in order now. I have adapted this information in the context of prepaid funeral pre-planning. The question I pose to you is:  If you are not of mental capacity – then who will make your funeral pre-arrangements for you? Read more

When is the “Right” Time to Consider Prepaid Funeral Planning?

funeral preplanner MississaugaThis weekend I was at the Toronto Zoomer Show helping out in our ‘Funeral Planning Made Simple’ booth. It was enormously interesting to watch people look at the banner – Funeral Planning … and then look away quickly; not making any eye contact with me. They would scowl, mutter, swear, sigh, shake their head and keep on walking. The people who read the banner and commented said things like: “I’m not ready yet”, “It’s too soon”, “That’s not something I want to talk about”, “I don’t care what my family does, I’ll be dead.” So my question to you is, when is the “right” time to talk about and make prepaid funeral arrangements? Why is it that the general public does not want to talk about their eventual mortality? Read more

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Is Cremation Right for You? – 12 Questions to Consider

cremation2Increasingly more people are preplanning and selecting cremation as their preferred eventual form of disposition. The rationale that people share with me is that they feel it is easier for the family and that it will be less expensive. Very likely this is the case, yet I would ask you to consider the following 12 questions to be sure this is right for you and that it is the most suitable option that reflects your values, wishes, and the needs of your family. Read more

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Death Away from Home – Secure Return Travel Assurance Plan (SRAP)

cheap travel insuranceA while back a gentleman called me and said: “I want that travel thing you have.” I thanked him for calling, and I was thrilled that he knew about “that travel thing.” I suggested that I meet with him to explain the benefits of the Secure Return Travel Assurance Plan (SRAP). He said: “No I live in Toronto and gas is too expensive to have you drive here and explain it to me, can we do this over the phone?” I said: “Absolutely!” Little did he know how important that phone call would be.

We proceeded to cover the features of this very affordable lifetime plan: Read more