Christopher Booth & Stephanie Spiers
For a funeral director, sitting down with a family to finalize prearranged funeral arrangements often leads to the same awkward conversation, and it never gets any easier. A typical discussion tends to play out as follows:
“My mother prepaid all of her arrangements, so I guess all I need to do is sign?”
“Actually, it looks like all the funeral services have been paid for except for the disbursements: the Coroner’s cremation fee, the municipal registration fee and the cremation fee.”
“But all my mom wanted was to be cremated! How can cremation not be included in her prepaid cremation arrangements? It’s the most important part!”
“I understand and I apologize for any confusion. If you look at your mother’s copy of the prearrangement contract, by the asterisk, it states that disbursements are due at the time of need.”
At Eirene, we understand that grieving is a stressful and confusing time that doesn’t need to be made worse by surprises like the one in the conversation above. When end of life care is prepaid, your family should be made aware of what is included and what is not. Most often, disbursements are not included on the prepaid contract. This is where the asterisk comes in. To keep our families informed and to increase transparency in the industry, we want to help you understand what disbursements are and how they work.
What are disbursements?
Disbursements are supplies or services that are not performed by the funeral service provider, but rather an outside agency. The funeral provider collects the fees from the person entering into the contract with them and in turn pays the agencies completing the work. In Ontario, all disbursements are legally required to be performed at cost by the funeral provider, meaning that they cannot profit from the supplies or services. Disbursements must be shown as a separate section on the funeral services contract.
Certain disbursements are absolute requirements for disposition, such as the cremation fee when a funeral home contracts out a local crematorium. Other disbursements include the registration of the death with the provincial government and the Coroner’s certificate for cremation (a document stating that the coroner has no cause to investigate a death further). Flowers, newspaper notices, clergy honorariums and cemetery fees may also be found in the disbursement section of a contract.
How can the cremation fee not be included in the prepaid cremation package?
The Funeral Services and Burial Act states that a funeral establishment cannot take prepaid funds for cremation fees unless they can guarantee the cost against future inflation. Most funeral establishments are reluctant to do so because they don’t want to take the risk of losing money when fees increase in the future. However, this problem can be easily solved by inquiring with the crematorium as to whether or not they take prepaid funds. If they do, you can make a separate payment to the crematorium for the cost of the cremation fee. Other necessary disbursements, such as the registration fee and the coroner’s certificate, are provided by government agencies and cannot be prepaid directly to the province. However, these fees are typically the most minimal. Registration fees vary by the municipality, but typically range from $25 to $50, and the coroner’s certificate carries a fee of $75.
Keeping an eye out for the asterisk
When prearranging end of life care, asking questions is very important. You should feel comfortable with the people prearranging your funeral and your funeral director should be willing to answer any questions you may have about the process. After all, even though the money may be set aside for the future, the money still belongs to you. Your director should walk you through everything on the contract, but now you know how to avoid the number one frustration of people who have pre-paid for their services: ask about the disbursements.
Eirene makes sure that all of your cremation costs are covered when you enter into a contract with us. Our cremation package is one, all-inclusive price, and includes everything you need for a direct cremation. There are no hidden surprises or added charges. Remember, no funeral director should ever tell you, “Your loved one prepaid their entire cremation package!” ***Cremation Not Included***