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Nov 2023

Options for Your Final Resting Place

By Jacquelyn Johnson and Zachary D’Amico


  • In Ontario, the individual designated as the estate representative holds the ultimate authority in determining the disposal of a deceased person's remains. This could be the Estate Trustee specified in a will or a representative appointed by the Court. If this is something that is important to you, you should ensure that you communicate these instructions to your Estate Trustee, and to your family and friends to ensure that your wishes are carried out following your passing. This can also include pre-arrangement and/or pre-payment of any such expenses. This helps your Estate Trustee ensure your wishes are followed during a very difficult time.
  • It is worth noting that the Estate Trustee is not legally obligated to adhere to any directives expressed by the deceased in their will, a written memorandum, or verbal instructions to the Estate Trustee or family members. These are wishes of the deceased. However, most individuals select an Estate Trustee who will adhere to their wishes. Additionally, Estate Trustees are not obliged to follow family customs or the desires of surviving family members. However, the Estate Trustee does have a duty to respect any consent previously provided by the deceased regarding the donation of body parts.
  • There are many different options in Ontario with what to do with your body after you pass away. This article seeks to explore those options and the legal implications behind each one.

Burial and Caskets

  • The most common ways of dealing with a body post mortem in Canada is either by burial or cremation by fire. As most of us are familiar with these concepts, we won’t dwell too much on these.
  • Some cemeteries will let you bury a body without a casket. It will depend on the cemetery’s by-laws. For cremation, some crematorium by-laws only require that the deceased be in a rigid container.
  • Furthermore, there is an option for a Crypt. Crypts are burial spots designed to house a casket in a stone or concrete chamber. While you will need to pay a fee for entombing and sealing the crypt and for a tombstone or monument to be created and erected, you will save in the following ways:
    1. No purchase of a burial plot.
    2. No actual sealer casket required.
    3. No opening and closing fees.
  • Another option is having the body entombed in a mausoleum. A mausoleum is a large, stately burial chamber, often built of stone. Mausoleums are most commonly found in cemeteries and may be either above ground or underground. Mausoleums are more affordable than you may think. The cost of a mausoleum can vary depending on the size, type of material used, and the location of the mausoleum. The average cost of a mausoleum in Ontario is between $4,000.00 and $10,000.00.
  • Some service providers will allow you to provide your own container for a cremation, alkaline hydrolysis or a burial as long as it is safe and meets the requirements of the cemetery, alternative disposition or crematorium operator.
    • In Ontario, a person (or cremated ashes) must be buried at an authorized cemetery. For a burial to be legally performed on private land, the area would need to be authorized as a permitted cemetery.

Handling remains (cremation or alkaline hydrolysis)

  • Alkaline hydrolysis, unlike cremation by fire, is a water-based and environmentally friendly process that uses a combination of heat, pressure, and alkaline chemicals to break down a body into its basic chemical components, leaving behind bone ash and liquid remains.
  • Flame Cremation is a process which utilizes extremely hot flames to reduce the body into its basic components. The deceased is placed in a crematorium and heated until reaching temperatures of 1400-1800 Fahrenheit in order to begin disintegrating their material form.
  • In Ontario, you have several options when it comes to handling remains:
    • Scatter the cremated or alkaline hydrolysis remains on private property with the consent of the property owner. However, if repeated scatterings are desired on the same property, the landowner must formally designate it as a cemetery and employ a licensed cemetery operator.
    • Enter into a contract with a licensed funeral establishment, cemetery, crematorium, or alternative disposition service to oversee the scattering of these remains on your behalf.
    • Scatter the remains on unoccupied Crown land, including submerged land, such as provincial parks, conservation reserves, or areas like the Great Lakes, provided there are no posted signs prohibiting such scattering.
    • Disperse the remains on municipally-owned lands, though it is advisable to check with the municipality regarding any by-laws that may restrict scattering in specific areas, such as municipal parks.
    • Transport the remains resulting from cremation or alkaline hydrolysis out of Ontario.

Donating Your Organs and Tissue

  • Deceased donation refers to the act of providing one's organs or tissue upon the donor's demise with the intention of transplanting them to a living individual who is in need of such organ or tissue. Deceased donation is a relatively uncommon event, as it requires specific circumstances for someone to become a deceased organ donor.
    • Deceased organ donation opportunities are restricted, with only approximately 1–2% of hospital deaths occurring in a manner that permits organ donation. A single organ donor can potentially supply up to eight organs for transplantation.
  • In Canada, there are two ways in which a person must die to allow them to become an organ donor:
  1. Neurological determination of death (NDD)
    1. Also referred to as ''brain death”, means the brain has permanently lost all function and a diagnosis of death using neurological criteria has been determined.
  2. Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD)
    1. DCD is an option for organ donation for patients with severe brain injuries once a decision has been made to remove all life-sustaining treatments. When a person's heart permanently stops beating, they have experienced Circulatory Death.
    2. In Ontario, organ and tissue donation after cardiac death is allowed.
      1. Not all jurisdictions in Canada allow for donation after DCD.

Donating Your Body to Science

  • Body donation, as opposed to organ and tissue donation for living recipients, involves the act of giving one's entire body for educational and research purposes to a School of Anatomy. In Ontario, medical schools and anatomy institutions rely on the generosity of individuals who choose to donate their bodies after their passing. These donations serve various vital purposes, including:
    1. Training Future Medical Professionals: Donated bodies are invaluable in educating and training the next generation of medical professionals. They provide students with hands-on experience to better understand human anatomy.
    2. Enhancing Skill Sets: Medical and anatomical students benefit from the opportunity to enhance their skills by working with real human bodies. This practical experience is crucial for their professional development.
    3. Expanding Knowledge: Body donations contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge and research. They enable researchers to explore various aspects of the human body and develop new medical insights.
  • The acceptance of whole-body donations typically depends on several factors, including the donor's location and the specific needs of the receiving School of Anatomy. However, it's important to note that a School of Anatomy may refuse a body donation if:
    • An autopsy has been conducted on the deceased.
    • Embalming has taken place.
    • Amputation of body parts has occurred.
    • The deceased had certain infectious diseases or was severely emaciated.
    • The School of Anatomy is not in need of additional donations at that time.
  • Before making a decision to donate one's body, it's advisable to contact the intended institution to understand their specific requirements and ensure eligibility.


  • Considering the significant authority granted to the Estate Trustee for managing the deceased person's remains and the multitude of options available, selecting this representative is a crucial decision that should be thoroughly examined in consultation with a legal professional. It is important to think about what you wish to happen to your body after you pass, and make your wishes known to your family and Estate Trustee.