Funerals can be expensive, ranging from $1,500 to more than $15,000. In Nova Scotia, the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia estimated the average cost of a funeral within the province is around $7,000, based on a 2019 poll of its the association's membership. And that does not include expenses for things such as obituaries, flowers or headstones.
For some families, it can be challenging to come up with enough money to pay for funeral arrangements. Fortunately, many government financial assistance programs are available to help cover these costs. Below are federal and provincial funeral finance assistance programs available to Nova Scotia residents.
Nova Scotia's provincial assistance programs
Income Assistance (IA) is a program offered through the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services to help those unable to support themselves or their family. Eligible applicants can receive special needs assistance which can help with funeral and burial costs.
The amount available to residents for burial costs is not listed on the Nova Scotia website, but according to a CBC report, residents can receive up to $3,800, plus taxes for funeral expenses and related services. The remaining costs are the responsibility of the individual or their family.
A person is eligible to apply for Income Assistance in Nova Scotia if:
- They are a resident of Nova Scotia.
- They are 19 years old or over, or 16 to 18 years of age in certain situations
- They need financial support to pay for basic needs.
- They have tried to find work or another source of income (unless it is not possible for at this time).
A surviving spouse or parent of a deceased person or next of kin can apply to IA for assistance with funeral expenses of a loved one, where eligible.
Existing IA clients that need information can contact their caseworker or call 1-877-424-1177 to request special assistance.
To become an IA client, apply by calling the number above. Hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 7 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. An applicant can visit a Community Services office and call the intake line from Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Workplace Compensation Board Survivor Benefits
If a worker dies from a workplace injury, the spouse and/or dependents are entitled to various benefits available from the Workplace Compensation Board Survivor Benefits. These include:
- A one-time lump-sum benefit of $15,000.
- Funeral expenses up to $5,000.
- Survivor benefits for spouses and dependent children.
- Benefits for other dependents, depending on the situation.
- Survivor benefits are also only payable until age 65 — then an annuity is payable.
Learn more about these benefits by contacting a representative on the WBC Nova Scotia website.
A pension plan is a benefit that provides employees with a source of income after retirement. Contributions made by workers are set aside to fund post-work expenses. In many cases, pension plans include survivor benefits available to a worker's spouse and/or dependents after the worker dies. These funds can be used to help fund funeral arrangements.
Survivors receive the death benefit monthly or as a lump sum after death. The benefit can also help fund a portion of the funeral arrangements.
In Nova Scotia, the following provincial plans are available for eligible workers. You can find information in each outlining available survivor benefit options:
- Teachers' Pension Plan – Survivor Options.
- Public Service Superannuation Plan – Planning for Your Loved Ones.
- MLA Pension Plan – Survivor Options.
- Sydney Steel Corporation Superannuation Fund.
Body Donation in Nova Scotia
Body donation may also be an option for those that cannot afford traditional funeral services and want to give back to the scientific community and help with research and training for current and future medical professionals.
In Nova Scotia, the human body donation program is operated by Dalhousie University in Halifax, but accepts body donations from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
Those interested in the program need to complete the Donation Form and Cremation form with their next of kin. Completed forms can be emailed to email@example.com or sent by post to the address on the form.
A completed form indicates the desire to donate, however, the acceptance decision is determined at the time of death. Backup funeral arrangements should also be made in case a body is not accepted.
If the body is accepted into the program, costs for cremation and interment of ashes in the Dalhousie Memorial Garden or shipping of ashes to next of kin are covered. Learn more about the body donation program on the Dalhousie University website.
Affording the cost of a will
An essential document required for post-death arrangements is a will. A last will and testament is a legal document outlining a deceased person's wishes on how their estate and assets will be distributed after death. It also outlines which person or people will oversee settlement and distribution.
The preparation of a will and testament in Canada costs around $400, but can fall under or above that range depending on complexity. Dying without a will can make post-death arrangements difficult. Fortunately, the Dalhousie Wills Project provides Wills, Power of Attorney, and Personal Directives and related services free to low-income seniors.
To be eligible for the project, a Nova Scotia resident must be:
- 65 years and older (age is somewhat flexible.)
- Have no ownership of real property such as land or house, etc. (This is a strict policy.)
- Have an annual income below $25,000 (This is somewhat flexible.)
- Have personal assets totalling less than $65,000 (This is somewhat flexible.)
To learn more about this project or to apply, call the organization at 902-494-3704 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The program says on its website that email is preferred.
Here are the federal programs that Nova Scotian residents are eligible for as Canadians.
Canadian Pension Plan (CPP)
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Death Benefit is a federally mandated service that provides survivors with financial support after a family member has died.
Under the program, there are three types of CPP financial support payments available to families:
- A one-time payment to the estate of a deceased person of $2,500 which can be used to help pay for a funeral.
- A monthly pension payable to the legal spouse or common-law partner of the deceased contributor.
- A pension payable to a dependent child under 18 or a child under 25 attending a recognized school or university.
To qualify for the CPP death benefit, a deceased person must have made contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for at least 10 years or one-third of the calendar years in their contributory period for the base CPP and no less than three calendar years.
