Click on a subject below to view the full article.
Why would I plan my funeral in advance? What is Advance Funeral Planning?
When you plan your funeral in advance, you make all of the major decisions beforehand. Your plans are kept on file at the funeral home and are available to your family immediately after your death.
What prevents people from planning their funerals in advance?
- They don’t want to discuss their own mortality,
- They don’t want to deal with children who disagree,
- They can’t find the time to do it,
- They think they can’t afford it, or they don’t want to pay for it.
Research shows that people plan their funeral in advance for the following reasons:
- To reduce the emotional suffering placed on family after a death,
- To fulfill the responsibility of not leaving a difficult job for others,
- To relieve financial burden from family members,
- To avoid family conflict after a death, and to prevent resentment in the future.
Why would I pay for my funeral in advance?
- It locks in prices, protects from inflation, and saves money,
- Your funds are trusted and protected,
- The full amount of the plan may be covered if death occurs during the payment plan,
- Your plan may be transferred to any funeral home in the world,
- Many payment plans and options are available,
- Worldwide travel insurance is available.
Choosing Your Executor
Choosing your executor should not be a sentimental decision. Accepting the job of executor is not always an honour. Before you decide, understand what the job involves.
10 Qualities of a Good Executor:
- Legally, you must choose a person aged 18 or over, and of ‘sound mind’.
- A person likely to live longer than you.
- A person who will not be emotionally stunned by your death. Our minds do not work the same way when we’re grieving.
- A person who lives locally. It’s much more difficult and expensive for somebody who is geographically distant to look after your personal affairs.
- Someone trustworthy and reliable.
- Somebody who has the skill, the time, and the temperament to look after very complex matters for up to a year. Being an executor is a job, sometimes full-time, depending on size and complexity of the estate.
- If your spouse is your executor, and close to the same age as you, it is wise to name a child or friend as back-up. You are allowed to name up to four executors.
- Someone with sound financial sense and experience. The job of executor is always about the money.
- Someone with compassion. This is a difficult and detailed administrative job, but at its core, it’s about the people you love. Your executor should have the ability to be caring and compassionate during an emotional time.
- Choose a person who will get the job done.
The Perfect Executor:
- Enjoys paperwork and phone calls,
- Thrives on attention to detail,
- Possesses personal skills of defusing impatient and emotional relatives,
- Lives in the same province as deceased,
- Can put emotions aside and focus on facts and figures.
- Locate and read the last will.
- Ensure that funeral arrangements are complete.
- Meet with the solicitor who drafted the will and attend to immediate needs.
- Compile a complete inventory of estate assets.
- Protect estate by ensuring property is in safekeeping and properly insured.
- Protect and preserve any active business interests.
- Pay any debts and make arrangements for payment of any ongoing debts, such as mortgages.
- Obtain particulars of estate assets, such as balances in bank accounts and value of personal property.
- Apply for insurance proceeds, employee benefits and pension payouts from government and private pensions.
- Locate witnesses to the will and obtain Affidavit of Execution of Will.
- Advertise for creditors and claimants where necessary.
- Settle any claims made against the estate.
- Complete the application for probate and submit to the court.
- Complete and submit all necessary paperwork for each asset to have it transferred to the surviving party.
- Invest and manage the estate until it is finally disbursed.
- Deliver personal property and other specific gifts to the appropriate beneficiary.
- Collect all debts, moneys, or property owing to or belonging to the estate.
- Arrange for the sale of any assets that need to be disposed.
- Manage any trust. This includes the necessary bookkeeping, income, and capital payments, investment decision, accounting to the court and filing tax returns.
- Prepare and submit all tax returns.
- Obtain a tax clearance certificate and releases from all the beneficiaries.
- Distribute residue of the estate to the beneficiaries.
Your lawyer, accountant and corporate or professional trustee may assist you with many of these duties. This is only a summary of the potential duties and some many not apply to your situation, while others that are not mentioned may apply.
Funeral Planning Guide
Here are some of the requirements, decisions, and choices to be made when someone dies. Advance funeral planning tells your loved ones what you want, and what you don’t want.
1. Information required by Vital Statistics
- Full legal name on birth certificate
- Home address and phone
- Health care number
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Legal marital status
- Main occupation while working
- Spouse’s name (female maiden name)
- Father’s name and birthplace
- Mother’s name, maiden name, and birthplace
- Name of executor or next-of-kin
- Main contact person and contact information
2. Funeral Arrangements: Decisions and Choices
- Choice of funeral home
- Do I want Burial or Cremation?
- Do I want a Funeral or Memorial Service?
- Location of service
- What is my faith or religion?
- Choose casket for burial
- Choose cremation container
- Choose urn for cremation
- Do I want a Viewing / Visitation?
- Location of viewing
- If viewing, open or closed casket?
