Planning Your Own Funeral – General Questions about pre-planning a funeral

General Questions about pre-planning a funeral

In Alberta is it possible to pre-plan a funeral and are there laws that cover this?

Yes, it is possible to plan one’s own funeral and there are indeed laws in place to help consumers who wish to do so. Specifically, the sale of these plans is regulated by the Funeral Services Act, the Cemeteries Act and the Cemetery Companies Act, and all of their associated regulations. If you would like to read these laws, please see our list of additional resources.

I am thinking about pre-arranging my funeral: what general things should I consider?

In general, topics to include:

  • what is, or is not, to be done with your body before the service/farewell ceremony (such as organ donation,embalming, and make up);
  • the kind of service/farewell ceremony you wish to have (such as casket, the venue, and the contents); and
  • what is to be done with your remains (such as burial vs. cremation and final resting place).

For a handy 33-item checklist for funeral planning, see: Saying Farewell – A Guide to Assist You with the Death and Dying Process.

How do I start to plan my own funeral?

In Alberta, a funeral home is often the best place to go for help planning your funeral, as most funeral homes offer funeral pre-planning services (this is known as a “pre-need funeral”). This means you decide on everything you want done, and you arrange for the payment.

Arrangements can include all of the items mentioned above. The arrangements you make are then put into a contract. Some funeral homes are even willing to keep a record of your preferences with no advance payment.

If you are thinking about pre-paying for your funeral, consider getting more than one quote. Be sure you know what is included in the basic price and what costs are extra. Consider whether the extras being offered are necessary to your funeral plans and if they fit your budget.

If you are a member of a church, you may wish to discuss it with your church. Many churches will keep this information about funeral wishes on file.

How do I know if I am dealing with a reputable funeral home?

In Alberta, funeral homes must have a “funeral services” business licence. In addition, funeral homes providing preneed funeral services must hold a special “pre-need salesperson” licence. This licence is issued by the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board (the “AFSRB”). It must specifically state that it is a licence that authorizes pre-need funeral service contracts. You can ask to see these licences. You can also contact the AFSRB to ask if the funeral home is in good standing.

Similarly, you can check with the Better Business Bureau and check with the AFSRB to see if either of these agencies have received complaints about the funeral home.

To see the Alberta Funeral Services Code of Conduct for funeral homes, see Schedule 2 of the Funeral Services Act, General Regulation

What is the difference between a “funeral” and a “memorial service”?

There are no legal definitions for these terms, and many people and institutions use them rather interchangeably.

Traditionally, a funeral involved a service in a funeral home or religious house of worship, with the body present, followed by either a burial or a cremation. Sometimes there was also a viewing of the body the day before the ceremony. A memorial service, on the other hand, did not have the body present (although sometimes the previously cremated ashes were present). Today, these concepts are mixed and matched in numerous ways, and the result can also be called a “farewell ceremony”.

If you are making arrangements to pre-plan your own funeral, memorial service, or farewell ceremony, be sure to not assume that the words mean certain things: read the details and know what is included and what is not.

You should NOT rely on this webpage for legal advice. It provides general information on Alberta law only. November 2013.
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