What to Do If You Can’t Afford a Funeral

Two of the most important days of your life could cost you a small fortune. The truth is, if you haven’t budgeted $50,000 for getting married and dying, you’re just treading water. The best is yet to come.

Canadian Brides Are Deep in Love and Debt

Wedding Wire estimates the average millennial wedding cost $29,450 in 2020. Jenn, John and their three toddlers got in the spirit on Four Weddings Canada (season 2, episode 8). Her Greek Orthodox traditional ceremony cost $15,000. Guests partied on with a DJ, photo booth and dynamite cupcakes. She lost out on the glamorous honeymoon in Bali but at least she had a ball. 

The New Normal, Weddings That Don’t Break the Bank

Look out! 2020 could be the year for a trip to city hall for a micro wedding — just you and a few socially distanced witnesses, the wedding officiant and photographer. Potluck in the backyard it is. Maybe you could just elope?

The High Cost of Dying in Ontario

When it comes to dying, the bill goes way up too. Going out in style modestly is $10,000 or more. Add a fancy casket and plot and the price quickly zooms into the $20,000 zone. To get a realistic idea of what you’re looking at, tally up everything from getting a death certificate to transporting and preparing a body, planning a funeral ceremony and buying a plot or cremation urn. 

Keeping Costs as Low as Possible

If a traditional send off is out of reach, GTA (Greater Toronto Area) burial and cremation services like Affordable and Aftercare charge about $1,500 for direct cremation plans. Spending time with family before cremation is another $500. It’s a dignified way to go when budgets are tight.  

Funeral Expenses for Canadian Military

Serving military get a Department of National Defence (DND) paid civilian or official funeral, depending on your loved one’s final wishes. Estate trustees are responsible for the arrangements. The DND will pay up to $15,291, excluding GST and PST (2020 rates), for funeral and burial expenses. The estate pays the rest. A temporary wooden marker with the deceased’s service number, rank, initials, surname, branch or regiment, date of death and age can be provided until a DND gravestone is ready. Or you can buy a private gravestone costing up to $3,110.

Government-paid Funerals 

When there is no estate, Ontario Works may cover the funeral expenses, even if the deceased didn’t receive social assistance from that agency or other government programs. Apply through your local Ontario Works office but inform the funeral home before you make plans or sign any contracts. Wait until Ontario Works approves your application to ask the funeral home to “waive the contract” for a social assistance funeral.

Funeral Home Arranged Funding 

When your loved one received an Ontario Works or Ontario Disability cheque or Assistance for Children with Severe Disability, tell the funeral director you want a social assistance funded funeral. The funeral home will contact the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services for approval. The Ontario government typically pays up to $2,250 for funeral and burial or cremation costs. That includes a grave marker and perpetual care costs, but not a tombstone. It all helps.

Government Charge Backs for Funeral Costs

Don’t expect government to always pay the cost. The estate could get handed a bill or funeral costs might be deducted from CPP or OAS benefits. The province or local agencies can recover their costs from any person (you if you’re estate trustee) or organization that usually pays funeral, burial or cremation expenses. Those costs come out of a deceased’s estate before any money goes to heirs.  

Who Pays for the Lost or Homeless

Ontario municipalities pay millions a year for funerals for transients, when coroners can’t identify a body or the deceased goes unclaimed in hospital or long-term care. Local agencies prepare and transport the bodies and arrange the funeral and burial or cremation. 

How Long Could You Languish in Limbo?

Say the worst happens and your body is unclaimed. Hospitals, long-term care facilities or the Office of the Chief Coroner will wait a respectful 10 days for family members or friends to find you before searching for next of kin. If all else fails, unclaimed bodies are buried with no embalming in unmarked plots. That allows for a proper burial, while avoiding offending your cultural or religious practices until your next of kin turns up (if ever).

The Ultimate Insult

Poor 63-year-old Mary Alice Pitts Moore. The South Carolina woman’s family arranged her cremation in March 2015. Three years later, her decomposed body was unceremoniously located, still waiting to be cremated.

Probate an Estate Without a Will in Ontario

Axess Law Ontario wills and estate lawyers give you legal advice on how to probate an estate without a will. Use our convenient online video calling to speak directly with a licensed Ontario lawyer or notary public. Make an appointment by calling toll free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. In person appointments are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, Vaughan, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. 
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s probate law services.