Nothing can emotionally prepare you for the loss of a loved one. But you can be prepared financially for the costs associated with dying. Planning and hosting a funeral can be expensive. Let’s break down how much funerals cost. What are all the expenses associated with a traditional funeral? And how can you, or your family pay for it?
What is the average cost of a funeral?
The average cost of a traditional funeral with a burial in Canada is between $5,000 and $10,000. And cremation costs on average between $2,000 and $5,000.
The cost of a funeral service varies significantly from province to province. The price depends on:
- the choices made when planning a funeral,
- the cost of living where you are, and
- additional fees, depending on the season.
- For example, winter funerals in cold provinces may cost more. Why? Because it takes more resources to break through frozen ground. Or they may need to store the coffin until the ground thaws. Both options increase the cost.
What is the breakdown of funeral costs?
When my dad died, my sister and I planned his funeral. We tried to follow his wishes and our family’s traditions, while spending sensibly. To help you prepare, here’s a breakdown of what we spent. Please note that we paid this in February 2020 (pre-pandemic) in Mississauga, Ontario. Your costs may vary.
Funeral home: $7,500 including tax (less a cash discount)
The funeral home offered several options at various costs. Here’s what the fee we paid covered:
- Funeral director’s services
- One visitation lasting three hours (you can have more than one)
- Mid-priced cremation container
- Three months’ online obituary (there are usually a few options)
- Environmental surcharge
- Guest book, orders of service and thank-you cards
- Mid-priced urn
It also included charges the funeral home arranged and paid on our behalf. These were for the:
- cremation itself,
- coroner’s cremation certificate and
- municipal death registration.
If we didn’t choose cremation, it would have cost substantially more.
Flowers are optional, but my father loved them, and they brightened both the funeral home and the church. We paid for floral arrangements from my husband and I, and our children and their partners.
Depending on your beliefs, you may not incur this cost at all. For us, the church ceremony was important. We paid for the services of two AV techs plus the verger (the attendant at the church). I didn’t have to pay for the priest, the musicians or the facilities, because I am a church member. If I wasn’t, it would have cost $2,550 all in.
We didn’t need to spend much here, as we already owned the plot where my mother is buried. We still had to pay $537 to open and close it, though. Had we needed to buy a plot and headstone, the cost would have been considerably higher. Today, that size plot in that cemetery costs $10,961. We also paid $608 to add an inscription to the existing headstone. A similar, upright headstone starts at about $1,500, plus inscription.
After the formal church ceremony, we wanted to connect with our family members and friends. We had catered sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres, sweets, and beverages for 125 people in the church hall.
Can you pre-plan your funeral?
You may not want to think about your own death. But consider how much time and emotional effort it takes to plan a funeral. Pre-planning a funeral is a thoughtful gift for the people you’ll leave behind. Doing so can help:
- give direction to those who will plan your funeral,
- provide clarity and avoid ambiguity and guesswork,
- reduce both the emotional and financial stress.
You can work with a licensed funeral provider to plan and pre-pay a funeral. When you do, you’ll get a contract with the services you want and the costs. In Ontario, when you pre-pay for your funeral, costs in the contract are guaranteed, even if prices rise. If you change your mind or want to cancel a contract, you can do so at any time while you’re alive. If you cancel, the provider must provide a refund.
If you choose this option, make sure your close family knows about the arrangements. It’s best to give them copies of the paperwork to avoid confusion and conflict.
How can you pay for a funeral?
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) death benefit will help. It’s a one-time payment of $2,500, payable to the estate or other eligible individuals, on behalf of a deceased CPP contributor. Note that you have to apply to CPP/QPP to get the benefit.
If the person whose funeral you’re planning had life insurance, that death benefit* can pay for the funeral. Even a small life insurance policy is likely enough funeral insurance. I used some of the money from my dad’s life insurance death benefit to pay for his funeral. I was so grateful that he had thought ahead and made things easier for my sister and me. He had looked after us all our lives, and was still looking after us after he was gone.
Losing the last of our parents has reminded my husband and me of our own mortality. With first-hand experience of what our kids will face when we’re gone, we’re making sure we provide for them. That means having enough life insurance, organizing our finances, updating our wills and keeping them informed. We can’t know when our time will come, but we can know we’ll be ready when it does.
An advisor can help you be ready, too. Whether it’s for your death or a financial crisis, an advisor can help you make a plan. And that plan can give you something you can’t put a price on: peace of mind.
*Definitions of terms:
Death benefit: Insurance companies call the money they pay when an insured person dies a death benefit.
This article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation, or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.