What if You Can’t Afford to Die? Tips for Funding Funeral Costs

What if You Can’t Afford to Die? Tips for Funding Funeral Costs
If you can't afford a funeral for a loved one, here are options including government programs and related funds that can help cover final expenses.
7 minute read

Anita Chauhan

Losing someone close to you is extremely difficult, but the realization that there is not enough money for the funeral can make things even worse. Funerals can sometimes take you by surprise — the death was perhaps unexpected, or the funeral cost is simply higher than you or your family can afford.

If there is not enough money to pay for a funeral, there are some options you can explore. Here are some of the ways you can reduce and minimize funeral costs so you can focus on your grief and support your grieving family and friends.

Tips for Keeping Funeral Costs in Check


Unfortunately, funerals in Canada can be pricey. Even a full, yet modest funeral can cost $10,000 or more, especially if burial is the preferred choice. Funeral homes, caskets, viewings, gravestones and embalming can make even the simplest funeral out of reach.

To keep costs as low as possible, consider what is called direct cremation. This is a dignified way to give your loved one a funeral when family finances are tight or when you want simplicity.

For example, at Eirene Cremations, which serves residents of Ontario (and as of the Spring of 2022, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia), an all inclusive direct cremation package is $2,500.  Our company also offers payment plans to help families fund their loved one's funeral. You can reach us to discuss here or start arrangements here.

What Funeral Assistance Help is Available?

If you can't afford to pay for a funeral, there are several options you may want to explore, including payment plans, crowdfunding, and government benefits and social service programs. These cost-saving funeral strategies are outlined below:

Funeral payment plans

Funeral payment plans are a good solution to spread the cost of the funeral, but you can generally only apply for them if you have a good credit score. That said you first call should be to us here at Eirene as we have several strategies we can offer including a helpful payment plan for our direct cremation package.

Alternatively, you could look into personal loans that allows you to receive money in your account the same or next day. Make sure you look carefully at the rates, fees, and requirements, as it's easy to make mistakes when you're grieving.

Crowdfund the funeral

Setting up a crowdfund online is an easy way to accept donations from family, friends, and even strangers. If you can't cover the cost of a funeral yourself, you can raise the funds through crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. These platforms make it easy to share your story and share links on social media asking friends and family to contribute.

Government funeral funding  and social services programs

There is a variety of government programs and social service programs that you can apply for to help fund a funeral.

You can start with this article: Government funeral assistance for end of life expenses or you can also see our Social Services page which has some additional useful resources.

We have also outlined below the federal programs in Canada that help a family afford a funeral. We have also summarized government programs in each of the Canadian province and territories below:

Canada

  • The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Death Benefit is a federally mandated service that provides survivors with two kinds of support: A one-time payment to the estate on behalf of the deceased and a monthly pension. Learn more.
  • For funeral programs for soldiers and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, see the applicable section below under "Funeral funds for Canadian soldiers and veterans".
  • This next federal program is not specifically to fund a funeral, but it is connected to financial hardship incurred around the disappearance or death of a child. Parents or legal guardians who have taken time away from work and as such have suffered a loss of income to cope with the death or disappearance of their child or children may be eligible for federal income support of $450 per week. The benefit provides eligible parents with payments of $450 per week, paid every 2 weeks, for a maximum of 35 weeks over a period of 2 years. More info here.
  • You can learn about funeral assistance for Canadian indigenous residents in this article.

Government funeral assistance by Canadian province

Here is a breakdown of various government programs that help with funeral costs in each Canadian province.

Ontario

  • Ontario Works is a government service available to all Ontario residents to help offset the basic expenses of a funeral arrangement for those who cannot afford it. Read more here.

Saskatchewan

  • The Saskatchewan Government provides a basic allowance to cover the expenses of a funeral of a person whose estate is insufficient to pay the costs of a burial or cremation. Application for assistance for funeral expenses should be made within 90 days of death at the province's Social Services department.

Nova Scotia

British Columbia

  • The B.C. government website says: "A supplement may be provided to pay necessary funeral costs of any person who dies in BC if the estate of the deceased person or any responsible person has no immediate resources to meet these costs. There is no requirement that the deceased person, or the person’s family, must be BC Employment and Assistance recipients to qualify for the supplement. Costs are to be recovered whenever possible." Click to learn more.

Alberta

  • The Alberta government has a fund to help pay for basic funeral expenses for those that cannot afford them: "The Public Trustee has an agreement with the funeral homes for funeral services. When the Public Trustee administers an estate that is not large enough to pay for a funeral, the Public Trustee will confirm the amount available in the estate and ask the HFB Unit to arrange for payment of the funeral." Learn more here.

Manitoba

  • The Manitoba Employment and Income Assistance Program has a provision to assist those resident in financial need with basic funeral costs. Learn more here.

Quebec

  • The province of Quebec's Special Funeral Expense Benefit may be granted to someone who has paid or agreed to pay for the funeral expenses upon the death of a person. This benefit is granted if the deceased person did not have the financial resources to pay for his or her funeral expenses. The maximum amount of the special funeral benefit is $2,500. The benefit reimburses all or part of the funeral expenses. If a person qualifies for a death benefit under  Retrait Quebec which is the Quebec Pension Plan. Learn more here.

New Brunswick

  • The New Brunswick government offers a benefit that provides assistance to applicants who need to pay for a funeral for a deceased family member. Eligibility is based on the financial situation of the deceased person as well as the financial situation of the deceased's family members. Learn more here.

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government's Income and Social Supports Division offers assistance with funeral expenses for resident that qualify. See this page for the program reference and contact info.

Nunavut

Northwest Territories

Yukon

  • In the Yukon, the on-reserve Income Assistance Program provides funds to individuals and families who are ordinarily residents on reserve or Status First Nations living in the territory, "as a last resort where all other means of generating income to cover basic needs have been exhausted."

Funeral funds for Canadian soldiers and veterans

If the deceased person served in the Canadian military, it's possible to get a civilian or official funeral paid for by Department of National Defence (DND). You will be responsible for the arrangements, and the DND will cover up to $15,291. Learn more on Canada.ca about the military funeral and burial benefit in Canada. See also the Last Post program.

Release the body for a government paid funeral

If you can't afford to pay anything and don't qualify for any government benefits or related program, your only option left is to release the body by signing a form at your local coroner’s office. This means that the government will arrange a burial or cremation, and you may be able to claim the ashes in exchange for a fee.

This option will be a last resort for some. (That said, be sure to contact us at Eirene, as there are likely better options we can help you with.)

However in the interest of provide all options to our readers, here is the process for donating a body to science in Canada.

Schools or schools of anatomy are dependent upon the generosity of persons willing to donate their bodies to train future medical professionals, enhance skill sets and expand knowledge.

There are currently 17 medical schools or School of Anatomy across Canada that accept donations of bodies for science to train future health professionals.

Body donation means that your whole body is donated to a Schools of Anatomy for educational and research purposes only. It is different than only donating tissue or organs to help save a life.

Typically, the various university schools of anatomy offer what is called a  Service of Gratitude, which is an event that family and friends of the deceased person are invited to attend. Learn more about the service of gratitude event at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

These events are a school’s opportunity to honour and remember their donors and their generosity. Remains are respectfully cremated and are interred in a school’s plot or, they may be returned to the family upon request.

Learn more about donating your body to science in Canada at the following resources:

Have a question about funeral funding? Need support? Ask us.

Our expert team at Eirene can help you review ideas for funeral funding.  Contact us today to access our experts and discuss your options.