- Do I want to be embalmed?
- Do I want a Prayer Service?
- Choose readings, poems, prayers
- Choose music
- Choose celebrant, clergy, or presider for service
- Slide presentation
- Memorial Signing Book prepared
- Memorial cards printed
- Photographs for display
- Photos/production of digital slide presentation
- Write obituary
- Names of children, grandchildren, and siblings
- Pallbearers, actual and honorary
- Parking facilities
- Luncheon or catering
- Instructions for cremated remains
- Clothing for deceased
- Reception – location
- Payment to funeral home
3. Cemetery Arrangements: Decisions and Choices
- Purchase burial plot
- Purchase burial vault or mausoleum tomb
- Timing of burial
- Purchase niche or plot for urn
- Graveside service
- Celebrant, clergy, or presider
- Purchase grave marker or plaque
- Payment for cemetery
Biggest Mistakes Executors Make
Here are a few articles citing the biggest mistakes executors make, but it may not be necessary to even read them. Sometimes the title of the article or the point being made is enough to help avoid problems.
Three of the Biggest Mistakes Executors Make
From Persona Law Group of Ontario (personalawgroup.com)
- Keeping poor records
- Paying estate expenses out of own money
Top Five Mistakes Made by Executors
From Estate Law Canada (estatelawcanada.blogspot.ca)
- Ignoring inconvenient or unpopular parts of the Will
- Keeping secrets and failing to communicate
- Treating estate money as their own
- Failing to deal with debts and taxes before paying beneficiaries
- Trying to do everything cheaply
Five mistakes that Estate Executors Make
From Globe and Mail – article 4493068 (www.theglobeandmail.com)
- They don’t follow the will
- They don’t keep beneficiaries updated
- They’re bad bookkeepers
- They don’t get valuations
- They don’t keep arms-length relationships
Why Write a Will?
A properly written will is a legal document that carries power in a court of law. All legal documents have a formal structure, and are written in concise, professional language to eliminate any potential for misinterpretation. This ensures that your hard-earned financial assets and valuable possessions go precisely to where and to whom you want them to go.
Whether from your own planning perspective, or from the perspective of handling someone else’s estate, it’s important to understand why a properly written will is essential and pivotal to the accurate and smooth handling of your funds and possessions after death.
Why do we procrastinate about writing a will?
Despite the power of a will, over half of all Canadians do not have a dependable will. Why not?
- Some people still begrudge the costs (both financial and time-wise) associated with creating one. Choosing a cheap hammer might make sense for a small job; choosing a cheap solution to writing a will opens up a huge arena for error and misunderstanding, and gives a shaky foundation to a legal process that, by its nature is complicated, time-consuming, and important.
- Writing a will can feel very intimidating. The job seems to be full of difficult decisions, details, and costs. We don’t know where to begin, so we don’t.
- Every will needs to be reviewed at least every ten years. Out-dated wills are the cause of much confusion and frustration.
- Some people write a will themselves from a store-bought, generic template. There’s nothing wrong with generic templates, however, if one small, legal detail is neglected, the entire document can become useless and counterproductive. If you go this route, it’s worth paying a few dollars for a notary or lawyer to review it, and assure you it’s airtight.
It’s not hard to understand why people avoid writing a will, but think of it this way. Every decision that we avoid now will get passed on down to the people we care about. Instead of being remembered for our good qualities, our legacy becomes a mucky mess of unfinished business that can take years to up. If people don’t resent us when we’re alive, they certainly will be resentful if the mess negatively affects them.
A lawyer or notary does cost money, but a good one will take time to teach, answer questions, and offer choices that address your particular situation. Solid legal advice is worth twice the price, more valuable than money, if it gives us assurance that our loved ones are properly guided and protected when we’re not around.
Glossary of Legal Terms
Advance Healthcare Directive
(Also known as Living Will, Personal Directive, Advance Directive, Medical Directive, or Advance Decision)
A legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.
A person appointed to act for another in business, financial, or legal matters.
Power of Attorney
A document that gives someone the legal power to take care of financial and legal matters for you. It ends when you become incapable.
Enduring Power of Attorney
A document that gives someone the legal power to act on someone else’s behalf in legal and financial matters, which, unlike other kinds of Power of Attorney, can continue in force after the person granting it loses mental capacity. This document can be used to manage the affairs of people who have lost the ability to deal with their own affairs without the need to apply to the Court of Protection.
The ability to understand the nature and effects of one’s acts.
The net worth of any person, dead or alive, at any point in time. It is the sum of a person’s assets – legal rights, interests, and entitlements to property of any kind – less all liabilities at that time.
A person or institution appointed to carry out the terms of a Will.
A court procedure by which a Will is proved to be valid or invalid.
An individual or institution that manages the property as provided by the terms of the document that created the arrangement.