Frequently Asked Questions

Often bereaved families have many questions about funeral planning, customs, service options and the personal grieving process. These concerns can be difficult to verbalize in periods of stress and grief. To support families in their funeral planning process, we have developed a FAQ/Information section to help answer questions and provide additional information.

The following is a list of common questions and answers regarding funerals and the bereavement process.

Those interested in receiving more detailed answers to specific questions are invited to contact McInnis & Holloway via e-mail or by calling one of our Calgary offices.

General |  Obituary | Cemetery | Cultural Services | Embalming |  Prior To Passing |  Passing Has Occurred
Estate |  Financial Assistance |  Other Considerations |  Types of Services
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General FAQ

What is a funeral?
A funeral is a ceremony for a deceased person, prior to burial or cremation.  A funeral gives the opportunity for family and friends of the deceased to gather and mourn the passing of their loved one, to share cherished memories, and to celebrate their life.  A funeral is a vital first step in helping the bereaved heal after the loss of someone special.

What type of service should I have?
If no pre-arrangements have been made, the type of service is entirely up to you, but it is best to consider what the deceased may have wanted.  Services are usually held at a funeral home or a place of worship.  There are a wealth of different services, ranging from traditional religious or military services, to something a little more unique.  Our funeral directors are more than happy to work with you to figure out what would be the most appropriate.

Can I personalize a funeral?
Of course you can! In fact, more and more people are opting for non-traditional, personalized services.  There is no one way to celebrate somebody’s life. Let the funeral director know exactly what your desires are and they will honor your wishes.

Do we need to have an obituary notice and what is included in one?
It is highly recommended to have an obituary notice that is either posted in a local newspaper or online.  An obituary lets the public know that a death has occurred, and provides them with information about the service.  Obituaries generally include the deceased’s full name, age, city, and date of birth, as well as the city they were living in when they died.  It also includes the name of the deceased’s spouse, along with the names of anyone else significant in their lives, such as parents, children, or grandchildren.  Space may be limited in a newspaper obituary, but you might also wish to include a short sentiment on the life and legacy of the deceased.  An online obituary or memorial website offers you the chance to add a lot more about the deceased. 

Who are funeral directors and what do they do?
Funeral directors are in charge of all the logistics following a death.  They complete all the necessary paperwork, make arrangements for the transportation of the body, and put into action the choices made by the family in regards to the funeral service and the final resting place of the body.  Beyond all of this, funeral directors are there to provide emotional support and personal guidance in the wake of a loss.

What happens if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
We are here to help. Funeral directors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

What if a death occurs away from my home town?
We can arrange to have the remains transported from anywhere in the world.  We will assume responsibility and make the proper arrangements to have the remains return to the community.

What is embalming and what purpose does it serve?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body. It also slows down the decomposition process and enhances the appearance of a body impacted by a traumatic death or illness.  Embalming gives time to the family of the deceased to arrange a service, and allows for the possibility of an open-casket viewing.

Do I need to have an embalming?
No. In fact, some religions forbid embalming. Some countries do require embalming by law in order for remains to leave or enter the country.  If it is not against your religious custom, embalming is generally recommended, especially if there is an extended gap between death and burial or cremation.

How much does a funeral cost?
The cost of the funeral depends on the services selected.  The average cost of a funeral is between $5,000-$7,000; however, the most basic of services can cost as little as $1000.  The cost includes all professional services including transportation, embalming and other preparations, the use of a facility for the ceremony, and the purchase of a casket or urn.

What drives the cost of a funeral?
Funerals are labor intensive  A funeral's cost extends beyond the merchandise, and includes the services of the funeral director. Their role in making the necessary arrangements, filling out forms, and dealing with all the other figures involved after a death (doctors, lawyers, insurance companies).  Funeral directors work an average of forty hours per funeral, and the cost of operating a funeral home is included as well.  Funeral homes are a 24 hour operation, with extensive facilities that need to be maintained and secured.  

What do I do if I am not satisfied with the way a funeral was handled?
In Canada, funeral services are regulated provincially and this information can be found on the Canadian Consumer Information website at www.consumerinformation.ca.

