'Could be up to 50 instances' where prepaid funeral money was improperly handled

The Nova Scotia government has received as many as 85 inquiries since it announced S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home in Sydney would no longer be permitted to sell prearranged funerals and asked the public to contact Service Nova Scotia if they had questions about their arrangements with the business.

Funeral home in Sydney says it's taken 'a series of measures' to clean up its practices

The money for as many as 50 prepaid funerals was not deposited in trust by Chant's funeral home as required by law. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The provincial government has received as many as 85 inquiries since it announced a Sydney funeral home would no longer be permitted to sell prearranged funerals and asked the public to contact Service Nova Scotia if they had questions about their arrangements with the business.

"We are actively looking into each [inquiry] and believe there could be up to 50 instances where money for a prearranged funeral was not placed in trust," Service Nova Scotia spokesperson Marla MacInnis said in an email concerning the S.W. Chant Funeral Home.

MacInnis said the other 35 inquiries related to money that was placed in an insurance-funded, prearranged funeral plan "and would be accounted for."

Legislation in Nova Scotia requires that money paid for a prearranged funeral be placed in trust in the person's name.

Funeral home violated legislation

Funeral homes are required to provide the person paying for the prearrangement with written proof from the bank that the payment has been deposited into a trust account within 21 days of payment.

If the prepayment involves instalments, the funeral home must also give proof, at least twice a year, that the payments have been deposited.

The provincial government says Sheldon Chant, the owner of Chant's Funeral Home in Sydney, has agreed to either provide a full refund to those who purchased prearranged funerals or put the money in a prearranged insurance plan. (S.W. Chant & Son Funeral Home)

Service Nova Scotia announced it was investigating the funeral home in May after receiving a single complaint about prearranged funeral money not being placed in trust.

At the time, MacInnis said the funeral home's records had been inspected, but she did not disclose what had been found.

Poor business practices blamed

Following a hearing later that month, the province took the unusual step of permanently revoking Chant's ability to sell prearranged funerals in trust, citing careless behaviour, poor record-keeping, poor bookkeeping and lack of managerial oversight.

At the time, Chant's said it had taken a "series of measures so that a matter of this sort will not occur again."

The government also suspended Chant's ability to sell prearranged funerals through insurance plans for six months.

MacInnis said the government is working "very closely" with the business "to ensure that all money paid for a prearranged funeral is protected."

Funeral home will issue refunds

She said the funeral home has agreed "and is prepared to provide" purchasers with a full refund or it will put the money into an insurance-funded, prearrangement plan, which guarantees funeral costs will be covered when the person dies.

In an email, funeral home owner Sheldon Chant said he believes "the corrective measures we have put in place have remedied the situation such that future reoccurrences of this sort will not again take place."

Chant said they are "overwhelmed by the support and affection" shown to them.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.