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Top Six Things You Should Know About Planning a Cremation or Funeral.

1) You don’t need to purchase an urn or casket from the funeral home. Funeral homes will often have the best of the best when it comes to their selection of caskets and urns. What you may not know is that you can purchase a casket or urn elsewhere, even online at Walmart or Costco in some areas, or direct from the manufacturer. In these instances the casket can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars less than you would be paying from the funeral home. Similarly, a funeral home may have less expensive options that are not on display but readily available. Always ask to see what other choices are available to you. If scattering ashes – you may not need to purchase an urn at all.

2) Scattering ashes is perfectly legal. Somehow people have been convinced that scattering is against the law. The truth is that it’s perfectly acceptable provided that you are not scattering on private property without permission. For example, in Manitoba, the provincial government has even endorsed the practice by giving notice that ashes may be scattered on unoccupied provincial government-owned Crown land or water, including provincial parks. No official government approval required! The rules in other provinces may vary slightly.

3) Embalming is not required by law. If a person is being cremated or if a funeral is being conducted within reasonable period of time, the body of your loved one may not need to be embalmed. The cost of embalming is quite high, and is only necessary if you plan to have a viewing of your loved one. Although it isn’t recommended to have a public viewing without embalming, it’s certainly feasible for the immediate family.

4) Prepaying for your arrangements does not always cover everything. When you decide to prepay for your funeral arrangements with a funeral home, it’s important to make sure you know what is being covered. Or more importantly, ask for a detailed list of the things that are NOT included. There are often additional costs, for example music, catering, obituaries, clergy fees and flowers, presented to the family later as a surprise. By prepaying you also run the risk of losing components (or everything) if that funeral home shuts down. Be sure you understand what happens to your money should you decide to move to another city when you’re older. You can always get a refund but some funeral homes will only return the principle, while keeping all of the interest.

5) A funeral package presented to you as a “package discount” option may not be right for you. There may be things in the package that you don’t necessarily want or need, and you could save money by paying for things individually. If a funeral home presents you with one of their package deals, ask to see an individual price list and check to see if the individual prices add up to the same price as the package before the “discount” was applied. It has been common practice for funeral homes to simply inflate the price of the package and then put in a fake discount in order to discourage people from removing anything from the package. In some cases, depending on the home, they will allow you to remove some things from the package and discount accordingly. Always make sure to ask.

6) The price you’re told over the phone might not be the price you end up paying. You might phone one funeral home to ask about, for example, cremation and they’ll tell you it’s $2,500, whereas another place might tell you it’s $800. Of course you’re going to want to go with the second option ­but it may not be the full story. It’s important to ask what other costs may be associated, and to break down what those costs may be before giving a funeral home permission to transfer the body into their care. If you don’t, you could end up paying more than the $2,500 option unexpectedly.

And here’s a bonus…

7) A meaningful memorial can be arranged without any excessive spending. You don’t have to go to a funeral home at all. Find a memorial planner or death care consultant with industry experience and who listens to you about your loved one and your needs. They can usually handle the funeral home or crematory as your representative and they’ll guide you through the process from start to finish. There are many thoughtful event plans that may suit your needs, such as hosting the services at a local hotel or having a traditional wake-style gathering at home, having friends gather to share stories, and using the person’s favourite vase, mug or even sports item as a keepsake-urn. There is no ‘must do’ funeral formula.

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