obituary FAQ

Are Obituaries Important?
Obituaries are critically important as they enable families to honour the deceased and recognize their surviving family and serves as a keepsake for many not just the family. It is circulated to over half a million readers both as efficient invitation to family, friends, colleagues (past and present) including people that have lost connection with the deceased and it also serves to protect the executor. Obituaries are a historical document that assist future generations with Ancestry and Genealogy.
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Are Obituaries Expensive?
No Obituaries are not expensive, they are the most cost-effective way to notify a large number of people in a short amount of time. The Calgary Herald is circulated to over half a million readers, that means that a $1,000 obituary is less than a penny per reader. As with most things in life what is expensive to some is of great value to others. It is recommended that before cutting back, start by telling the whole story quotes are always provided prior to being published and often the amazing story told in the Biography may only add 15% to the cost and most families see the value and end up including this.
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What is the Prayers Section of the Obituary?
Prayers or vigil prayers is a term often used by Catholics for services when a time of prayer and tributes is scheduled in the evening the day prior to the funeral mass. The obituary would include the full address of the prayers locations followed by the date & time including the day of the week in long form to ensure it was as easy for the ready to note the date and find the location.
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What is the Visitation Section of the Obituary?
The visitation is the opportunity for the public to be with the family and friends and if they desire, pay their respects by viewing the deceased. To make it as easy for the reader of the obituary the address of the visitation should be hyperlinked so it can be clicked on and online maps and gps can assist finding the location. The date of the visitation should include the day of the week in long form to make it as easy for the reader as possible to get the correct date. If there is a visitation prior to Prayers or prior to Service the visitation is generally not listed in the obituary as friends and family will be presented with this opportunity by the funeral staff prior to being seated.
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What are some common grammatical errors in obituaries pertaining to the Survived by paragraph?
In an obituary a few common grammatical errors are:

Daughter in laws – this common phrase should have an s on daughters and have a dash between each word. Great-grandchildren requires a dash between great and grandchildren otherwise it is misread as though the grandchildren are great. Stepfather is not flagged in most spell check programs as incorrect although the recommended spelling is with a space or dash between step and father. If the deceased has one daughter, it is recommended to list one daughter vs “a daughter”.

Two sons should be listed with 2 spelled in long form like all numbers and when there are multiple sons and daughters in law only the number on the sons is listed and not the number on daughter in laws.  It is recommended that when listing a family member in the survived by paragraph including spouses then the predeceased paragraph should also include the same degree of connection with the deceased. Always double check that a sister-in-law is included in the predeceased if including the brother with the survived by.
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What is the Importance of the short immediate Death Announcement?
The short death announcement lets friends and family know they have had a death and that the death is now public. It gives people a source to go to other than calling the family for details. The death announcement aims to avoids awkward phone calls to inquire about a sick family member.  Many people will go online or to the paper to search for information as soon as people hear of a death and the announcement clearly lets people know that a service will take place, and this is where to look for details once they have been finalized.
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What is the Survived by Paragraph in an Obituary?
Obituaries enable families to recognize their surviving family members.  The goal of an obituary is to make this paragraph to be as easy to read as possible so it might different based on each family’s situation. It is recommended to start by not listing any family members in brackets and list them by relationship to the deceased. If the significant other is easier for the reader to list in brackets then that is always a second option. Following each family member, it is recommended to include their last name and where they reside, an obituary should allow the reader to associate with those listed as easily as possible, this is why it is suggested to Include the married names of daughters as some friends may not recognize their maiden name and to include nee followed by the maiden name of other family members.

In an obituary the general order of survived by would be the spouse followed by

  • children
  • grandchildren
  • great-grandchildren
  • parents
  • grandparents
  • siblings
  • nieces / nephews
  • in-laws

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How are Numbers Listed in Obituaries?
To make it as easy for the reader, numbers are written out in long form with the only exception being one’s age and an events date and years. For example, Two brothers should always be written in long form.
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What is the Biography in an Obituary and what order is it placed?
In an obituary the biography typically comes immediately after the opening paragraph that introduced who passed away. An obituary is about the deceased and that is why it is recommended to place the biography before survived by. The biography is a chronological snapshot of the milestones in one’s life. There are multiple ways to introduce these sections of one’s life…

To start the biography the place of birth can be introduced in multiple ways two examples are:

  • Stan was born in London, England
  • Stan grew up or was raised in London, England.
  • Moving cities can be introduced in multiple ways four examples are;
  • Stan immigrated to Canada with his parents when he was 12
  • Stan moved to Canada with his parents
  • Stan came to Canada with his parents when he was 12.
  • Stan emigrated from London and made Calgary his home

Remember you Immigrated to or emigrated from.

The biography section of the obituary is not limited to, but often includes some of the below life milestones

  • Places lived in
  • Schooling,
  • Occupation & career (including milestones or victories)
  • Date of Marriage
  • Memberships/associations/charitable work or causes
  • Life’s greatest moments/achievements
  • Activities enjoyed or had a passion for
  • Favourite saying

There are multiple way to conclude a biography one common way is to include a comment such as …She will be remembered for….
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How are nick names or names that one goes by written in an obituary?
In an obituary, if a person uses a nick name then this nick name would be placed in (brackets). If a person uses their middle name as their went by name then this name is placed in “quotes”.
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What is the best way to list a date in an obituary?
To make the obituary as easy for the reader the day of the week is written out in long form and is added prior to the date listed. For many readers the day of the week is more important that the day of the month and end up needing to look this up if not included.
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Is the place of passing listed in the obituary?
Generally, the place of death is not listed in an obituary because hospices and care facilities have asked not to list their name every time a time a death has occurred, as they can have many deaths in a day or week. As with all elements and rules regarding an obituary they are always flexible and if this is important the funeral home would contact the care facility to confirm that they understand why it is being included.  This is most often done in thank you sentiments later on in an obituary vs listing them as the place of passing.
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Cemetery FAQ

Are most cemeteries in Calgary almost full?
Not necessarily, it is true that cemeteries are limited in size by their footprint in the community, however cemeteries do have land available and they do expand when the need arises.

