Death Care Compliance Law

Death Care Compliance Law

Preneed: A Pandora's Box of Problems

William Stalter is the founder of Stalter Legal Services and the Preneed Resource Company. Bill focuses his law practice on preneed and death care compliance, serving banks, funeral homes, crematories, and cemeteries. He has written multiple published articles

Category Archives: Master Trusts

Subscribe to Master Trusts RSS Feed

The MFT Lawsuit Claims: The Client List

Posted in Associations, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1, Preneed
The lawsuit brought by the Missouri Funeral Trust against the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and CFL Pre-Need includes  a number of unique and dubious claims.  For example, the lawsuit defines CFL Pre-Need, an insurance company, as a competitor but not funeral home clients that are licensed as a preneed seller.  The… Continue Reading

Preneed Trust Shortages: Investment Management Fees

Posted in Associations, Compliance, Investments, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1
One strength of the state association master trust is that it can provide the ‘critical mass’ required for economies of scale to reduce trust management costs.  As the state master trust grows in size, the association can better negotiate asset management arrangements.  However, the reality has been very different for these programs.  The reorganization of… Continue Reading

Missouri Funeral Trust: Seeking a Gag Order

Posted in Associations, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1
On July 27th, a Missouri court will consider a motion filed by the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to be dismissed from the lawsuit filed by the Missouri Funeral Trust.  One of the allegations made by the Missouri Funeral Trust was that confidential information obtained by a state auditor regarding the program’s weaknesses… Continue Reading

Preneed Trust Shortages: Missouri’s Income Withdrawals

Posted in Exams/audits, Investments, Legislation, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1, Recordkeeping, Reporting, Trust Funded
Prior to Missouri re-writing its preneed law in 2009, preneed sellers could draw off realized income so long as the withdrawal did not reduce the trust’s fair market value below trust deposits.   Seeking income, many Missouri sellers directed their trustees to invest in bonds.  As interest rates declined during the early part of the prior… Continue Reading

Missouri and Preneed Deficiencies: What is a shortage?

Posted in Legislation, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1, Preneed Shortfalls, Reporting, Trust Funded
At its June meeting, the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors gave instructions to their staff to draft legislation that would provide the Board powers to force preneed sellers to contribute funds to their trusts to cover ‘shortages’.   The instruction was not without some controversy as one Board member questioned why he was… Continue Reading

Association Master Trusts: De Facto Trustees

Posted in Compliance, Exams/audits, Fiduciary, Investments, Master Trusts
According to court filings, the reorganization plans for the Wisconsin Master Trust and California Master Trust each seek to eliminate ‘de facto trustee’ relationships that allowed the respective associations’ executives to ‘misuse, misspend, and mismanage millions of dollars’ of trust funds, and to direct funds towards inappropriate and unsuitable investments that served the association’s, rather… Continue Reading

Transparency:The Curious Case of the Missouri Funeral Trust

Posted in Master Trusts
In his final report to the court, the Wisconsin Master Trust receiver proposed a new trust agreement that is intended to provide “transparency, accountability, oversight and prudence”.   Similarly, the California Attorney General seeks to provide transparency through express reporting requirements included in the trust agreement proposed to the court presiding over the California Master Trust. … Continue Reading

NPS’ Legacy of Damages: No One Knows How Deep the Waters Were

Posted in Associations, Exams/audits, Master Trusts, Missouri - SB1, NPS/Lincoln, Recordkeeping
When NPS first collapsed, the estimate of the company’s liabilities to funeral homes was reported to have been as much as a billion dollars.  When the SDR finally brought the case to trial, the damages awarded by the jury were less than half of the original estimate.   While this author believes the actual damages are… Continue Reading

Question for The Jury: Exculpatory Clauses and Preneed Investment Supervision

Posted in Associations, Investments, Master Trusts, NPS/Lincoln
It is common for master preneed trusts to have investments directed by an independent fund manager.  The pooling of smaller trusts allows funeral directors to achieve the critical mass needed to engage professional asset management.  When investment functions are delegated, the trustee typically wants to be relieved of the supervision and liabilities that accompany those… Continue Reading

Getting Personal: liability and the preneed trust officer

Posted in Administration, Compliance, Investments, Master Trusts, NPS/Lincoln
Earlier this week, the Federal Court that is to try the NPS civil lawsuit next month issued an order (Order denying Morisse JOP Mtn) that will raise red flags for the banks that serve as preneed trustees.  In denying the motion of an officer of Allegiant Bank, Judge Richard Webber held that the Special Deputy Receiver… Continue Reading

Rising Interest Rates: A Return to the Good Ole Days?

Posted in Investments, Master Trusts, Trust Funded
For Fed watchers, last week’s announcement signaled a subtle warning that interest rates will likely begin rising by the Summer of 2015.  Since September of 2012, Federal Reserve statements have warned that interest rates would remain unchanged for “a considerable time” after the nation’s economic recovery strengthened.  The reference to “a considerable time” was dropped… Continue Reading

Investment Advisors: How Independent?

Posted in Compliance, Investments, Master Trusts, NPS/Lincoln
In a motion for rulings of law, the NPS Special Deputy Receiver seeks a judicial determination of two legal issues that could impact preneed trustees subject to the jurisdiction of the Eighth Circuit of Federal Court of Appeals: the beneficiary status of preneed purchasers (and funeral homes) and the required independence of investment advisors.  These two… