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Earlier this month, Elsie Poncher posted on eBay her late husband’s crypt for sale. The unique feature about the crypt is its location directly above the crypt of Hollywood icon, Marilyn Monroe in Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery. Mrs. Poncher decided to sell the valuable crypt and move her husband’s remains to another part of the cemetery in order pay the $1.6 million mortgage on her Beverly Hills home.
Last week, someone purchased the crypt with a winning bid of $4.6 million. That bid has since fallen through with the bidder unable to pay but there were a number of other multi-million dollar bids which may now become the winning bid.
In Ontario, the Cemeteries Act
prohibits the private resale of burial plots or crypts. When someone purchases a burial plot, they receive interment rights in perpetuity, not property rights. The property rights belong to the cemetery and if required, transfer to a third party requires the consent of the cemetery and the cemetery maintains the right to buy back the interment rights.
However, in the United States many states do not have similar legislation and some suggest that the reselling of burial plots have increased in recent economic times .
Thanks for Reading,
Diane Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.
Ontario’s new harmonized sales tax is coming into effect on July 1, 2010. One of its effects will be to impose PST on funeral services: services that have previously been exempted from PST.
According to the harmonized sales tax, funeral services will now be taxed at the rate of 13%, up from 5%. The effect on a $5,000 funeral would be to raise the tax payable from $250 to $650.
The new harmonized tax may also have an effect on prepaid funeral services. According to a May 27, 2009 Toronto Star article, there are 224,257 prepaid funeral contracts in Ontario, and about 1 in 4 funerals in Ontario are prepaid.
The Ontario Minister of Finance has indicated that the government hopes to implement some sort of grandfathering clause, so that funeral services prepaid before a certain date remain exempted from the PST. However, nothing has been finalized yet. The cut-off date would likely be some time before July 1, 2010.
Those considering a prepaid funeral would be wise to complete their plans sooner rather than later. The new tax, like death, is approaching.
Thank you for reading.
A recent case from Britain focuses the spotlight on the traditional Hindu cremation practice.
A 70 year old Hindu spiritual leader, Davender Ghai, sought the legal right to an open air funeral pyre. In 2006, Newcastle City Council has refused Mr. Ghai’s request for a permit for an open air cremation site in a remote part of Northumberland. Citing the Cremation Act, 1902, Council noted that the burning of human remains other than a crematorium is a criminal offence. The Ministry of Justice agreed with the Council’s decision.
Mr. Ghai appealed the Council’s decision to the High Court. Mr. Ghai, who immigrated to Britain from Kenya in 1958, stated this he required an open air funeral pyre to release his spirit after death. Invoking Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act, Mr. Ghai argued that his religious freedom and freedom to family life were being infringed. Mr. Ghai requested to be able to follow the 4,000 year old tradition at the time of his death and noted that such permits would have to be regulated and pyres sites held away from urban and residential areas.
Mr. Justice Cranston upheld the Council’s decision. He agreed with the Ministry of Justice that open cremation is prohibited by law and that the prohibition was justified on the grounds of public health and public safety. The issue is not over yet, Justice Cranston did give Mr. Ghai permission to appeal his ruling to the Court of Appeal. Mr. Ghai has stated his intention to do so.
As the population ages in multicultural societies, we can expect to revisit similar issues frequently
Enjoy your day,
A recent Toronto Life magazine article, “The New Death Etiquette” examines mourning in the 21st century. The new death etiquette includes multicultural hybrid funerals and intricate grieving rituals. Many funerals now are elaborate functions designed to reflect the individual personality of the deceased person. As stated in the article, there is no such thing as a standard burial these days.
Most of us probably do not like to think about our funeral and final resting place. However, when it comes time to preparing a Will, many individuals will ask their lawyer to include burial instructions, such as a wish for cremation or to be buried in a particular cemetery. It may come as a surprise to learn that in Ontario, such instructions are not binding on the estate trustee. It is the estate trustee who has the right and obligation to bury a deceased person, even in the face of objections from family members. The authority for this comes from an English case decided over 100 years ago, Williams v. Williams (1882), 20 Ch. D. 659, where it was held that there is no property in a dead body, and so a person cannot by will dispose of their own dead body. An estate trustee, however, has the right to custody and possession of a deceased’s body until it is properly buried.
Have a great day!
Bianca La Neve
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.