The information on this page is intended to help you make financial decisions about what services and items you may have to pay for in the event of a funeral.
On this page
- Preparation of the deceased
- Funeral services
- Memorial services
- Planning ahead for your funeral
- More information on funerals
Preparation of the deceased
Cemetery costs vary widely. Before you sign an agreement to buy a burial plot, ask for a written statement listing all costs and a copy of the cemetery's rules and regulations.
- Caskets vary in style and can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
- Think carefully before spending more than you can afford. Consider asking a trusted friend or relative to accompany you when you decide which casket to buy.
- A casket is not needed for cremation but the crematory may require the use of a cremation container.
- Caskets and urns that are homemade or bought from specialist retailers can be much cheaper than those offered by the funeral home. However, some funeral homes may not allow outside caskets or may charge you a fee.
- Embalming may not be a necessary procedure. However, you may wish to consider it for open-casket services and/or it may be legally required when the deceased needs to be transported over long distances.
- You may incur extra costs for embalming. Talk to your funeral director to determine if this is something that needs to be done and how much it will cost.
- Cremation usually costs less than burial.
- Some funeral homes and crematoria require that the body be placed in a cremation container that is combustible, of rigid construction and equipped with handles. You may supply your own container that meets these specifications.
- Most crematoria and funeral homes will provide temporary storage of the ashes until you decide what is to be done with them. You may also choose to bury the ashes in a cemetery plot.
There is growing interest in more environmentally friendly methods of burial and/or body preparation including: green or natural burial and alkaline hydrolysis (also known as aquamation).
- A green burial is an option in which the deceased is wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, then laid directly into the earth in a designated section of a cemetery. Usually, the spot remains unmarked.
- Alkaline hydrolysis (or aquamation) is the process of using a water‑based alkaline to dissolve a body as an alternative to the classic cremation process.
As these methods are considered non‑traditional, check if they are a legal practice in your province or territory, and/or if they are permitted in your chosen cemetery.
A funeral is a ceremony or service held after a person's death and will usually include the person's burial or cremation.
In most provinces and territories, funeral homes and cemeteries are required to provide families with a detailed cost breakdown of all the products and services they provide. This will help you to select only services you require and can afford. For more information about funerals and burials in your province or territory, please contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
Costs to consider
The following services are usually included in the price of the funeral home or cemetery charges:
- Moving the body to the funeral home
- Using funeral home facilities
- Embalming and cosmetic application
- The price of the casket
- Using a hearse for transportation to the cemetery or crematorium
- Arranging funeral services
- Registering the death and obtaining the burial permit
- Preparing newspaper death notices or obituaries
Flowers, receptions, programs and publication of obituaries will add to the cost. Be sure to carefully review your funeral package to ensure that no services are included that you feel are unnecessary such as identification, embalming, a flower vehicle or a funeral coach.
A memorial service is usually held without the body being present. For example, the body may have already been buried or cremated. Memorial services are most often held within a few days or weeks of the death. However, if the family and friends of the deceased do not live close by, a memorial service can be held at any place and time when all can meet.
Planning ahead for your funeral
Prearranging a funeral service
Planning ahead for a funeral offers advantages for yourself and your loved ones. Pre-arranging your funeral service allows you to have greater say in the planning, while saving your loved ones from making difficult decisions during a time of grief. Pre-arrangements also ease the financial burden by providing you the time to consider options and compare service prices.
When looking for a pre-arranged plan, ask the following questions.
- Does the funeral home have a good reputation?
- What are your payment options?
- How are funds deposited into trust?
- If you choose to pay in instalments, will you be charged for late payments?
- What documentation can you expect to receive regarding the pre-arrangement and regarding the payment of funds in trust (most provinces require notifications from funeral services)?
- Does the contract specifically describe all goods, services and fees?
- Is there a plan to cover the increased cost of the prearranged service due to inflation? If so, you should compare the rates offered at various funeral homes.
- Is the pre arranged agreement a guaranteed contract? Some provinces only permit pre arranged agreements if there is a guaranteed contract.
- Is there a cooling-off period for you to reconsider the pre-arranged agreement and cancel it with no penalty? For more information about mandatory cooling‑off periods in your province or territory, please contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
- What happens if you move? Can you transfer your pre‑arranged agreement to another funeral home if you move or for any other reason?
Once your arrangements are made, make sure you keep your documentation in a safe place and inform any family or friends of where they can find the paperwork.
Buying a cemetery plot
You can also buy a cemetery plot and a grave marker in advance. Before signing a contract, ask questions. For example:
- What happens if you move or change your mind for whatever reason?
- What are your payment options?
- What penalty would apply if you failed to make the payments?
Mausoleums and columbariums
An alternative to buying a cemetery plot is to purchase a compartment in a mausoleum (a structure, wholly or partially above ground that is designed for a casket) or columbarium (a building or wall of niches designed for the storage of cremated remains). Before signing or buying, make sure to ask questions about fees and services.
- What are you paying for?
- Is there an extra charge for the nameplate or a permanent vase?
- What are the payment options?
- Can you get a refund if you decide not to use the niche?
You should also ask about the visiting hours for a mausoleum or columbarium, because they are unlikely to be open all the time.
Memorial societies are voluntary, non-profit organizations dedicated to helping people arrange simple, dignified and inexpensive funerals in advance. They encourage the donation of bodies to medical science. Most memorial societies have either a legal contract or an agreement with one or more local funeral homes to provide services for members. Members indicate their desired arrangements by completing a form. The society or the cooperating funeral home keeps a copy of the form. If you move, your membership file can be transferred to the local memorial society near your new community.
Consider being an organ donor
If you want to donate organs, you will need to sign up to be an organ donor in your province or territory.
More information on funerals
The bereavement sector (i.e. funerals, burials and cremation) is regulated by provincial and territorial authorities. Before making any costly arrangements, check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for the rules of conduct and regulations governing funeral services in your region. Please note that municipalities may also have by-laws regarding their local cemeteries.
For information on war graves and the burial of veterans, consult the Veterans Affairs Canada website and for information on the importation and exportation of human remains and other tissues, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.
Trusted consumer information
Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.