Is My Prepaid Funeral Guaranteed?
A recent Toronto Star and CBC Marketplace investigation found unethical sales practices at funeral homes associated with a large national chain. In particular, the article suggests that people who have made prepaid funeral arrangements could be hit with unexpected fees and aggressive sales techniques after their loved one dies.
If you’ve made or plan to make prepaid funeral arrangements, this report will be of concern to you. In fact, Fawcett Funeral Home has received a number of calls and emails from clients with questions arising from the Toronto Star article and Marketplace report.
Fawcett Funeral Home administrator Bobbi Scully says it’s important to recognize there are three types of funeral homes.
Types of Funeral Homes
Fawcett Funeral Home is a traditional, family-owned funeral home. “We don’t have sales quotas or any pressure to sell a really expensive casket,” Scully says. Her sister, April Myles, owns their Flesherton-based funeral home. Before that, their father, Rob Fawcett, was the owner. Before that, it was their grandfather, Al Fawcett. As kids, Bobbi says, the whole family would fall silent when the phone rang in case the caller was seeking funeral services. The family is still available to clients 24 hours a day.
The second type of funeral home is the corporate funeral home, belonging to a national or international chain. Each home may have its own name, but be owned and operated by a chain. “They may have a lot of pressure to meet sales quotas and sell a certain type of funeral,” Bobbi says. “It’s similar to a bank having their employees push product. These funeral homes are usually big. They might have a massive facility to host a luncheon and need to sell at a higher level to warrant that space.”
The third type of funeral home is a transfer service, which provides transportation of the deceased’s body but does not offer other services. “They are generally inexpensive but we can compete,” Bobbi says. “For a couple of hundred dollars more, you get the service and compassion of someone involved in your community. We can help you with extras such as filling out CPP forms and suggesting bereavement services.”
The Toronto Star/CBC Marketplace investigation had reporters pose as prospective customers at 11 southern Ontario funeral homes. According to the article, “reporters encountered high-pressure sales practices, significant price markups and aggressive upselling” at several funeral homes. Some funeral homes marked up the prices of less expensive caskets at a higher rate. At Fawcett Funeral Home, the markup on caskets and urns is standard and the same no matter which model you purchase.
Is My Pre-Arranged Funeral Guaranteed?
Anyone can keep their funeral wishes on file with zero cost. The funeral home will keep a record of what type of funeral you want, what your obituary should say and what newspapers it should run in.
If you choose to pay for the funeral ahead of time, your investment is guaranteed. Once you establish the price for the products and services you would like, the funeral home will invest your money in your name in a fund approved by the Government of Ontario. “The interest earned by the investment in the fund is there to offset the cost of inflation,” Bobbi says. If the costs of your funeral have risen behind what the investment and interest amounts to, the funeral home must cover the difference.
The guaranteed funeral costs are those that cover the funeral home services and merchandise. These are expenses such as transporting and preparation of the body, staff services, use of facilities and purchase of caskets or urns.
Expenses that aren’t guaranteed are external costs that a funeral home cannot control, such as the cost of the cemetery, flowers, ministers or food. If you choose to pay towards these items today, through the funeral home, the cost will be calculated at today’s rates and your funds will earn interest. However, if those expenses ultimately cost more than the investment, you could owe more.
Fawcett Funeral Home does not shame or pressure clients to buy expensive or unnecessary products and services. “For example, I would not pressure a family to buy an urn, especially if they were scattering” Bobbi says.
How can I protect myself?
Take somebody with you to the arrangement office if you prepay your funeral so you have a witness to the agreement. And make sure that your executor has a copy of the funeral arrangements.
The funeral industry in Ontario is governed by the province’s Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, enforced by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario. Read this guide outlining your rights before you enter into a contract with a funeral home.
“Choose a family funeral home with people you trust. We have a strict no-pressure policy and affordable merchandise. We work very hard to be able to offer high-quality services for reasonable prices,” Bobbi says.
If you have any questions or concerns about your prepaid funeral at Fawcett's or elsewhere, please do not hesitate to contact us. We're always happy to help guide you through decision making in a transparent and friendly way.
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