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What Happens if I Can’t Pay For a Funeral?

bigstock-Grieving-Family-4457703Have you ever asked the question ‘what happens if I can’t pay for the funeral?’ If people have not prepaid part of all of their funeral expenses, then their next of kin or whoever signed the funeral contract are responsible to pay the funeral account.  Many Funeral Homes will require a deposit prior to making any arrangements on your behalf and some Funeral Homes require payment in full by the day the funeral services are provided.

This can cause extreme disagreements between brother and sister as to the type and level of merchandise to select for mom or dad’s funeral.  I know of two brothers’ that agreed to split dad’s funeral cost 50/50.  The one brother put the full account on his credit card and the other promised to write him a cheque for his half of the funeral cost.  Well that cheque never got written after several requests for reimbursement.  The outcome?  These brothers’ have not spoken to each other in 25 years!  Is this worth 50% of the cost of the funeral?

Alternatively, people in receipt of Social Assistance (Ontario Works (OW) Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD), may be eligible for assistance with the cost of a funeral or burial.  This is a discretionary benefit and once eligibility has been established, the Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) will fund services and items within the approved service and rate schedules.   Outside of Toronto, other Municipalities will have their own approved service and rate schedules.

Eligibility for funeral services considers:

  1. Financial eligibility at time of death
  2. Program eligibility in accepting and meeting the TESS program criteria for a funeral service

TESS will fund two types of funeral, burial and cremation services: Basic Funeral Service and Tradition Funeral Service.

  • Basic Funeral services are provided for the simple disposition of the deceased.  Formally this was called a Type A funeral.  There is no visitation although there may be a Graveside Service.
  • Traditional Funeral Service does allow for visitation and formally this was called Type B funeral.

The scope of professional services, type of merchandise or vehicles permitted, is outlined in the TESS Funeral Guidelines

Additionally, there are numerous eligibility, residency, asset declarations and recovery of funds criteria, delineated in the TESS program.  For further information please contact:

Toronto Employment & Social Services Metro Hall
55 John Street, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C6
416 – 392 – 8623 or Fax 416 392 4214

The best way to ensure that final expenses are paid for is to set up a prepaid funeral plan. When the selections for services, merchandise or other items associated with the funeral are outlined in a prepaid funeral contract, there is a plan on how the full funeral cost will be paid. The prepaid funeral contract may be paid as a single payment, or spread out over 2 or more years.

Be sure to find out if the full funeral amount is life insured if paying over time.  Usually there is a declaration to sign that the beneficiary of the funeral is not knowingly terminally ill.  The company funding the prepaid funeral contract as has the right to look into the annuitant’s medical records if the death occurs within the first two years of the prepaid funeral contract.

Many plans insure the full funeral cost from the first payment.  Although we do not want to think of a premature death, it can also be a relief for the family to know that the funeral expenses are looked after.  One lady I worked with has MS and she wanted the longest payment term possible.  Her comment was that she knew she would not live 10 years; she also had a limited budget and wanted to pay the least amount of money possible per month.  This was a perfect plan for her.

Sadly others have paid into guaranteed life insurance policies.  Last week I met with a lady who has been paying $25.00 per month since September 2003.  That is 119 payments of $25.00 totaling $2,975.00.  The most her estate will receive from that “Life Insurance” policy is $2,000.00.  The look on her crest-fallen face was heart wrenching.

A better financial decision for her is to apply these funds toward a prepaid funeral contract with a guaranteed funeral cost, set terms to pay for the funeral and a life insurance wrapper on the funeral, in that if she died while paying, the entire funeral is considered paid for.

I am committed to assisting people in designing a prepaid funeral contract that fits their budget.  Working together we can select some of all of the funeral items they wish to pay for over time.  The monthly amount may be as little as $20.00.  The important point is to start a funeral plan.  Locking in and guaranteeing the future funeral cost and paying for this over a set period of time is a huge financial and emotional relief for you and your loved ones.

I’d love your feedback! And dont’ forget to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one, via the commentluv feature you will find here on the site.

Until next time,




4 replies
  1. Barbara copeland says:

    Im 58 yrs of age,im on odsp,sadly to say i have no rrsp or nothing,i live monthly on my cheque,i have 2 children who live in vancouver,37 and 35,there working people but by no means able to pay for a funeral for me,and i dont even know how my daughter would get here to toronto,she will not fly,never,i dont want anything special except to be cremated,maybe you can help me figure this out,maybe odsp pays for it,i really dont know,your advise would be appreciated,Thankyou, Barb

    • Kat says:

      Hi Barb thank you for reaching out and it sounds like a very stressful time for you. If you are on ODSP there is money for funeral expenses through Ontario Works program and this includes one of two options.
      The first option is for Direct Cremation and the second option is for visiting and a funeral service on the same day with a cloth covered casket. ODSP will not cover the burial costs.

      If you wish to have the cremated remains or casket buried I can help you with this. There is a way to pay as little as 20.00 per month to have the money accumulating for the opening and closing cost at a cemetery.

      Please contact me if you would like to know more- Have a good day Kat

  2. Claudette says:

    I have two brothers that are on disability benefits. Neither of them have set up funerals for themselves and I’m scared that my sisters and I would be responsible to pay for their funeral should something happen. Our parents are both deceased and my brothers are both deaf so it is up to us to set something up. Any advice?

    • Kat says:

      Hi Claudette thank you for your inquiry. This can certainly be stressing. If your brothers receive ODSP then you have two options.
      1. As you know they can not have assets of more than 5,000.00 otherwise their ODSP monthly payment will be reduced. In this scenario if you wish to set up a funeral plan for them you/they can do this. There are very affordable monthly options and I would sure like to chat further with you about this.
      2. If you live in Ontario and your brother receive the ODSP payment, then when they die you can apply to Ontario Works and get preapproval to pay for their funerals. Unfortunately in this scenario there will only be 2 funeral options. You can have either direct cremation or burial or you can have visiting and a service all on one day with an entry level cloth casket.
      Kindly call me at 905 399 5341 or 905 717 9197
      Kindest Regards, Kat


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