Making funeral arrangements can be overwhelming and very difficult, whether you are planning ahead or not. Certain aspects of funerals services are regulated in BC to protect you during a vulnerable time. Funeral homes and funeral directors must hold a licence with us, be trained and meet certain requirements.
Have you talked about end-of-life wishes with your loved ones? While these can be uncomfortable conversations, it’s important to have them before it becomes necessary. This can help ensure decisions are made based on information and preferences, as opposed to time constraints and emotions.
Check the licence of a funeral home or provider.
Read the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.
Read the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Regulations
Read the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
There are laws in BC that are there to protect consumers when it comes to funeral services. They:
- Require businesses to:
- Meet certain facility standards
- Give accurate information and obtain approval before performing services
- Provide specific information in the contracts
- Ensure proper authorizations are in place prior to funeral services being delivered
- Ensure the respectful handling of human remains
- Display price lists on their premises
- Keep appropriate records
- Hold prepaid money in trust
- Prohibit unfair practices, including undue pressure (includes solicitation, deceptive and unconscionable practices).
- Restrict when and how salespeople may contact you to sell services.
The law says that a funeral home and/or provider:
- Must provide a current price list, or schedule of rates for the products and services they offer
- Must have an arrangement room that offers privacy to discuss funeral services
- Must provide a catalogue or a display room, which, clearly shows the entire product line of containers and coffins that are offered for sale
- Are not allowed to phone or come to your house to sell to you, unless you invite them to do so. If you want to have a salesperson come to your house, you must request the presentation at least 24 hours in advance.
- Must prominently display the licence they hold with us
A preneed contract provides for cemetery or funeral services for one or more persons who are alive at the time the contract is entered. A preneed contract secures costs at the current rate, even if the funeral takes place many years later. A person may also wish to leave prearrangement information with the funeral home, but not prepay for the services. At need funeral contracts are established after the death has occurred.
When you enter into a contract for funeral services, the contract must include an itemized listing of all goods and services purchased and any other costs involved. Not all costs are guaranteed to stay at the same rate over time. Things like taxes, the cost of a death certificate or a cremation may change. They must explain the details of a refund to you. Make sure you read and understand the terms of the contract before signing. If possible, have a relative, family friend or lawyer look it over with you.
You have the following rights regarding your preneed contract:
- You have 15 days to cancel a preneed contract for any reason and receive a full refund.
- You must get a copy of the preneed contract within 15 days of signing.
- If you don’t get a copy of the contract, you can cancel and get a full refund.
- Be aware that items that are personalized or unique may not be refundable.
Cancelling an at need contract is different. Any cancellation terms are written in the contract so make sure you read all the details before signing it.
When you or a loved one enter into a preneed contract with a funeral provider your money is placed in a preneed trust account. So, what happens to your money?
- The funeral provider must place your money into an interim holding account within five days until the money is placed directly into a trust account.
- Your money must be in a trust account within 20-21 days.
- You must receive notification that money has been deposited into a trust account.
- You may request an annual report of the trust fund account.
Here is a list in order of priority for the person who has control of disposition for the human or cremated remains:
- (a) the personal representative named in the will of the deceased
- (b) the spouse of the deceased
- (c) an adult child of the deceased
- (d) an adult grandchild of the deceased
- (e) if the deceased was a minor, a person who was a guardian who had care and control of the deceased at the date of death
- (f) a parent of the deceased
- (g) an adult sibling of the deceased;
- (h) an adult nephew or niece of the deceased;
- (i) an adult next of kin of the deceased, determined on the basis provided by section 23 (5) of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act
- (j) the minister under the Employment and Assistance Act, or if the Public Guardian and Trustee is administering the estate of the deceased under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, the Public Guardian and Trustee
- (k) an adult person having a personal or kinship relationship with the deceased, other than those referred to in paragraphs (b) to (d) and (f) to (i).
It is important to remember that if the deceased gave written instructions in their will or in a preneed funeral contract regarding their instructions for final disposition (i.e. burial or cremation), then the person with the right to give instructions must follow those instructions unless it could be considered unreasonable, impractical or cause a hardship.
Further information for claiming the right to determine final care:
If the person at the top of the list in the order of priority set out above is unavailable, or unwilling to give instructions, the right to give instructions passes on to the person who is next in rank on the priority list. Should this right not be exercised by the first person identified, it is not transferable by that individual but instead passes to the next person identified on the list.
If under the persons name on the priority list, the right to control the disposition of human remains or cremated remains passes to persons of equal rank (e.g. brothers and sisters), the order of priority is determined in the accordance with the agreement between or among them, or if they can’t agree, the right begins with the eldest of the persons and descends in order of age.
If someone still feels that, despite all of the above, they should be given the sole right to control final wishes they may apply to the Supreme Court to be granted those rights.
Read our consumer tips on funeral services.