Funeral expenses: your rights

When consumers buy funeral services or goods, they are protected under the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act, and the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Act.

Many of your rights as a consumer are protected when you buy funeral services or goods.

Funeral directors often provide the total cost of a complete funeral service, but it is possible to pick and choose only certain products and services.

Costs for funeral services

Total cost of a complete funeral service usually includes:

  • moving the body to the funeral home
  • embalming
  • casket
  • funeral home use
  • embalming and restoration
  • use of the hearse for transportation to the cemetery or crematorium
  • arranging the religious service, burial permit and cremation permit
  • taking care of newspaper notices
  • arranging and caring for flowers
  • taking care of acknowledgment cards
  • providing other staff services

Check your purchase agreement carefully to see what is included.

Costs for pre-arranged funeral plans

Pre-arranged funeral plans usually include:

  • embalming
  • transportation of the body
  • a casket or urn
  • arranging the service and required permits
  • funeral home use
  • provision of other services by funeral home staff
  • cremation and burial goods and services

Prices for other items can be very changeable so they may not be included in pre-arranged funeral plans:

  • newspaper and radio announcements
  • obituaries
  • arranging and caring for flowers

Check your purchase agreement to see what is included. You can always pay for additional goods and services at the time of the funeral.

Cemetery costs

Cemetery costs vary. Ask for a written statement listing all costs before the purchase is finalized. Ask about:

  • plot prices
  • plot prices based on location
  • price of the opening and closing of the grave
  • installation charges on grave markers and monuments
  • costs and services of perpetual care
  • whether the cemetery allows 2 caskets in one grave site
  • vault or rough box requirements and related charges
  • veteran's rates

Cemeteries are regulated under the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act. Some parts of the act do not apply to all types of cemeteries. Those operating for profit are usually regulated under the act. Part of the price of a cemetery lot must be deposited in a trust account and the interest used by the cemetery to care for the grounds. A plan of the cemetery must be filed with Service Nova Scotia.

When you buy a plot in a cemetery, you gain certain rights. You have the right of reasonable access, and the right to erect a memorial on the lot. The purchase agreement may say what kinds of memorials you can or cannot put up.


Before cremation, an authorization to cremate must be signed by the next of kin or legal representative.

You have the right to scatter the ashes at a chosen spot, such as a body of water, or in the wild. The scattering of ashes on land is subject to the laws regarding property so check for any local or municipal by-laws. Avoid scattering ashes near watercourses that are used for drinking water.

Ashes may also be scattered or buried in a family plot as long as you get permission from the cemetery.

Every operator of a crematorium must have a Funeral Home Licence on display.


By law, the least expensive casket must be included in any casket display or catalogue.


Embalming preserves a body for a short time, to improve the body's appearance for viewing. In Nova Scotia, embalming is not required if the body is to be buried or cremated within 72 hours after death.

Embalming is not done when a person dies of a communicable disease specified in the Health Protection Act, or one designated by the Minister of Health. In these cases, funeral directors follow special burial preparations outlined in the act.

Embalming and cosmetic restoration of the body are usually done when the body is to be viewed in an open casket. It is not a legal necessity in most cases. Funeral homes will generally proceed with embalming unless you tell them not to.