By jeanne starmack
A seminar on pre-paid funerals was designed to restore trust after directors at two area funeral homes were accused of stealing pre-paid funds, said Joe Lane of Lane Funeral Homes.
The seminar at the business’s Boardman location featured three speakers: Atty. Scott Gilligan, counsel to the Ohio Funeral Direc- tors Association; Kenn Peterson, regional director of Homesteaders Life Insurance Co., which specializes in handling prepaid policies; and Atty. Robert Rusu, who partners with Lane in a law firm that handles estate issues.
Police in Niles and Girard are investigating recent allegations by the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors that McDermott Funeral Home in Niles misappropriated $150,000 in pre-paid funeral expenses, and police in Girard are investigating the board’s allegation that McClurkin funeral directors stole approximately $400,000.
“We want to re-establish public trust,” Lane said.
“We worry about our perception to the community.”
Gilligan said there are state laws that regulate pre-paid funeral arrangements.
Whether a consumer puts money in a trust for the funeral or buys an insurance policy to cover it, it is important to get notification that the funeral home has deposited the money, he said. Without that notification, theft could be occurring.
The funeral home cannot have access to the pre-paid funds unless it provides a death certificate.
Gilligan said if the consumer does not get a notice from the bank or insurance company within two weeks, that raises a red flag.
Peterson said his company notifies a consumer in two weeks that it received the money.
Other consumer-protection laws include the right to take the policy to another state or funeral home and contract disclosures that include whether the prices are guaranteed and whether it is a revocable or irrevocable contract.
There are good reasons to prepay, Rusu said. A pre-paid funeral is an asset that Medicaid cannot take for long-term care, he noted.