Each cemetery has its own unique policies as far as what kind of burial plots are available for purchase and how many spots are available within that plot.

A licensed Funeral Director can discuss options available to the family at any time.
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Can I bury on my property, rather than buy cemetery property?
You can bury an urn containing cremated remains on your own property but this would not be recommended, should you want to sell the property in time it could hinder the sale.

It is illegal to bury a casket on your property. For burial it is required that you purchase a cemetery plot in a registered cemetery.

I was told that the Province requires the casket be buried in a concrete box. Is this true and what is the advantage of a concrete box?
Each cemetery has its own policy regarding requirements for an outer container (plywood, concrete or fiberglass). The Funeral Director will advise you of any such requirements at the time of arrangements.

The advantages of a concrete liner or a burial vault are the protection they afford to the casket once it has been buried. The concrete liner will provide basic protection from the weight of the earth and from any cemetery equipment such as backhoes. A burial vault is sealed above ground and protects the casket from coming into contact with any earthly elements such as water, as well as the weight of the earth and any cemetery equipment such as backhoes.

There are several different options to choose from and your Funeral Director will go through these options with you.

Do you ever dig up the body later, in a few years and use the grave for someone else?
When you purchase a grave plot from the cemetery, it is permanent. A casket is only disinterred at the requested of the family or Executor for a specific reason.

Cultural Services

I am thinking of attending a prayer service (or a Buddhist service) at your chapel and I don’t know what to do, or if I should even come.
Anyone may attend a public funeral service. We would always invite and encourage friends to attend to show their support to the family. Our funeral staff will be there to assist you.

We would encourage you to if you are unsure of what to do to approach our funeral staff for assistance.

If I go to a Jewish funeral should I wear a yarmulke?
Jewish funeral customs vary from sect to sect, among Orthodox Jews.

Orthodox Jewish Funerals

  • At an Orthodox Jewish funeral, all of the mourners must keep their heads covered. The men are expected to wear the small cap, or “yarmulke,” while the women are required to wear headscarves. If you don’t bring a yarmulke or headscarf with you, the synagogue will usually be able to provide one for you to use.

Conservative Jewish Funerals

  • At a Conservative Jewish funeral service, the men are obligated to wear yarmulkes, but the women do not have to cover their heads, so no head scarf is required. In addition to the yarmulke, men should also be dressed in semi-formal attire — a dark suit with a dark tie. Women should dress modestly and conservatively as well.

Reform Jewish Funerals

  • At a Reform Jewish funeral service, the head covering is a matter of choice for both men and women. You may see some men wearing yarmulkes, while others do not, and the same is true for women and headscarves.

If I go to the mosque for a Muslim funeral do I have to take my shoes off, or cover my head?
If you are attending a service at a Mosque or other Worship Centers it would be respectful to follow the customs of the faith. In a Mosque out of respect you should remove your shoes and if a head cover is normally worn they will have extras available to use.

Embalming

What is embalming?
Embalming is a procedure in which the body is sanitized, restored to a lifelike appearance and preserved via chemicals being introduced into the body.

Do you have to be embalmed?
In Alberta, embalming is only required by law if we are transporting the deceased by common carrier, i.e. commercial airplane/transport truck/railway.

For sanitation reasons, if you are planning to have a viewing of your loved one, we recommend embalming.

How long does the process of embalming take?
Embalming will vary depending on the condition of the body. The process can take from 1 to 4 hours depending on the individual person and the specific details involved in their death.

How long does the embalming last on the body?
Embalming can last for many years. It depends on the environment and whether the casket will be in a sealed vault.

How long before decomposition sets in?
Many factors play a role in the timeline for decomposition. Illness, medications and the place of passing all play a key role.

Can I see my loved one immediately after death at the funeral home?
Keep in mind that it takes time to prepare your loved one for viewing, but we do our best to meet your time requirements.

It is advisable to meet with the Funeral Director first to choose a casket and bring in clothing for your loved one.

How long does it take to get the deceased to the chapel for viewing?
This depends on the amount of preparation required for the deceased, as well as the time required to receive a casket or cremation container to be delivered from the supplier.

Does my loved one need clean clothes including shoes and undergarments?
It is preferable that the clothes and undergarments be clean as this is more dignified for the deceased. Shoes are not required but complete the outfit.

The clothing you provide is based on what you would like your loved one to wear. The clothing they felt the most comfort in.

Do I need to buy a new suit for my dad as he lost a lot of weight?
If you choose to buy new clothing for your loved one, we can get sizes and measurements for you to get the proper fit.

In most cases the deceased had a favourite piece of clothing, and due to weight lose we can make small alterations to take it in to make the clothing fit better.

Will you clean his suit for me?
We can definitely make arrangements to have the garments dry-cleaned.

Prior to passing

I have a family member who is expected to pass soon. When they die what should we do?
You have done the right thing already by calling us for help and direction. At the time your loved one passes away, call us so we may transfer them into our care as soon as possible. We have staff members that work 24 hours, so when you call you will be speaking directly to a member of our staff. At that time we would also ask if you are ready to set up an appointment to complete the arrangements. We are here to help you with every question, concern, and detail. For further assistance, we can send you an information email with links to our website that has informative videos and information (www.mhfh.com).
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Do I or (Why do I) have to come in to the funeral home; or can everything be done by email?
We do require the Executor/Executrix, or closest next of kin meet with a Funeral Director. There are many decisions to be made; as well as selection of merchandise and documents that are required to be signed, before we can precede with any funeral or cremation arrangements.

I am planning to be away on holidays and my elderly parent is in a nursing home. What do I do if they pass away while I am gone?
There are a few options that are available to help assist you should the passing occur while you are away.

You can advise the Care Centre that you would like McInnis & Holloway to transfer your parent into our care. Preparation such as embalming can take place which would allow for any delays while you are away. Another family member can make preliminary arrangements until you return or some arrangements can be made via email or fax until you return.

Another option would be to meet with a Director and start making prearrangements to help with some of the decision in advance.

My loved one is at home dying; I don’t know what to do?
When your loved one passes away, the first decision is to select a funeral home. At McInnis & Holloway we are available to answer your calls 24 hours a day. We can take care of all the details immediately and transfer your loved one in a respectful, timely manner. This is providing that your loved one had been either under a Doctor’s care or Palliative Homecare.

The family will set up a time to meet with a licensed Funeral Director at any of our 8 locations which is most convenient for you. At this initial meeting the Funeral Director will offer you many choices and help you with your decisions.
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Who do I call when my loved one passes away at home?
If your loved one was under Calgary Home Care and the supervision of a doctor, then you can phone McInnis & Holloway directly, and our staff will come directly to the home to transfer your loved one into our care.

If it was an unexpected death with no knowledge of why the death has occurred or an accident, then the police and Medicals Examiner’s office will have to be contacted to determine what caused the death.
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The hospice told us to start making arrangements. I’m not sure what to do.
This is a starting point for you and your family to come in and meet with a Funeral Director to discuss all options, and the type of service that you are wanting for your loved one. At that time the Funeral Director will advise on what will take place once the passing occurs and provide what information you will be required to have or can submit prior to the passing.

The Funeral Director will document as much detail and information that the family already knows and will provide you with the decisions that are still needed to be made.

By coming in to meet with a Funeral Director before the passing occurs and pre-arranging your loved one’s funeral service, this will afford the family more time to allow themselves to grieve and not be pressured to make a lot of decision in a very short period of time. Some families prefer to spend that precious time with their loved ones, please know coming in prior to the passing is not necessary.
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Passing Has Just Occurred

What should I do when my love one passes away?
You would contact the funeral home to set up an appointment with the Funeral Director to organize funeral service with burial, cremation or entombment.

Can I come in to see the funeral home before I decide on meeting with a funeral director?
Yes, there is no obligation, you can come in and a Funeral Director will give you a tour of the facility and answer all of your questions.

What do we do now, that Mom passed away?
You will need to call the funeral home to inform of the passing. Our staff will take some basic information from you and begin the process of transferring your loved one into our care. We will contact the place where the passing occurred and coordinate all the details.

An appointment time will be set up for your family to come to the funeral home to meet with the Funeral Director and organize all of the details for your Mom’s funeral service.

Where is my loved one going and when can I see them?
Your loved one will be transferred to the preparation area of the location you have chosen.

You will be able to see your loved one as soon as we have scheduled a time and place for you to spend some time with them.

Estate Information

When do I need to file paperwork with the government?
For every death that occurs in the Province of Alberta, the death needs to be registered before the final disposition of the deceased takes place, we complete this for you.

The government documentation should be filed as soon as possible. The government needs to be advised of the death to ensure overpayments are not made into accounts; otherwise the family will be responsible to pay the money back plus interest.

Our Family Care representative can assist you with these forms.

How long do we have to apply for CPP?
The family or executor has up to one year from the date of death to apply for the Death Benefit (Maximum of $2500.00) from CPP. Application should be done as soon as possible after the contributor’s passing.
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Does the Will have to be probated?
If there is land in the estate which is solely owned by the deceased, the Alberta Land Titles Office requires the Executor to obtain probate. If there is no land, then you may still require probate if the estate contains more than about $30,000.00 with a financial institution.

Most financial institutions have a policy that they will not release any funds unless the Will is probated, or the estate is relatively small.

What do we need to take cremated remains on an airplane? Should we carry it on the plane or put in our checked luggage?
McInnis & Holloway will supply you with a Burial Permit and a Certificate of Cremation. We recommend that you take the Urn on the plane with you. Transport Canada’s guidelines state the urn must be able to be x-rayed. In order for an urn to be x-rayed, it needs to be made of plastic. We will provide a temporary plastic urn to hold the cremated remains.

