FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

If a death has occurred in your family, the information below will help guide you through the steps involved. These frequently asked questions are not meant to be exhaustive and each family will have their own unique situations and questions to ask. Please call us at any time with any questions you may have; we would be honoured to be of assistance to your family.

If a death has occurred at home

If the death was sudden and unexpected, the person accompanying the deceased must call 911 and the police will attend. They will contact the coroner who will determine if the deceased can be released to the funeral home or if further investigation will be taken under the care of the coroner.

If the death was anticipated, the deceased may have had their doctor complete an Notification of Expected Death in the Home form.  It is a triplicate form, with one copy remaining in the patient file at the doctor’s office; a second copy is kept at the family home, with the third copy on file with the funeral home or available to the funeral home staff at the time we transfer from the place of death. If this form has been completed, there is no need to call 911. Prior to completing this form, you must discuss this with your doctor.

If the deceased was being treated for a serious or terminal illness, and there is no Notification of Expected Death in the Home form, their doctor or RN need to attend the deceased to pronounce death before the funeral home can be called. 

If a death has occurred in a General Hospital

The deceased will be brought to the hospital morgue for sheltering. The family must call the funeral home to advise us of the death during normal business hours. Prior to transferring the deceased from the hospital to the funeral home, the funeral director will meet with the family to make arrangements and to sign a hospital release form.

If a death has occurred in a care home or hospice

As care homes and hospices are not hospitals, they do not have the ability to shelter the deceased on site. Accordingly, the care home staff will contact the funeral home to advise of the death and request that the deceased be transferred into the care of the funeral home immediately. It is for this specific reason that it is very important that families choose their funeral provider at the time of admission to the facility.

If a death occurs in another country

The laws and procedures for returning the deceased to Canada are unique to each country. At Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services, we are experts in this area and have many years of experience with making arrangements for the transportation of the deceased back to Canada, and dealing with local medical authorities and government officials.

Can I transport the deceased to another country after death?

Yes, you can. Alternatives has extensive experience shipping human or cremated remains to other countries. In fact, we are experts at meeting the specifications of foreign governments. If you require international transportation, please advise us as soon as the death has occurred so we can begin making arrangements with the appropriate authorities. With some countries it takes time to complete the required documentation.


Do I need to prepare anything prior to meeting with a Licensed Funeral Director?

Yes, but not much. As all births are recorded and registered, so too must every death. For your convenience, you can download the Vital Statistics Registration of Death form. You should complete the form and provide it to the Funeral Director during the final arrangement conference.

Your funeral director will request a Medical Certification of Death which is completed by the doctor. The director will also help the family complete the Vital Statistics Registration of Death form. Once we have both forms Alternatives will register the death with the province. Only then can the Death Certificate be issued.

Who is authorized to make decisions?

There is a legal order of priority for the individual authorized to make all the decisions pertaining to the disposition of the deceased, including cremation or burial, and the type of service, on behalf of the deceased.  The first is the executor for the estate of the deceased. If no executor has been appointed then it would be the surviving spouse (common-law or same-sex); adult children of the deceased in age descending order; adult grandchildren in age descending order; parents, other adult relatives, somebody else willing to step forward; public guardian; or the Ministry for Social Services in your province.

Where do we meet to make final arrangements?

We will arrange an appointment to meet with you in your home, or anywhere else you feel most comfortable and in control. During the meeting you will be presented with the options for disposition (cremation or burial), types of services available (Alternatives Event, cremation with no service, graveside burial only with no church service, memorial service or celebration of life with no body present, or a funeral with the body present in a casket followed by cremation or burial; review the Vital Statistics Registration of Death form with you to ensure accuracy; arrange for the location of the selected type of service or event, show you a selection of urns and/or caskets, and provide complete detailed and concise pricing for professional staff services and merchandise.

What is cremation?

Cremation is a process of reducing the human body to bone fragments by the use of intense heat for a period of two to three hours. The cremated remains, which are commonly referred to as “ashes,” are removed from the cremation chamber. They are then processed into a fine sand-like consistency and placed into an urn. The ashes weigh typically between five and seven pounds. An urn may be selected for the final disposition of the cremated remains. Provincial laws require that at a minimum, the deceased must be placed into a rigid combustible container prior to cremation. Many options of caskets and containers are available to you.

Can we place personal mementos in the casket prior to cremation?

Yes. Many personal items may be placed in the casket; however, some items may need to be removed prior to the cremation process. All items left in the casket will be cremated with the deceased. Your funeral director can advise you on what items may stay and what items must be removed from the casket.

Can we still have a viewing or funeral if we select cremation?

Yes. Cremation does not limit the types of services that may be chosen. The same options that apply to earth burial are available with cremation. Some of these choices include: casket type, location of the service and visitation, music selection, open casket(viewing) and the display of personal mementos. Some families elect to have a complete service at the funeral home or place of worship. Others prefer to have a procession to the crematorium, similar to that often done to the cemetery for an earth burial.

Is embalming required?

No, embalming is not generally mandatory; however, in some circumstances we will recommend it or you may require it by law. For example, international shipment requires embalming.  If you decide to have an open casket, embalming is highly recommended for the temporary preservation, sanitation and restoration of the deceased. Embalming is required by Alternatives when a rental casket is used for a viewing or funeral service.

What is an urn?

An urn is a container designed to hold cremated remains. It may be constructed from a variety of materials such as wood, bronze, copper, steel, pewter, granite, marble, clay pottery or fine porcelain. We have a large selection of urns available designed to reflect the lifestyle of an individual. Urns may also be personalized by engraving. Urns and keepsakes come in a variety of sizes that allow you to share portions of the cremated remains with family members.

What can we do with the cremated remains?

The cremated remains may be buried in an existing cemetery plot or a new plot may be purchased from your local cemetery.  Most cemeteries have cremation plots available.

The urn may be placed in a niche (single or companion space for 1 or 2 urns) in an above ground structure called a columbarium (a collection of niches together in the form of a wall).

Some cemeteries and churches have scattering areas on their property. Cremated remains may be scattered on private or public property if authorization is obtained. Private Properties may be bought and sold so it is important to realize that once the scattering takes place, the cremated remains are irretrievable. Scattering on either public or private property may offend some people and there may be laws prohibiting such action. Please check your with alternatives staff before scattering if you are in doubt.

You may wish for the cremated remains to be shipped to another province or country. We can look after these arrangements for you. You may also be permitted to take the cremated remains yourself to another country. Check with us first and we can assist you to obtain any additional documentation that may be required.

Some people prefer to have the urn at home with them. There are no restrictions about where or for how long cremated remains can be kept in the home.

How can I obtain information regarding CPP Canada Pension Plan?

Death Benefit Information


Survivor Benefit Information