The Importance of Prudent Funeral Planning

August 6, 2014 Hull & Hull LLP Funerals, In the News 0 Comments

Teenager Rueshad Grant was tragically killed at last year’s Toronto Caribbean Festival (Caribana) when he fell underneath the wheels of a float.

Funeral costs are typically paid out of the Estate but when the deceased is a teenager, their assets are usually insufficient to cover the costs of a funeral.  Under these circumstances, the family will often step in to pay for the funeral.

According to this story in the Toronto Star, the incident was considered a motor vehicle accident.  Because Grant’s family had no auto insurance, only the float driver’s insurance company paid money towards the costs of the funeral.

Around one-half of the cost of the funeral was paid and the funeral home has now issued a statement of claim to recover the other half, plus interest, from Grant’s family.

Grant’s relatives claim that one of the funeral home’s employees “advised the mother of deceased, Shaundell Grant, and (his step father) Robert Grant, that he knew a lawyer that could obtain a very large settlement for the Grants with the Scotia Bank and the City of Toronto.”

They further claim that the employee took advantage of the family’s vulnerability and that the employee’s actions constituted fraudulent misrepresentation.  It was the family’s understanding that the funeral home would allow them more time to pay for the funeral.

As the litigation is at an early stage, the allegation has not been proved in court.  Nevertheless, the case is instructive.

First, in Ontario, only lawyers and paralegals (under certain circumstances) are qualified to give legal advice.  Do not rely on an unqualified individual’s assessment of your chances to recover damages, particularly if they are offering you an expensive service at the same time.  Always seek independent legal advice from a qualified legal professional.

Second, ensure that the written agreement you are signing accurately reflects the understanding you believe you have reached with the funeral home.  While oral assurances contrary to the terms of the written contract can prevail over the written terms, it may require costly proceedings to obtain a declaration to that effect in court.

When a family member unexpectedly dies, it is difficult to think about financial matters but it is important to do so.  Prudent funeral planning serves to avoid litigation, which would otherwise compound the trauma of losing a family member.

Thank you for reading,

Suzana Popovic-Montag

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