If you choose to include the urn in your checked luggage, you can chose an urn made of any material of your choice. We do not recommend that you check the urn in your luggage.

When travelling to another country, additional paperwork approved by that country’s consulate may be required.
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Financial Assistance

What sort of financial assistance is available to families to assist with funeral expenses?
There is a funeral benefit through CPP (Canada Pension Plan) for anyone who has contributed to CPP during their working life, up to a maximum of $2500 can be provided.

There is also assistance through the Last Post Fund of Canada for eligible Veterans.

Some families may be eligible for benefits through work or other organizations. We can also customize a service to best suit your financial situation.

Are there any other Government benefits besides the CPP?
There is the CPP Death Benefit which pays one-time benefit up to a maximum of $2500, and this is based on the individual who has contributed to this plan during their working years.

There is also a Survivor’s Pension through CPP (Canada Pension Plan) for the spouse or common law partner of the deceased.

There is also a Children’s Benefit for those under the age of 18 and/or those over 18 attending college or university.

Our Family Care member would be honoured to assist the family in the completion of the forms required for the CPP programs.

What is covered by insurance policies or Worker’s Compensation?
Many families rely on the deceased’s regular life insurance policy to help cover the cost of a funeral. After a death has occurred, find the original policy, as it will be needed to settle the claim and receive final payment from the insurance company. The company may request a copy of the Funeral Director’s Statement of Death. It’s best to apply right away, as it can take a few weeks or months for the funds to arrive.

Financial assistance for funerals is also available from the Worker’s Compensation Board, when a work-related death occurs. Although certain criteria must be met, the Board will pay up to $1,300 for costs resulting from the work-related death, and up to $8,150 for burial, cremation, funeral or memorial services for the worker. An additional $500 to $1,000 may also available for transportation of the deceased.

The Worker’s Compensation Board also pays monthly survivor’s benefits to a maximum of $2,285 per month, and $179 per month for a dependent child. Alberta residents should call the Worker’s Compensation Board in Edmonton at (403) 427-1216 (collect) for more information.

The Crimes Compensation Board also awards benefits for victims of violent crimes which occur in Alberta. To receive the benefit, an application must be filed, and a decision is made by the Board after a review hearing. Forms are available from the Crimes Compensation Board in Edmonton by calling the toll-free government operator at 310-0000 and asking to be connected to 427-7217.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

Is there government assistance for funeral expenses and widow’s pension?
In the province of Alberta, no one is ever denied the dignity of a funeral. If a family is unable to pay, the government department of Alberta Family and Social Services can provide assistance for basic funeral services, a casket, and cemetery or cremation fees.

This assistance is available to those not eligible for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits, and in most cases is offered to persons already receiving assistance from Alberta Family and Social Services. Assistance may also be offered to persons who are under the Assured Income for Severely Handicapped (AISH) program.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

Will Canada Pension Plan (CPP) cover funeral expenses?
The Canada Pension Plan offers two kinds of financial assistance for families of contributors:

Death benefit to cover funeral expenses.
The one-time death benefit payment is paid to the deceased’s estate, up to a maximum of $2,500, based on the length of time contributions to CPP have been made.

Monthly pension for survivors.
Surviving spouses and dependent children may receive a pension if the deceased contributed to CPP for three consecutive years or more (some restrictions apply).

For those who qualify, surviving spouses may receive:

  • A maximum pension of up to $451 per month (depending on age, whether they receive other pensions, and length of time contributions were made)
  • Up to $171.33 per month for each dependent child – a dependent child is defined as being under 18 years of age, or between 18 and 25 and in full-time attendance at school, college or university
  • Benefits from the month after the contributor’s death

These benefits are paid only to those who apply, and although back payments may be made, failure to apply within a year of the death will result in lost benefits. Applications may be made to Health and Welfare Canada, Income Security Program. Call (403) 292-5559 in Calgary, Alberta for an appointment, or call toll free 1-800-277-9914

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

If I am a veteran, what benefits are available to cover funeral expenses?
If you are a veteran who served with the Allied Forces during World War I, World War II, or the Korean Conflict, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs may cover expenses for basic funeral services (burial or cremation) and may pay for a specified casket, rental casket, cremation urn, a memorial monument, and GST.

The Last Post Fund will not cover such items as an organist, service folders or flowers, and some restrictions may apply regarding the burial site or cemetery location. Families may upgrade the basic service or type of casket at their own expense.