A worker can apply for the CPP benefit online or in-person at a Service Canada location. Learn more about the application process in this article: How the Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit Can Help Fund a Funeral or the Government of Canada website.
Last Post Fund for Veterans
The Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) funeral and burial program is a benefit that helps ensure Veterans have dignified funeral or burial services. It is administered by the Last Post Fund, a non-profit organization serving veterans since 1909.
Service eligibility for the Funeral and Burial Program extends to:
- Canadian Armed Forces Veterans or any predecessor Naval, Army or Air Forces of Canada or Newfoundland
- Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans of the Second World War or the Korean War
- Allied Veterans who served with the Allied Forces during the Second World War or the Korean War
If the individual meets the criteria, eligibility will be established through financial-means testing to determine the financial need or as a "matter of right." Matter-of-right is when the Veterans Association Canada determines that the cause of death is due to service.
Assistance will be provided in one of two ways:
- LPF makes the arrangements: Standard funeral services may be provided when the Last Post Fund is contacted, and eligibility is determined before making firm arrangements with a funeral home. The Last Post Fund will contract directly with the funeral home within the maximum amounts set out in the Veterans Burial Regulations.
- Family / Estate makes the arrangements: When arrangements for funeral and burial are made by a Veteran's estate, family, or another person/organization, an application for reimbursement (partial or full) may be made within one year. This reimbursement is subject to the amounts set out in the Veterans Burial Regulations.
Apply for the Last Post Fund benefit online or by phone at 1-800-465-7113. A LPF counselor will respond to applications.
Income Assistance Program (Indigenous Services Canada)
The Income Assistance program provides funds to individuals living on reserve in Canada.
The funds support the basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter; and special needs, including goods and services essential to physical and social well-being.
Eligible expenditures can also include funeral and burial costs. Clients may receive up to $3,500 and no more than $6,000 to repatriate (when applicable) the remains by rail, air, or vehicle transport.
To be eligible for the program, a client must demonstrate:
- They are ordinarily resident on a reserve. This means they live on the reserve or do not maintain a primary resident away from the reserve, or they are off-reserve to obtain required medical care or social service support because there is no reasonably comparable service available on reserve and lived on-reserve immediately before receiving the medical care or social service support.
- They are eligible for basic or special financial assistance.
- They have no other source of funding to meet basic needs.
The application process varies depending on location. Learn more by contacting the local community's band office.
Memorial Grant Program for First Responders
A Memorial Grant Program for First Responders is a benefit offered to the families of first responders who have died as a result of their duties. This includes firefighters, police officers, paramedics, correctional, parole, and probation officers anywhere in Canada and, as such, includes first responders in Nova Scotia.
The program provides a one-time, tax-free direct maximum payment of $300,000 to the beneficiaries of first responders.
The Memorial Grant does not compensate beneficiaries of first responders for monetary loss (income replacement) or serve as life insurance.
Information about this benefit can be found on this website.
Allowance for the Survivor
The Allowance for the Survivor is a monthly payment for eligible Canadians who have lost their spouse. This program is available to people who:
- Are aged 60 to 64.
- Live in Canada.
- Have a spouse or common-law partner that has died, and since their death, they have not remarried or become a common-law partner to another person.
- Have an annual income less than the maximum annual income threshold for the Allowance for the Survivor.
The monthly amount is adjusted from time to time by the program, but as an example, allowance as of April-June 2022, the maximum monthly amount was $1,468.47. Check this website for thresholds and current amounts.
To apply for this benefit, complete the steps outlined in the "Your application" section on the Allowance for the Survivor web page.
Canadian Benefit for Parents of Young Victims of Crime
This benefit is offered to parents or guardians who have lost a child to crime-related circumstances. The death or disappearance of a child can be incredibly devastating and often causes parents to miss work or lose income when coping with the loss. The benefit provides parents going through this with weekly income support.
Eligible parents will are provided with payments of $450 per week, paid every two weeks, for a maximum of 35 weeks over a period of two years. Recipients can choose to stop receiving the benefit or restart at a later date at any time within the two years.
Apply using the online application or by mail using the following forms:
- PYVC – Application guide
- PYVC – Employment form
- PYVC – Incident report form
- PYVC – Consent to release personal information to a designated individual
Payment begins immediately after submission for those eligible.
Lived or Living Outside Canada
If a worker lived or worked both in Canada and in another country or are a survivor of someone who has, they or their survivors may be eligible for pensions and benefits from Canada and the other country because of a social security agreement.
A social security agreement is an international agreement between Canada and another country designed to coordinate the pension programs of the two countries.
Canada has signed social security agreements with several countries that offer comparable pension programs. Learn more about the agreements, eligibility, and the application process on this website.
Additional funeral funding resources
Her are a few more resources that can be helpful in finding funeral funding resources in Canada.
- Government funeral funding programs in Canada
- What if I can't afford to die? Funeral funding ideas in Canada
Our experts at Eirene Cremations are available to answer your questions about cremation and related funeral arrangements. They can also advise you on programs you may be eligible to fund your funeral in Nova Scotia. You can reach us via email at email@example.com or use our contact page. Eirene Cremations operates in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Also see more information about cremation in Nova Scotia.