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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cost of dying

A reader recently asked me by way of email about keeping the cost of a funeral low. Based on the phrasing of the question I believe that he is asking about planning for his own funeral, and not that of someone else. It seems like something many of you would be interested in, so I'm answering it here.

These days, a typical funeral costs up to $10,000, but you have to remember that the final cost is a result of several individual choices. There's no law that says you have to have a memorial service or a nice reception afterwards; those are usually chosen by the loved ones left behind as a way of getting together to share grief and memories and show their respect for the person who passed away.

There are choices you can make that drastically reduce the cost. For example, cremation is cheaper than burial, since burial involves a casket, viewing, notices in the paper, flowers etc.

When you are calculating the cost of a funeral, be sure to take into account that the executor or family may apply for the CPP death benefit to help pay for it. This is available to everyone in Canada who has contributed to the plan through mandatory deductions from paycheques. Right now the maximum amount available is $2,500.

I've found some good information on line - click here - about how to apply for government assistance for an inexpensive funeral when no other funds are available. This is not for people too cheap to use their own money; it's for people who truly have no other way to pay for even a minimal funeral.

Many people like to include their funeral wishes in their Wills to let people know what they would like to have done. I see plenty of Wills where the testator requests that his family keep the costs as low as possible. Keep in mind though that the final decisions about funeral, burial or cremation are up to the executor, not the person who dies. The executor may legally override the funeral wishes of the testator in the Will. So talk to your executor about it.

You can choose to pre-arrange and pre-pay your own funeral. This might hold down the costs, as many family members feel somehow disrespectful or greedy if they insist on the absolute cheapest disposal method for a loved one. Also, shop around to different funeral homes.


  1. Both my parents recently passed away. Since my mother had Alzheimers my brother put his name on the mortgage so he could take out a $320,000 mortgage on.the house without my knowledge - the will.stipulates a 50/50 split - can I force the sale of the house.and in anyway retrieve the money he has already taken against the property

    1. If your brother doesn't have the estate wrapped up in good time - and by that I mean done and over within a year of your parents' passing, then you can force a sale of the property. Give him some time to get the paperwork in order, list it, etc, but like I said, it should be sold, the debts paid and the money in your hands within a year.

      As for the mortgage, that needs to be paid back or taken out of his share. Any advances to the children, whether they are loans or gifts, are considered advances on their inheritance. Of course he is not going to agree and won't do it voluntarily so you will probably need a lawyer to help you force him.


  2. Great read! The cost of a funeral is the biggest topic when it comes to planning a funeral home. Thank you for the information from Central Funeral Homes.


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