Make your funeral plans now

It’s going to save you and your loved ones time and money in the long run

Planning your own funeral service may not be on your to-do list.  But it should be a chief component to your comprehensive estate plan.

Little planning is usually done – leaving family and loved ones scrambling to arrange a funeral service at a difficult time.  Spending a little time now to plan may make decisions easier for your family during a stressful time and ensure your wishes are respected.

Some people have wills that may provide direction with respect to funeral arrangements, but many wills provide no direction.  Regardless of whether arrangements are documented in your will, we recommend that instructions regarding funeral arrangements be left with your executor.

Keeping your funeral arrangements within your will, secured in a safety deposit box, may seem like a good idea.  What happens if a death occurs over a long weekend or during the holiday season when banks, trust companies and law firms are generally closed?  It may be difficult in some situations for your executor to obtain a copy of the will prior to making decisions with respect to your funeral.  For those people who have put funeral instructions in their will, you should ensure that your executor has a copy of your funeral plans in order to expedite your wishes.

 

Prearranging your funeral service means that you have made arrangements for your own funeral ahead of time.  This does not necessarily mean that the services have been paid in advance.   For $20 you can become a member of the Memorial Society of BC and register your funeral arrangements.  For further details on this non-profit society you can view their website (www.memorialsocietybc.org).  The society provides a number of services that are focused on planning.   Once you are a member, there is no cost to make changes to your plan. At time of death, a $35 administration fee is collected by the funeral provider on behalf of the society.  If you have registered with the society, we encourage you to give a copy of the “arrangement form” to your executor.

Planning your funeral will ensure that your wishes are respected.  Family members will not have to make difficult decisions that may cause disputes.  Planning may assist you and your family in keeping the costs reasonable.

It is important to differentiate between prearranging and prepaying funeral services.  Prepaid funeral services means the services are paid in advance either with a funeral home or an insurance company to provide funeral services at the time of death.

First, make a few phone calls.  Two good resources that are available are the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority and Funeral Service Association of British Columbia.

You can determine whether a funeral home is licensed and in good standing with the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA).  A listing of all funeral providers, cemeteries and crematoriums can be found at www.bpcpa.ca.  The BPCPA can be contacted directly to ensure there are no licensing suspensions or outstanding complaints at 1-888-564-9963

Planning allows you an opportunity to see if the funeral home is a member in good standing with the Funeral Service Association of British Columbia (FSABC).  A listing of members in good standing can be found at www.bcfunerals.com or by contacting FSABC directly at 1-800-665-3899.  Not all funeral home are members of FSABC.

One of the first steps may be to obtain a list of services. All funeral providers, cemeteries, and crematoriums are required by law to provide an itemized price list.  By paying today you can control and calculate costs.  Prepayments may be done through a trust fund or funeral insurance certificate.

We recently asked FSABC what happens if a person prepays funeral costs for a funeral home, but moves to another city?  Generally, pre-arranged funerals are transferable.  But depending on the payment – either a trust fund for funeral insurance certificate, as well as the policies of the individual funeral home – there could be some limitations.

BPCPA regulations indicate that trust accounts that are transferred between funeral homes may keep up to 20 per cent of the trust account for selling and administrative costs.   Some funeral homes keep the full 20 per cent while others choose to release all of the funds.  Regarding insurance funded funeral plans, usually all of the funds together with any interest are transferred to the new funeral home by changing the beneficiary of the certificate.  If an insurance funded funeral plan is cancelled then cash surrender values would apply.

People in their late 60s or 70s may prepay funeral costs through either a trust fund or funeral insurance certificate.   People in their 80s and 90s typically prepay though a trust agreement.  Trust agreements are also the likely option for people with terminal illnesses that are uninsurable.

A Pollara Report in 2004 highlighted that approximately 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed think that pre-planning is a good idea, although only about 20 per cent of the population have actually made some advance funeral arrangements.