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How much does it cost to die?

cost of death

To have a plan in all aspects of life is essential, but to plan for the day when you are no longer alive is, even more, pressing for Canadians. More than half of Canadians don’t have a will, meaning they don’t have plans for the costs their families will take on in case of their death. 

A common reason for people who don’t have a will is the cost associated, but what they may not realize is that not having a will can be the most costly expense of all. When you have a will, the first step is to divvy up the estate of the person who passed away as they wish. Without a will, you will have died intestate. Your assets will then enter probate, which means they will be distributed based on provincial law. Common expenses associated with the lack of a will include legal claims and paying outstanding debts.

You see after you die, it’s not as simple as planning a ceremony and saying goodbye. Death has many expenses attached to it. Here’s a summary of how much it costs to die and what to expect.

Additional Reading for Smart Estate Planning

Death certificate

In the case of death, there are three different types of official documents you can order. These include a death certificate, a photocopy registration of the death, and a photocopy of a medical certificate of death. The costs for these documents vary from province to province. In Alberta, each of the papers cost $20. In British Columbia, it costs $27. In Ontario, these documents range from $15 to $45, and in Manitoba, the certificates range from $65 to $105. Each provincial government website has information and costs associated. 

Transfer of the body

Each time you move a body, there is a fee associated. Even from the place of death to the crematorium will cost money. This cost, of course, will depend on the number of transfers you require to move and how far you’ll move the body, but can typically cost $100 and up. Although still expensive, nothing tops the expense that would be transporting a body from a different country, which ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. 

Ceremonies and funerals

In 2017, the Toronto Star and CBC Marketplace found that death is a $1.6-billion industry in Canada. In a country where there are around 269,000 deaths each year, they discovered that Ontarians alone had invested $2 billion in pre-arrangements. 

A funeral alone in Canada can cost upwards of $8,000, and this is before you add in the cost of burial choice. A funeral is the ceremony of your choice – whether it be a service or a celebration of life — whereas a burial choice is the final resting place for the deceased. Keep in mind that there are more affordable options, such as organizing a service at a local community hall or church rather than a funeral home. 

Burial choice

The options for burial are quite vast these days, ranging from the traditional underground burial and cremation, all the way to tree planting and body donation. Not every option has a fee associated. However, most do — and most are quite costly. The most expensive option is a traditional burial. CanadianFunerals.com estimates costs anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on a variety of decisions you’ll make, including but not limited to: the type of casket, casket liner, vault, cemetery plot and a grave marker. 

Cremations can be quite affordable in comparison, at an average total of $600. However, that price can get as high as $4,500. In Quebec, low-cost cremation can be obtained for $587, whereas in New Brunswick, you pay nearly $3,000. Just be sure that whichever you decide, you allocate some of your finances to cover these costs or that you have appropriate life insurance. 

Burial location or plot

If you choose to purchase a plot in a graveyard, or near a family member, the cost of your burial location can become expensive. However, single plots can be just as costly. According to inmemory.ca, the average cost of a burial plot in Canada is $2,800 – but this price can range from $500 to $10,000. If you require a burial plot for an urn, the cost falls in at a lower average of $1,100. 

It’s important to remember, though, that the cost of these plots, do not then include the fee to bury or obtain all proper documentation, which can cost an additional $800 and up. 

What’s the total cost of death in Canada?

Are you dying to know? Not literally, of course. According to the research, the average death in Canada costs $8,500. However, this can vary based on where you live. Please take a look at our infographic to get a rough estimate of how much you’ll need to save to prepare for your funeral costs and arrangements. 

how much does it cost to die in canada

You can’t afford not to plan ahead

Having a will and estate plan can significantly improve the stress that your friends and family will face upon your death. Your estate will need to cover debts, taxes and funeral costs before any beneficiary will receive an inheritance — as well as your funeral. “In the immediate aftermath of a death, your assets are completely frozen before the courts appoint an estate administrator,” says Tim Hewson, President of LegalWills.ca. 

Hewson says this can take some time because loved ones have to prove that there is no will. In this case, different people may present themselves to the courts as a prospective estate administrator, and make an appointment. “This means that bills will not be paid, and nobody will take responsibility to handle the estate finances for some time,” says Hewson. 

Depending on your situation, your estate distribution may not go as you’d like it if you don’t have a will. The government will distribute estates according to intestate succession rules in your province. Hewson says he has never seen any married person with children write a will with a distribution plan that matched the government. To avoid the stress and difficulty that your family and friends may face upon your death, you should prepare your estate plan. Being organized is the best way to control your finances and belongings — even if you’re not there to do it yourself. 

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Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of MixedUpMoney.com. She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.