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The Cost of Death:

Grief-stricken when a loved one dies, you want to do the right thing by planning a perfect funeral. But it's easy to overspend. Patrick Langston talks to the pros to find out how to curb costs

By Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen


To paraphrase country singer Hank Williams, none of us is getting out of this world alive. The question is, what will it cost to get out?


In 2010, the average full funeral in Ontario cost $7,500, according to Ontario's Board of Funeral Services. Add a catered reception, burial or cremation, interment and a grave marker or headstone and that can quickly balloon to $10,000 or more.


But funerals seem to be an essential part of letting go, a way of both managing the chaos of death and celebrating the life that's passed.


With that in mind, what are your options when arranging a funeral?


TRADITIONAL

A traditional funeral usually means a visitation, sometimes with an open casket, in a funeral home. There may also be a church, chapel or memorial service.

This is the most expensive type of funeral and when you're griefstricken and anxious to do the right thing, it's easy to overspend.


"Emotion can be tied up in it," agrees Brian McGarry, chief executive of Ottawa's Hulse, Playfair and McGarry funeral home. He suggests renting a casket for the visitation as a way to control costs. The rented casket has an inner liner that is burned along with the body, leaving the fancy outer shell for reuse.


Rentals start around $1,500. That's a chunk of change, but as McGarry points out "if you buy the same casket, it's two to three times that."


Critics routinely accuse funeral homes of charging an exorbitant mark-up on caskets, which can equal one-third or more of the total funeral cost. Companies such as Casket Outlet (casket outlet.ca) sell visitation-suitable caskets for about $1,200 and up with free delivery. Funeral homes are not allowed to refuse a casket from an outside source like this unless there is a safety or other serious concern, but you are counting on timely delivery with this option.


When it comes to comparing funeral costs, some homes, like Cole Funeral Services in Carp (cole funeralservices.com), publish their fees. Others don't.

"It's the Wild West out there," concludes Mary Nash, president of the non-profit Funeral Information Society of Ottawa. "Funeral homes group things differently so it's hard to compare costs."


It costs $25 to join the society (my funeralplan.org) for 10 years. Members get information about funeral arrangements and options in an annual newsletter, access to a summary of current funeral and related costs in Ottawa and other benefits.






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