Funeral Considerations – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #95
Listen to Funeral Considerations
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss the considerations and responsibilities of estate trustees at the time of a funeral.
Funeral Considerations – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #95
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi, and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to Episode #95 of our podcast on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008.
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by
Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada, from the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Here are Ian and Suzana.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi there Ian, how are you?
Ian Hull: I’m okay. I don’t know if I have a bit of a cold. I’m a little out of kilter today but I’ll hopefully get through the podcast.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Now I have to ask you, at the end of our last podcast, you were talking about your New Year’s resolution. I’m just wondering how that’s coming along one week later now?
Ian Hull: My resolution not to drink before noon.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Yes, that would be the one.
Ian Hull: Yeah. I’ve managed to go 4 days straight without doing it so…
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s great.
Ian Hull: No, it’s been good. It was a long time ago since the holidays but it was a great holiday and I know you and your family got up skiing and so did we, so that was a nice break.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: It was, now with the weather being the way it is though, we just hope it holds out for the rest of the winter.
Ian Hull: Yeah, no kidding. It’s been a strange winter for that here in Toronto.
What we thought we’d go through today is…maybe none of these topics are particularly necessarily happy topics but we’re in the business of death and we can’t avoid that. So we’re trying to work through and bring to life, so to speak, some of the mechanical expectations and the practical expectations that one faces when they get the job as a trustee and executor. And so we talked briefly, and actually in our last few podcasts, we keep touching on this topic. So I want to sort of close the loop on this one aspect of it. And that is the whole question of the funeral. And to most people, this can be a pretty daunting task if you are the executor or you expect to be the executor. So why don’t we spend some time talking a little bit about that.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s a good idea, Ian. And we know typically that estate trustees or executors, whatever the term that you want to use, are responsible for making the funeral arrangements. And they are the ones who have the authority to make the decisions concerning how an individual is ultimately laid to rest. And the reality is, though, that so many times upon a death, there is such a hustle and bustle that occurs, the family gets involved and these arrangements can be made even before a Will is actually found, if there is in fact a Will.
Ian Hull: And as we’ve said in the past, don’t forget that the Will speaks from death, so the authority question really shouldn’t be in doubt, except in special circumstances where there might be other Wills. One of the things from a practical standpoint, we don’t profess to sell life insurance but we keep talking about encouraging people to buy life insurance for some estate planning needs. The other thing I do not profess to do is sell pre-purchased funeral arrangements but having said that, having been involved in these kinds of cases for so many years, those who do take advantage of that product that’s out there, and that is, sort of buying up the service before you die (a) there’s a financial benefit to it and (b) it really does take some pressure off the family. So you may want to look into making those arrangements as necessary before you pass away unless you want to pass that on to the executor.
One of the questions that many people face for those who haven’t prepaid for the funeral, is how am I going to pay for this? They walk into the funeral home, they realize, I mean lots of funerals are anywhere between $15,000 – $30,000 in terms of once you’ve had a reception after and so on. And, you know, a lot of people don’t have that money just sitting around in the bank. What do we do about that situation?
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And I guess, Ian, this is still in the pre-probate stage when we’re talking about these arrangements being made because someone has just passed away and probate hasn’t been sought yet. And we say typically that the Will is the authority for things to be done by an executor. But in these situations, we typically find that banks will make an exception, so to say, in order to provide the funds for the payment of a funeral account. And so if you’ve got a Will with an appointment that names an executor, you’ve got an account for a funeral bill, then typically you’ll see that the banks will make arrangements to pay this even without the benefit of probate.
Ian Hull: Okay. Another important question is the stone itself.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s right. The memorial stone and what I think that people want to consider is making arrangements for the purchase of that, if that’s something that would be applicable in the circumstances. And again, you know, you want to arrange for the payment of that afterwards and again, the banks are willing to facilitate the payment of those kinds of expenses even without probate.
Ian Hull: And I don’t…I tell my clients not to underestimate the emotional aspects of these two things. One is making the funeral arrangements and two is actually arranging for the stone. Unfortunately, on both of those fronts, we are involved with contentious estate administrations where there’s a fight over what’s going to be put on the stone, what size the lettering will be for who, what names are on there and so on. So again, I mean these are things that if you want, you can sort of deal with before you die. But if you don’t want to deal with it before you die, make sure you’ve maybe given some direction to your executor or you’ve picked an executor who is strong and is prepared to take on that courageous task, in some cases.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Because we can’t forget that these are really emotional times for family members. And so there are flashpoints that you wouldn’t even be able to predict or expect, but the reality is these things happen. So to the extent you can try to facilitate that in advance, I think that can only help.
Ian Hull: A couple of little procedural questions that come up. One is the importance of getting the funeral director’s Proof of Death Certificate. It is such a vital document at the early pre-probate stage. And you should make those arrangements quickly and get that organized. Typically you’ll want to get several copies from the funeral director itself.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: The other thing you’ll want to consider possibly also is obtaining the provincial Death Certificate which you will need probably in circumstances when you’re looking to cash out proceeds of life insurance and those kinds of assets that were previously owned by the individual.
