Arranging for a Funeral as an Executor: 5 Important Considerations

After a loved one dies, who is responsible for arranging the funeral?

If you have been named the executor of an estate, you have the first right to make arrangements for the funeral. This is why it’s very important to locate your loved one’s will as soon as possible to learn who was named as executor and any instructions given for his or her funeral.

Deciding how to honour and celebrate the life of a loved one must be done right away and in the midst of grief. To help you during this difficult time, here are some important considerations:

  1. Who pays?

Ultimately, the estate of the deceased will pay for the funeral arrangements. Before the will is probated, however, a family member or the executor may have to pay in advance and then be reimbursed by the estate after probate. Alternatively, banks may pay for funeral expenses out of the deceased’s account before probate if you provide a death certificate, the original will, and the bill from the funeral home.

The executor can apply for the Canada Pension Plan death benefit within 60 days of the date of death. If eligible, this one-time, lump-sum payment of $2,500 is made directly to the estate. More information can be found here.

If the person responsible cannot afford the cost of the funeral arrangements, British Columbia residents can apply to the provincial government for a supplement. If eligible, the supplement will cover the funeral provider’s basic service fee (up to $1285), as well as part of the cost of transportation. See here for more information.

  1. What if the executor can’t arrange the funeral, or won’t?

The executor has the first right to give instructions, but if they are unwilling or unable to do so, provincial law sets out who is next in line. In British Columbia, the right passes first to the spouse of the deceased, then to an adult child of the deceased.

If you agree to arrange the funeral there are several important decisions that need to be made.

  1. Do I have to choose between burial and cremation?

If the will maker indicated a preference in their will or in a pre-arranged funeral services contract, that preference between burial and cremation can be legally binding if it is not unreasonable or impracticable. If the will maker did not include a preference in their will then you have to decide after consulting with their relatives.

All other preferences are not legally binding, but it is best to try to honor the will maker’s wishes when possible.

  1. What does the funeral home do?

After a loved one dies, the family would not normally be able to receive the remains of the deceased from the hospital or obtain necessary permits themselves. The best person to talk with about funeral arrangements is the funeral director at the funeral home of your choice. These licensed professionals guide you through the process and help you make the right decisions for your loved one. It is worth it to take the time and call several different options, to learn about the services they offer and at what prices. Funeral homes in BC are legally required to provide you with an itemized price list upon request, so do not hesitate to ask.

Funeral homes today assist with a wide variety of duties. After consulting with the responsible party, the funeral home will arrange for the safe storage and transportation of the body from the place of death to the funeral home. After the body has been transported to the funeral home, the funeral director will set a convenient time for you and your family to come to the funeral home and make further arrangements. It may also be possible for the funeral director to meet you in a location that you feel more comfortable.

As discussed above, you and the family will need to decide between burial or cremation, and what will happen with the remains. Nowadays many funeral homes are offering green burials, where the body is returned to the earth in a biodegradable casket. Cremated ashes can be placed in a permanent cemetery, or scattered on land, sea, or air, as long as you have the required permissions. Funeral directors are also able to assist with planning a personalized service for your loved one, to honor and celebrate their memory. You can also hold a service in another location, such as a church or community building.

The cost of a funeral varies greatly depending on what happens with the remains and whether there is a service or not. On average, a traditional funeral (including embalming, burial, visitation and a service) costs around $12,000 in BC. Cremation without a service and without a cemetery plot costs far less, with an average cost of $2,400 in BC. See here for a more detailed breakdown of the costs of funerals across Canada.

  1. What happens now?

After the funeral, it is now your duty as executor to administer the estate and carry out the wishes of the will maker. If the estate is worth more than $25,000, you will normally need to apply to the court to probate the will. While it is possible to apply for probate and administer the estate without the help of a lawyer, it is a formal procedure that can take a long time. If you miss a deadline or forget to notify a beneficiary it can delay the process and potentially expose you to liability.  Our law firm can take care of probate for you or help you with steps, to make the process efficient for everyone involved.

If you have any questions regarding probate, please call us at 778-785-8444, we are ready to help.