To be eligible, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • The total value of the veteran’s estate must not exceed $12,015 for a married veteran, plus $2,060 for each dependent child
  • Eligibility is calculated using both the veteran’s and spouse’s assets after funeral expenses, excluding the value of the house and one automobile
  • A veteran who is widowed, divorced or separated is treated as a single person and is eligible to an estate maximum of $5,000

Similar financial assistance is offered to deceased members of the National Defence of Canada to cover funeral expenses and a casket, to a maximum of $3,675 to $4,190.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

What financial decisions need to be made after a death occurs?
Even though this may be the furthest from your mind, there are a number of financial matters that need to be settled fairly soon after a death:

  • Make an estate inventory, or a complete record of all important business and personal documents, detailing where each original document can be found
  • Notify financial institutions of the death, starting with personal and joint bank accounts
  • Consider keeping joint accounts open for a few months, to allow the spouse the option of continuing to deposit cheques in the deceased’s name
  • If accounts are not joint, funds could be frozen until the estate is settled, so you may need to draw on other investments temporarily
  • Check outstanding balances on credit cards or loan agreements and make arrangements for payment
  • Find the deceased’s original life insurance policy and contact the agent
  • Check if you are eligible for death benefit payments or pensions, as failure to apply could result in lost payments if you are eligible (see other questions on this site, or contact McInnis & Holloway for information on benefits available)
  • Ensure an individual tax return is filed for the deceased according to requirements in your country

Financial advisors, accountants or lawyers should also be contacted for more information on any of these subjects.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

What are the costs related to funerals?
The following are four basic areas to consider when discussing costs with a funeral director:

Fee for professional services.
Professional services vary depending on the funeral service requested, but usually include transportation of the deceased, completing legal documents for the coroner, securing burial or cremation permits, embalming, consultation with the family, clergy or cemetery staff, providing staff for the funeral service, use of the funeral home’s chapel and facilities, and use of funeral vehicles.

Purchase or rental of a casket and/or cremation container.
Depending on whether the deceased will be buried, cremated, or placed in a mausoleum, the purchase of these items, and a monument will need to be arranged. Other items such as memorial booklets or personalized service cards may also be provided for guests attending the service.

Cemetery costs
In Alberta (Canada), burial must be made in registered cemeteries. Costs vary widely, so ask your cemetery or funeral home about burial costs and options. If cremation is requested, there are fees for cremation, and placement of the deceased in a cemetery or mausoleum.

Additional options
These include newspaper notices, musicians, clergy honorariums, and flowers. Each service is a personal reflection of the life of the deceased, so costs can vary considerably.

If you are comparing different funeral homes, remember there is more to consider than costs – some funeral homes offer more services than others, or unique services to better serve the family. It can also be a good idea to visit the funeral home facilities before making a decision so that you are better informed.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), click here to send us an e-mail.

Financial Benefits

Perhaps one of the most important tasks you now face is the disposition of a loved one’s estate. Whether or not the deceased had a will can make a greater difference in the time and effort involved in the proper disposition. It is suggested that you obtain legal advice on the array of different matters such as the disbursement or conversion of assets, changing of property deeds and titles, the disposition of bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and the disposition of business assets.

If you do not have an attorney, now is a good time to find one. The best methods of finding an attorney are through friends and relatives, or by calling your local bar association.

If your loved one had a will, it will need to be probated. Probate is the legal procedure for the orderly distribution of estates. In most cases, probating a will is a simple process. Only in the instances where the will is being contested or the deceased had numerous holdings will the action be more complex. There is usually a specific time within which a will must be probated, so it is important to check carefully.

If there is no will, the estate will be disposed of according to the provincial laws governing descent and distribution.

Preparation and or review of your own will is also an important consideration at this time. It is the best way to assure that your estate is handled according to your desires.

Other Considerations

What are appropriate ways of expressing sympathy?
When a friend has suffered a loss, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to help. Funeral professionals tell us there is no substitute for a sincere, heart-felt expression of sympathy.

Attend the funeral if you can – your presence will be a great comfort to those who are grieving. It’s not necessary to say much – even “I’m sorry” will mean a lot. Don’t try to come up with something profound about life and death, and don’t say “I know how you feel” because everybody experiences grief in their own way.

If you cannot attend the service or visitation, send a sympathy card with a little note and talk about special things you remember about the deceased. Your perspective or story will likely provide family with fresh memories they may not have known.

Other expressions include:

  • sending flowers to the service, or a plant to the home
  • have McInnis & Holloway arrange to plant a tree in Fish Creek Memorial Forest
  • offer to phone friends and colleagues to notify them of the death
  • provide babysitting for the family while arrangements are being made
  • pick up relatives at the airport
  • provide baking for the reception after the service, or provide a casserole for the family
  • offer to answer the door or phone for the family, and keep a record of those who called on the day of the service, offer to stay behind to ensure the house is not empty, as a precaution against theft of memorial contribution.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

How can I understand my grief, and get help?
Sometimes, grief can be so overwhelming that even normal responses can leave a person feeling as though they are going crazy.

The best way to cope is to recognize grief as a normal reaction to death. Draw on the support of friends and family, and share your honest feelings. You should be able to mention your loved one’s name without fear of ruining someone else’s day.

Grief is a very necessary process on the path to healing, so be patient with yourself. Counselling should be considered when a person seems to have changed or is acting differently – like becoming unusually withdrawn, fearful or suspicious, acting overwhelmed, expressing a wish to die, or drinking to the point that it’s interfering with their daily responsibilities.