Ian Hull: So you can see a lawyer too, to just get extra copies of these in what we call notarial form, if necessary. I apologize as we go along here because my cold is not getting better but getting worse as we talk. Alright, there are some aspects to…sort of some technical aspects to getting these certificates and getting the Death Certificate and so on. And again, if you’re running into trouble in the right situation, you really should spend the time and effort to get to see a lawyer quickly on this, because there are ways to expedite the certificates if needed, there are ways to deal with the funeral directors and so on. And these issues can be fairly pressing in situations where sometimes you want to release funds such as insurance proceeds.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: I think, Ian, that basically sort of ties together with the thoughts that we had on funeral arrangements that are made in these situations. And I thought it might be a good point to talk a little bit about this great theory that you’ve been telling me about recently and you’ve been speaking to a lot of people about, the Tipping Point theory. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Ian Hull: Sure, and I think what we’ve, when we were, Suzana and I were sitting down assessing our 2008 plan of action for our podcasts, we thought we’d try to interject from time to time some additional aspects. A big part of social media is trying to discuss and deal with and obviously download information to the extent that we can that’s helpful to people who are interested in our topic area, that being estates. But a big part of the social media revolution and what makes podcasting so exciting, and blogging as well, is trying to sort of incorporate what’s going on out there as well. And so we wanted to add a quick segment to today’s podcast, on a book that I’d been reading over the Christmas holiday and really enjoyed, and I thought was something that was worth discussing because it does tie in to many of our life moments. And we see in the estates world the tipping point, and that tipping point sometimes is, of course, the triggering of death. Now, The Tipping Point is a book that we’re going to get into in more detail on our next podcast. But it’s a New York Times Best Seller book out there right now, and I’ve been reading it and enjoying it. But it’s that magic moment…they describe it as that magic moment when an idea or a trend or a social behaviour crosses the threshold, tips and sort of spreads like wildfire. Now what was interesting to me was that the tipping point in many estates, whether they get contentious or non-contentious, but obviously most often contentious, is death can be a tipping point. And the issues of emotions and sort of illogical behaviour maybe on the part of some of the family members and so on, spread like wildfire in many situations. So I’ve been enjoying this book, The Tipping Point, and I thought we could spend a couple of minutes and talk about what their analysis is, understand what the tipping point is, which I’ve just defined it, then talk a little bit about what the tipping point means and how we can identify a tipping point, because then we can start to maybe help manage the wildfire that sometimes gets created when the obvious tipping point of death hits in our world.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: I think that’s the great thing about the title of this book, Ian, and the whole concept of it. It just seems to transcend so many different areas. It’s not just a business philosophy. It’s not…you can bring it into the estates context. And it seems that it can apply in almost any situation.
Ian Hull: I agree. And I mean that’s why, when I looked at the definition in the back of the book, it described it. You know, it talks about social behaviour crossing the threshold and then spreading like wildfire. And most people see their family in a relatively dysfunctional framework, but while everyone is alive. But everybody sort of lives with it. But when the glue starts to come undone and the tipping point hits when one or more of the, sort of, heads of the family pass away, this spreading like wildfire I think is something that we have to…and we focus so many of our podcasts on…try to manage. And so let’s spend a few minutes just talking about what that wildfire is all about.
And in the book, what they talk about was the classic…an example that they started off with was with the Hushpuppy Shoes. And this is an American brand, it’s sort of a brushed suede shoe that when I was a kid, I used to wear them. But in the mid 90’s, it became…it hit the tipping point. And the illustration here was…this is a business illustration…was the brand was just all but dead, there was about 30,000 pairs a year that were being sold and then something happened.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And that something was some kid suddenly in Soho, who thought that they were a little bit different or little bit unique, they started to wear them in New York.
Ian Hull: And so these kids got picked up…this trend started to get picked up by local designers in the Soho, New York City area. And eventually from 30,000 sales in 1994, it went to 430,000 in 1995.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And so then what happened is that the idea was that the shoes had suddenly passed this certain point of popularity and then they tipped. They sort of hit that point where they just, you know, they hit the jackpot, so to speak.
Ian Hull: So this was an example and we wanted to sort of set that up in this podcast, because we’re going to work through this example and this concept. But we’ll keep the Hushpuppy concept in mind as we go through it because it is an example of where a social phenomenon tipped and the book spends a lot of time using it, and many other examples, in showing why it tipped, what happened, what went on and so forth. And another example we’re going to talk a little bit is about some historic moments in time where things changed and affected the American society strongly throughout the book, is analyzed. So anyway, it’s a good…it’s a fun book. I think it’s a telling book in our area even, and I think it also gives people an idea of a little bit about what’s out there beyond just our sphere of estate world. I think it talks about social behaviour in a way and an understanding that can be very helpful.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: So if anyone is interested in following up and looking at the book itself, we’ll put a reference to it in our show notes and we’ll look forward to our next podcast, Ian.
Ian Hull: Thanks so much, Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Thanks to you.
You’ve been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning with Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.
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