Options for Planning Your Own Funeral
Written by Anne Papmehl

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

On a cold, snowy day, I attended the funeral of an elderly lady I knew. Afterward, I carpooled with some friends of the deceased to the cemetery for the burial service.

Just as we arrived, one of the other passengers asked if I'd prepaid my own funeral. The truth is, I hadn't.

That was 8 years ago, and I still haven't given it much thought. Knowing where to start can be intimidating.

Different Funeral Costs

It's no wonder they call it one of life's big purchases. A casket alone can cost thousands, and by the time you factor in the many other costs — embalming, obituary notice, viewing, the funeral or memorial service, attendants, pallbearers, plot, headstone and engraving - you're looking at between $5,000 and $15,000, according to Canadian Funerals, an online consumer guide and funeral homes directory.

Lower Cost Traditional and Not-So-Traditional Options

With rising funeral costs and changing attitudes towards death, many people are seeking more affordable options.

Cremation, which can cost as little as one-fifth the cost of a burial, is a common choice. But depending on one's personal feelings or religious beliefs, it's not for everyone.

For those wanting to go traditional without spending a bundle, there are now online funeral providers who offer basic, no-frills packages. You may have seen their ads on billboards, bus shelters or the internet. Payment options are flexible – up front or in monthly installments. As for making the arrangements, you can do it online, by phone or by meeting in person.

Lower priced, simple funeral services can also be done through traditional funeral homes. You can save a lot by choosing a simple wooden or plywood casket over a fancy decorative one and resisting pressure to get all the extras: signing book, memorial cards and flowers. As with basic funeral providers, you can prepay up front, and many accept small monthly installments.

Home and Eco-Burials Becoming an Option?

On the flip side of the funeral home is the home funeral: a type of do-it-yourself service that builds on traditions from the pre-funeral home era, where family, friends and colleagues would take care of the body, make a casket and hold a wake, funeral or some type of memorial at home. There are certain legal hurdles involved, including getting permission to transport the remains or have a professional move them.

For the ecologically minded, there are green or eco-burials where no artificial processes are used. Something to keep in mind: Green burial sites in Canada are not yet commonplace.

Donate to Science

Finally, if you want to really save money and help science, you can do what my uncle Cedric in England did – donate your body to medicine. Body donations are becoming increasingly popular among Canadians, too. The university or medical facility that accepts the donation typically covers the costs of collecting, cremating and returning the remains to the family.

Planning our last farewell is a key part of estate planning — like having a will and power of attorney. We never know when our time will come, so making a plan while of sound mind helps ensure we get what we want, eliminates the guesswork for those making the arrangements and eases the stress for the family.

As with any decision, purchase or arrangement, it's important to know what you're getting, so shop around, ask questions, read the consumer information and study before signing.

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