Plan Ahead, Do it Wisely and Beware the Pitfalls.
Planning in advance can be a wise decision. By making calm and contemplative end-of-life decisions in advance, instead of them making decisions during a grieving stage, preplanning cremation or funeral arrangements can take some burden off your loved ones.
However, there can be pitfalls associated with prepaying for these arrangements if you have not been made aware of some of the common sales practices. It is also important to be aware and have your family understand the plan and the legislative components in your province to protect you.
In Manitoba, you should know:
Most funeral homes (and all corporately-owned funeral providers in Winnipeg) employ salespeople who are paid on a commission basis. A few of these salespeople are knowledgeable but many have not been in the business long and only know what sales sheets and sales managers have provided.
The Prearranged Funeral Services Act of Manitoba requires anyone selling prearranged cremation or funeral services to have an up-to-date license. You can ask to see their current license.
If you prepay your cremation or funeral arrangements, you have only ten days to get your money back should you change your mind (as per the Consumer Protection Act).
Under the Prearranged Funeral Services Act, should you change your mind after the initial ten day money-back period, you will forfeit up to $250 as an administration fee. Additional service charges may also be lost if you are prepaying in installments over time.
A funeral home may be able to withdraw your interest accrued in-trust on prearranged plans - be sure to read the fine print on this so you understand if your funeral home does this.
No other cancellation charges are allowed - if someone charges you additional fees to cancel a prearranged cremation or funeral plan, you should make a formal complaint in writing to the Funeral Board of Manitoba: (http://www.gov.mb.ca/funeraldirectorsboard/complaints.html).
Once a complaint is filed, an inspector will visit the service provider, write a review and provide recommendations. You are entitled to see this review.
Many other questions are not answered in legislation. For example: what happens if the funeral home is closed and your agreement is handed off to another establishment? How much of your money will you get back if you move to another city and the funeral director you have paid is unable to provide services? These are all important aspects of preplanning which need to be addressed before any money changes hands.
The answers to these questions are not the same for everyone and vary greatly depending on the funeral provider in question and the needs of the family. Depending on one's age, health and financial situation there are options available which will minimize the risks and save you thousands of dollars in the long term.
We can help you determine the best course of action based on the actual needs of your family. If you are considering pre-planning, contact us. We know what to watch for and we can guide you through the process so that only the services and merchandise which are needed are actually purchased.