Planning Your Own Funeral – Questions about other aspects of the final ceremony

Questions about other aspects of the final ceremony

For my farewell ceremony, I want my body to be transported in my favorite old, restored car. Can I do this?

If a body is to be transported within Alberta, and not on a “common carrier”, there are no regulations as to the type of vehicle that must be used and no permits are needed. That said, transporting a body does present challenges and it may be difficult to complete your wish. Be sure to address this topic with the funeral home and your family.

I served in the Canadian military: how do I go about arranging military honours at my funeral?

Military honours are available to any veteran or serving member of Canada’s armed forces. Services can include covering the casket with the Canadian flag, Red Ensign, or Union Jack, and a bugler sounding the Last Post. Veterans’ organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion may provide pallbearers and a Guard of Honour if requested. For more information contact Veterans’ Affairs and the Royal Canadian

Are there special rates for veterans?

Under the Alberta Cemeteries Act, cemeteries must give reduced rates to veterans. However, they might not provide space nearby for other family members (although some cemeteries allow a spouse’s cremated remains to be buried in or scattered on the plot). There is no requirement for a reduced rate for funeral services.

A veteran may, however, be eligible for financial aid from the federal government. The Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral and Burial Program, administered by the Last Post Fund, provides financial assistance toward the dignified funeral, burial, cremation and grave marking for eligible veterans. To qualify for the Funeral and Burial Program, veterans must meet certain financial and service-related criteria. It is important to note that every case is unique and coverage is not automatic. To discuss specific situations, contact the Last Post Fund.

I am not very traditional and I want my farewell ceremony to be unique. I’ve tried to talk to my children about this, but they do not like my ideas. What can I do?

If you do not pre-arrange your own funeral/farewell ceremony, someone will have to do it for you once you have died. If you write a Will that outlines your wishes, the executor is supposed to act in accordance with those wishes. Technically, this is a legal requirement. However, sometimes it is very difficult for survivors to put aside their own wishes, as well as wishes of, and pressure from, other survivors. This can result in final wishes not being carried out. Although there are legal remedies for this, sometimes it is too late to change things. For example, if you did not want to be cremated, but you were, that cannot be undone. Also, often, people do not want to pursue these remedies (suing someone is not pleasant).

Once you are dead, you cannot ensure that your wishes are followed. Therefore, a pre-arranged funeral could be helpful. You will have a contract. The funeral home will be bound by law to deliver the arrangements for which you paid. For the funeral home, this is business. It will not be overcome by emotion and sentimentality. It will not bend to the pressure of family members.

I have made arrangements for my funeral: should I just include them in my Will?

Although you certainly can include your pre-planned funeral arrangements in your Will, you may wish to consider doing more than just that, as, in some cases, the Will is not found until after the funeral. Therefore, consider:

  • telling your family and the people who would likely organize your funeral about the arrangements you have made;
  • if applicable, leaving a record of your wishes with your church or religious organization;
  • leave a copy of the contract for the funeral where it will be found and read immediately after your death, and consider giving a copy to the person you have named as your Executor and to your next of kin.

I don’t think I need a funeral, as I am planning on donating my body to science, but my daughter still asks me what I want other than that. Should I be planning something?

Even if you donate your body to science, you can still plan a farewell ceremony. Consider telling your daughter what, if any, kind of ceremony you might like (address issues such as speakers, readings, and music). You may also wish to discuss this with the venue where such a ceremony might be held. Another consideration is that a farewell ceremony is often more important for the people who are left behind and are grieving than it is for the person who has died. It may be helpful to work together with your daughter to figure out what might be appropriate for everyone concerned.

It is also worth remembering that, although medical science greatly benefits from the donation of bodies, not all bodies can be accepted. Consider creating a back-up plan in case your donation wish cannot be met. Although you need not go through the trouble of pre-arranging everything, you may at least want any alternate wishes to be clear.

Note: If you wish to donate your body or organs, this must be arranged ahead of time and your family be informed.  Often, specific consent forms are required. See the resource section for more information.

When I die, if I have not pre-arranged, who can make my final arrangements for me?

If, when you die, you have not pre-arranged, the authority for making your final arrangements falls in the following order of priority:

  • the Executor designated in your Will (if you made one);
  • your spouse (if your spouse was living with you at the time of death), or a person who at the time of death had been living with you for a continuous period of at least 2 years;
  • an adult child of yours (eldest first, then in descending order of age);
  • a parent of yours (eldest first, then in descending order of age);
  • your legal guardian;
  • an adult grandchild of yours (eldest first, then in descending order of age);
  • an adult brother or sister of yours (eldest first, then in descending order of age);
  • an adult nephew or niece of yours (eldest first, then in descending order of age);
  • an adult next of kin, as determined by the law regarding intestate succession;
  • the public trustee;
  • an adult having some relationship with you not based on< blood ties or affinity; and
  • the Minister of Family and Social Services.

If a person who has the right to control the disposition of your remains is not available or is unwilling to give instructions, the right passes to the next available qualified person.

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