“I do not want to disturb my children…”
The following formula is often used: “I do not want to disturb my children.” It is wisdom that speaks. By specifying our wishes regarding our funeral arrangements whether in a will, pre-arrangements or any other writing, we make sure that they are respected and thus avoid unnecessary discussions and rifts in families (“Mom deserved well that “or, conversely,” No, no, we spend the minimum, let’s keep more for ourselves “).
When love and good agreement reign, there is obviously no difficulty. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality on a daily basis. With the break-up of families, misunderstandings often begin at the funeral home.
One might think of the example where the children of the deceased divorced and the new common-law wife does not agree on who can choose the funeral arrangements or on the actual choice of such funeral arrangements. They are all present in the counselor’s office and the tension is rising.
As a notary working for a funeral home, I act as an advisor and often mediator for families living with such disagreements. It is then necessary to act with skill and impartiality, without interfering in the family dynamics and in the strictest respect of the law.
What the Quebec Civil Code says
According to article 42 of the Civil Code of Québec, the choice of the funeral and the disposition of the body (incineration or embalming of the body and burial) belong to the person concerned. In the absence of wishes expressed by the deceased, we must rely on the will of the successors or heirs who are required to act.
After discussing with the family and explaining the content of section 42, we will verify the existence or otherwise of the wishes expressed by the deceased. These wills may be expressed by any written document, whether or not it is in the form of a testamentary, funeral prearrangement, or any other writing for that purpose. In the absence of such a writing, it is the heirs or successors who decide. However, a common-law spouse does not qualify for this purpose unless there is a will that designates her for that purpose.
In our example, Sir named in his will his spouse as sole heiress and liquidator of his estate. It is therefore she, excluding the children, who will choose the funeral arrangements, however, respecting the indications of the deceased for this purpose in the will. In the absence of a will, the children (the successors within the meaning of the law) could have decided arrangements by a majority of them.
My experience as a notary for more than 15 years in a funeral home teaches me that many misunderstandings and family misunderstandings could have been avoided if the deceased had taken care to record and make known his wishes.
Talk to your loved ones
If you have recorded these wishes in your will, do not hesitate to talk about it since it is possible that one retraces your will several days after the funeral. It would be unfortunate (!) That you are incinerated and that your ashes are spread to the four winds, while you would have wished to be embalmed and your body buried in the ground.
Do not hesitate to give your notary specific instructions on the subject which will prevent this aspect of your will is limited to a terse phrase like “I leave it to my liquidator to see my funeral arrangements” which means that it is your liquidator who will choose and not you.
Another great way to assert your wishes is to buy pre-arrangements because still you decide. The formula is simple, you pay during your lifetime for a service that will be rendered when you die. Some of the money entrusted to the funeral home must be deposited in trust and it is only upon your death that it can be withdrawn. We will discuss this subject in more detail in an upcoming column.
Don’t hesitate, it doesn’t kill to talk about It
Christiane Ratelle, notary