Step 1. Locate the will
The deceased may have left a will. Locating it tells you who’s named as executor. The deceased may have also expressed their preferences for organ donation, burial or cremation, and their funeral service in their will.
The will may be in the deceased’s home, in a safety deposit box, or at the office of the lawyer or notary public who drafted it.
If you still can’t find the will, you can search the wills registry maintained by the Vital Statistics Agency. If the deceased filed a notice with the registry, the search will indicate the location of the original will.
Step 2. Plan the funeral or memorial service
Funerals can celebrate the life of the deceased, provide comfort for the living, and offer community support to grieving family and friends.
In planning the funeral service, consider:
- Location. Common options include a funeral home, a church, a community facility, your home, or the home of a friend or relative.
- Type of service. Ideally, the service will reflect the lifestyle and personality of the deceased. Options include a graveside service (in which the urn or casket is buried), a memorial service or celebration of life (services without a burial), or a direct cremation or burial (a disposition without a formal ceremony).
- Urn or marker. If there’s an urn or a grave marker, do you want to display it at the service?
Step 3. Make arrangements to pay for the funeral
The person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the bill. Check your loved one’s personal papers to see if they made a preneed contract. If they did, they’d have paid for the whole cost of the funeral in advance.
If the funeral wasn’t paid for in advance, ask the funeral home for an invoice. Take the invoice to the financial institution where the deceased did their banking. Most banks will pay the funeral home directly from the deceased’s account. The bank may wish to see a copy of the death certificate and the will, if there is one.
If you pay the funeral home’s bill out of your own pocket, you can be paid back from the deceased’s estate. But you’ll need to wait until the estate is settled to receive reimbursement.
You may be able to get financial help
The BC government may assist when a person dies and there’s no money to pay for funeral expenses. The government reviews the financial situation of the deceased’s estate. They also look at the survivors’ ability to pay. Any funeral expenses covered are a debt due to the government and might be recovered.
If the deceased served in the military and meets the financial criteria, you may be able to get help with funeral expenses from the Last Post Fund. This organization provides grants to the family of a qualifying veteran. The grants go toward funeral and burial expenses when the estate cannot afford to pay.
If the deceased was a child, some funeral homes have a compassionate policy for child deaths.
The Crime Victim Assistance Program may provide benefits to help cover the funeral expenses of a victim of crime.
Step 4. Make arrangements to pay any cemetery costs
The cost of the funeral service doesn’t include the cost of a cemetery lot or a memorial marker (for example, a headstone or plaque). You must arrange for these separately.
Before purchasing a memorial marker, make sure it meets the requirements of the cemetery selected. Most memorial dealers can tell you the requirements for local cemeteries.