Cost is the biggest reason for unclaimed bodies

In most provinces, a body is classified as unclaimed if nobody steps forward to claim the body after 24 hours. While it can take a few weeks to locate next of kin, there are still a significant number of bodies left unclaimed even after next of kin is notified.

Officials in Ontario's coronor office — the nation's most-populated province — report that in most unclaimed cases, the next of kin was identified but they were unable to claim the body. While there are a variety of reasons for next of kin to leave a body unclaimed, the most common reason is money. The financial burden of burial means that more families are choosing to leave a body unclaimed. In 2022, 20% of unclaimed bodies were due to financial costs of burial. In 2023, the number rose to 24%.

Two most significant factors contributing to unclaimed bodies

  1. Financial constraints: The most common reason for families not claiming bodies is the inability to afford funeral costs. For instance, in Ontario, financial issues accounted for 24% of unclaimed bodies in 2023, up from 20% in 2022.

  2. Location-based burial costs: The cost of an adult single grave varies significantly by location. While some regions in Canada offer burial costs in the low $1,000s, others cities, where land is priced at a premium, will see costs jump dramatically. For example, in the Greater Toronto Area, the price for a burial plot can range from $2,800 to $34,000 for a plot in a mid-town cemetary.

Unclaimed bodies rising in many Canadian provinces

According to provincial coronor data, unclaimed body count rose in the 10 years between 2013 and 2023.


  • 242: Unclaimed bodies in 2013
  • 1,183: Unclaimed bodies in 2023
  • 388% increase


  • 66: Unclaimed bodies in 2013
  • 183: Unclaimed bodies in 2023
  • 177% increase


  • 80: Unclaimed bodies in 2016
  • 200: Unclaimed bodies in 2023
  • 150% increase

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Rising funeral costs puts a dent on strained family finances

Like most expenses in Canada, the overall cost associated with dying — including wills, burials and permits — rose over the last decade. According to the Funeral Services Association of Canada, funeral costs rose between 11% and 50% between 1998 and 2023.


  • Ave funeral cost in 1998: $1,800
  • Top-end average funeral cost in 1998: $2,000
  • 11% increase in funeral costs


  • Ave funeral cost in 2023: $8,000
  • Top-end average funeral cost in 2023: $12,000
  • 50% increase in funeral costs

Government and community response to the rising cost of dying in Canada

Rising funeral and burial costs — and a subsequent increase in unclaimed bodies — prompted at least one province to build a new storage facility. That's because bodies held with the coronor are kept in a climate-controlled environment — and there is only a certain amount of space to store these bodies.

Needless to say, advocates for better end-of-life support argue that more storage space isn't the only solution.

Government support The federal government is also responding. In April, the federal government increased the death benefit in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) from $2,500 to $5,000. Unfortunately, advocates argue that this increase is still insufficient to cover the increased costs associated with funeral costs in Canada.

To bridge the gap, many Canadians are turning community support. The number of memorial fundraisers on GoFundMe surged more than 28,000% between 2013 and 2023 — from 36 in 2013 to 10,257 in 2023. The spike reflects the increasing financial struggle families face when trying to budget for funerals.

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Planning for the expense of burial costs

Planning for funeral expenses can alleviate the financial burden on your loved ones. To help, here are three effective strategies:

1. Prepay Your Funeral

Most funeral homes offer pre-payment plans that allow you to pay for burial plots or funeral expenses using instalment plans. Prepaying allows you to lock in current prices and avoid inflation — and this can translate into significant savings for your loved ones.

2. Start an estate-savings fund

Set up a dedicated savings account to help cover future expenses. Use a high-interest savings account in order to offset any erosion due to inflation. Good high-interest savings account options include:

  • EQ Bank: This online-only bank offers one of the best high interest rates on savings and deposits in Canada. Customers can expect to earn on every dollar deposited, but still have the freedom to pay bills using the no-fee account. For instance, save $10,000 in an EQ Bank savings account as an emergency fund and earn $400 in interest. It's easy to open the EQ Bank account using their simple 100% online process. Open an EQ Bank high interest savings account today.

  • Scotiabank's Momentum Plus Savings Account: As one of the Big 5 Banks, Scotiabank is a reputable traditional bank with plenty of in-person branches. Right now, new clients can earn 6.05% on every dollar deposited for the first three months. There are no fees and no monthly minimum required on the account. Open a Scotiabank Momentum Plus Savings Account today.

  • Simplii Financial High Interest Savings Account: This online-only bank never charges monthly fees and offers some of the best bank promos. Until July 31, 2024, new clients can earn 5.9% on eligible deposits for five months, before it drops to the regular 0.40% earn rate. On a $10,000 emergency fund deposit that's approximately $290 in interest income. Open a Simplii high-interest savings account today to get a versatile, no-monthly-fee account.

Remember, to keep this bank account accessible to your beneficiaries. A good option is to open a joint high-interest savings account — adding your beneficiary or executor to the bank account. But pick the person wisely, as this joint account holder can access and use the money in this savings account at any time — and not just for your burial costs.

3. Consider burial insurance

Even if you're over the age of 50, there are life insurance plans that can cover funeral costs. These plans are often available up to the age of 85, and in many cases do not require a medical exam or health questions in order to qualify.

The cost of this insurance can vary dramatically based on several factors, including:

  • Age: Premiums generally increase as the policyholder gets older, because they are considered higher risk.
  • Location: Where you live will impact cost.
  • Policy type: The type of policy you choose will impact the cost with investment life policies — such as whole or universal life — costing much more.
  • Coverage amount: The higher the insurance payout, the higher the premium fees.
  • Smoker status: Due to increased health risks, smokers can expect to pay much higher premiums for funeral insurance coverage (or any type of life insurance).
  • Underwriting: If the policy requires medical exams or a medical questionnaire, the policy will typically come with lower premiums.

For example, a 40-year-old non-smoker could expect to pay about $53 per month for $25,000 in coverage, while a 60-year-old non-smoker should budget $100 or more per month. If you're a smoker, you can expect to pay double, triple or even more for the policy premiums.

The human impact

The rising costs of funerals in Canada have led to a troubling increase in unclaimed bodies, highlighting the need for better financial support for bereaved families.

The rise in unclaimed bodies is not just a statistic. It also represents the distress of families unable to afford a dignified burial for their loved ones. This financial burden has forced some to leave their relatives' remains unclaimed, prompting calls for better support systems and more affordable funeral options.

— with files from Reuters


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Romana King Senior Editor,

Romana King is the Senior Editor at She writes for various publications, and her book -- House Poor No More: 9 Steps That Grow the Value of Your Home and Net Worth -- continues to be an Amazon bestseller. Since its publication in November 2021, this book has won five awards, including the New York CPA Society's Excellence in Financial Journalism (EFJ) Book Award in 2022.

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