The Missouri Funeral Director and Embalmer Association provided crucial support to the passage of Senate Bill No. 1, but the heart of the association’s membership, the mom and pop operators, may now be second-guessing that decision.
SB1 provides regulators the authority to audit or examine preneed trusts and joint accounts, including those established prior to August 28, 2009. Missouri funeral directors are now hearing that the State Board will enforce provisions of the law against their old preneed business in such a way so to put their funeral establishment licenses at risk.
The State Board’s authority to audit preneed sellers under the old law was vague. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the State Board conducted ‘random’ audits. In reality, the audits were not random, but weighted by the number of contracts sold. Using independent CPA firms, audits were made of the same small group of sellers. The practice was challenged in the mid-1990s, and audits were discontinued.
While the vast majority of Missouri sellers have never been audited, their preneed contracts have been reviewed periodically by State Board inspectors. Funeral directors are now troubled by the prospect of those contracts failing to pass muster when reviewed by an independent CPA firm.
The licensees’ worries are well founded. Few funeral homes engaged legal counsel for the purpose of preparing preneed contracts or trust agreements. Instead, funeral homes shared or borrowed documents, often without regard to such specifics as how the contract was to be funded. Consequently, funeral homes have used trust-funded contracts for joint accounts.
Some funeral directors are bound to take a defiant position with the State Board’s enforcement of SB1 against their preneed paperwork. While it is predictable that the State Board may assert the licensee’s failure to engage legal counsel is no defense, licensees represented by counsel also have reason to be indignant with the Board.