Your funeral director will have information about support groups in your area, or you can contact a clergy member, mental health professional or a crisis telephone line for guidance. You may be surprised to find your experiences are completely normal.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What are the appropriate ways of expressing sympathy?
When a friend has suffered a loss, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to help. Funeral professionals tell us there is no substitute for a sincere, heart-felt expression of sympathy.

Attend the visitation and funeral if you can – your presence will be a great comfort to those who are grieving. It’s not necessary to say much – even “I’m sorry” will mean a lot. Don’t try to come up with something profound about life and death, and don’t say “I know how you feel” because everybody experiences grief in their own way.

If you cannot attend the service or visitation, send a sympathy card with a little note and talk about special things you remember about the deceased. Your perspective or story will likely provide family with fresh memories they may not have known.

Other expressions include:

  • Sending flowers to the service, or a plant to the home
  • Have McInnis & Holloway arrange to plant a tree in Fish Creek Memorial Forest
  • Offer to phone friends and colleagues to notify them of the death
  • Provide babysitting for the family while arrangements are being made
  • Pick up relatives at the airport
  • Provide baking for the reception after the service, or provide a casserole for the family
  • Offer to answer the door or phone for the family, and keep a record of those who called
  • On the day of the service, offer to stay behind to ensure the house is not empty, as a precaution against theft
  • A memorial contribution

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

How can I prearrange my funeral?
One of the benefits of prearranging a funeral is that you don’t have to make planning decisions in a hurry. You will have the luxury of being able to talk to a number of funeral homes before deciding on the one you are most comfortable with.

Draw up a “short list” of two or three funeral homes in your area. Most funeral homes will give you information over the phone or by mail, but it may be helpful to make an appointment to discuss the funeral process in person.

Prepare for this meeting in advance:

  • Ask yourself about preferences you have regarding the service: traditional or non-religious
  • Would you want to be buried or cremated?
  • Do you have a particular cemetery in mind?
  • What type of music would best reflect your life and passions?
  • Are there readings or poems that would add meaning to your ceremony?
  • Are there other gestures you would include? (i.e. having a tree planted in your memory; having a faithful pet in attendance; releasing balloons; integrating important cultural traditions)
  • Provide information about people who need to be notified in the event of your death
  • Make a list of important papers, such as wills or insurance policies, and their location
  • Remember to mention religious affiliation, cultural customs, or other meaningful items that could be included in the service
  • Think about personal information relating to your life you might want to include in a newspaper notice

If you find yourself hesitating about making these plans, it’s natural -discussing and planning for death can be surprisingly difficult. Whether you write your own instructions, or get the help of a funeral home, it’s important to let someone know where the information is, so it can easily be found by survivors at the time of death. If you would like further information you may also visit our Advanced Planning section within this website.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What are some of the benefits of advanced planning?
Many individuals have found that planning for this eventuality in advance makes the process easier, since funeral arrangements made after the death of a loved one can be an emotional and stressful experience. Advanced Planning can also make the funeral service more personal and meaningful for survivors because the wishes of the deceased are made known in advance.

Many funeral homes will prepare your wishes in writing and keep them on file at the funeral home, without having to pay. Or, an estimate can be obtained and you can prepay in advance, locking in the cost of the funeral at today’s price.

Different payment options exist for advanced planning, so check with the funeral home. Term financing may be available, and many funeral homes also take credit cards. Some provinces require that advanced planning funds only be accepted by licensed funeral homes, and funds are placed with the Public Trustee or a trust company. Prepayment is refundable any time upon written request.

Many funeral homes offer advanced planning assistance without obligation, and this information can be provided to you in person or sent to your home to review at your own convenience. If you would like more detailed information you may visit our Advanced Planning section within this website.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

Types of Services Available

What if I want a non-traditional funeral?
In today’s diverse society, many people choose a non-traditional service, and there are many alternatives available:

  • A ceremony in a funeral home can include thoughts on life and death, a tribute to the life of the deceased, and special musical selections or poetry readings
  • The person officiating can be a funeral director, or someone close to the deceased or the family
  • Many choose to hold the ceremony in a senior’s lodge, nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • The service can be kept to immediate family, without extending a general invitation
  • Families may choose to have only a graveside memorial ceremony
  • If the ceremony is a small, or by invitation only, a public notice in the newspaper can often help inform friends and colleagues of the person’s passing
  • One alternative is no ceremony at all, called an immediate or direct disposition

When making decisions about a funeral service, remember the service can have great importance for friends and colleagues who wish to show their support or pay last respects.

Not having a funeral can make others believe you don’t wish to see them, and can result in hurt feelings. Experts believe it’s best to hold a public service and let others decide whether to come or not.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What about cultural customs, and traditions for the funeral service?
As the ethnic fabric of our society grows, the customs and traditions surrounding funerals change. Expression of grief is different for every group, but everyone shares a need to mark the passing of a life with affection, dignity and respect.

If you are uncertain about different cultural or religious backgrounds, and this has kept you from attending a funeral or expressing sympathy, a little knowledge can help. Here are a few examples of customs and traditions which can be part of a funeral service (examples may vary according to personal tastes and beliefs):

  • Native or Plains Indians play drums and sing honor songs or personal songs belonging to the deceased. Sweetgrass is sometimes burned as a ritual or prayer.
  • Buddhists ring a bell to the start the funeral. After the funeral service – which takes place in a temple or funeral home – a memorial service is held every 7th day for 49 days, and family and friends are encouraged to attend.
  • Those attending a Chinese funeral may receive a white envelope with candy and money inside. The candy is to sweeten the bitter taste of death, and the money is for luck, since death is considered a bad omen.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What are my options at Calgary’s Mausoleum?
Mausoleum burial is becoming more popular with many communities as an alternative to ground burial. Calgary’s first mausoleum is housed at Queen’s Park Cemetery, and is a city owned facility.

A mausoleum provides permanent above-ground entombment, and is based on popular European traditions dating back before the time of Christ.

The casket is placed into the mausoleum wall and sealed. The wall of a mausoleum is generally about five to six caskets in height. In Calgary, crypt panels are made from high-quality Italian marble with plaques or photographs for the deceased as a memorial tribute. Flower vases can be affixed to the wall as well.

Calgary’s mausoleum offers a variety of configurations and prices ranges, starting at about $5,280. For more information, call the Calgary Cemeteries and Mausoleum information line at (403) 221-3660.

What options are there for the cremation urn?
Many options are available for the final disposition of the ashes:

Burial
Some cemeteries have urn gardens for burial of an urn, above-ground columbariums, or will allow burial in the family plot, while others have scattering grounds as part of the cemetery.

Memorial Vessels
Cremation allows the family to retain the cremated remains, either in one urn or a number of smaller ones to distribute among family. Some people place a small portion of cremated remains in a memorial vessel, such as a necklace or bracelet.

Scattering
Scattering cremated remains in a meaningful location can be considered. Sometimes the family marks the site with a small memorial plaque so it can later be revisited. Since scattering is irreversible, it’s best to think about it in advance, as grieving persons sometimes make choices they later wish they hadn’t.

In Alberta (Canada), scattering cannot occur over water, but is permitted on most crown and public lands, and national parks, but permission must always be obtained ahead of time.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What options are available if I choose cremation?
Many people choose cremation because of religious or cultural reasons, or just because of personal preference. Selecting cremation does not restrict the family’s options when it comes to having a ceremony or funeral service. The family can still choose visitation or viewing prior to the funeral, and some funeral homes rent caskets for this purpose.

Families have a choice between a funeral service, where the casket or cremated remains are present in an urn or other container. They may also select a memorial service where the cremated remains are not present. A memorial service can be held anywhere – in a church, funeral home, chapel, community hall, hotel, private club or family home, and is usually within a few days or weeks of the death.

For final disposition, the urn or container is usually buried in a cemetery plot, placed in a columbarium above ground, or scattered at the cemetery gardens. Or, families can choose to scatter ashes in another place of significance. Cemeteries vary regarding arrangements for ashes, so it’s best to check with the individual cemetery.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

What options are available if I choose burial?
Burial is still the most common method of final disposition. Most families have a graveside ceremony immediately after the funeral ceremony, conducted by a clergy member, the funeral director or a friend.

For loved ones, seeing the deceased committed to earth can be a painful but important ritual. It helps some accept the reality of death – often the first important step towards healing.

Direct disposition, where the deceased is buried without a formal viewing, visitation or ceremony, is another option, but experts on grief feel that healing can take longer if the loved one isn’t memorialized in some way. A funeral ceremony or memorial service allows loved ones to share grief together and publicly celebrate the life of the one they loved.

If the family chooses burial, the funeral director helps with the selection of a casket. There is a wide selection of choices and prices ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the type of casket.

Graveside markers are often added to the cemetery plot, either before the service or weeks later. Find out the options available at your cemetery, as some do have restrictions about the type of marker. Some Calgary cemeteries also require the purchase of a vault in conjunction with burial, while other cemeteries do not – be sure to ask what your options are.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.

Is a funeral service required?
Experts in the grief process universally recognize the value of the ceremony for surviving family and friends.

A ceremony is important for many reasons: in some religions, it is the event which marks the transition from life to after-life; in others, it’s one step towards a higher level of existence.

Whatever your belief, a ceremony provides others the opportunity to acknowledge and remember achievements of the life of the deceased, to mark their passing in a significant way, and provides comfort, sympathy, and meaning to survivors.

A funeral also helps some accept the reality of death, and allows us to share our grief with others. The funeral ceremony can provide the opportunity for friends to show they care about the bereaved, and to offer their support during a difficult time.

If you have a question you would like answered by one of our funeral directors (at no obligation), Click here to send us an e-mail.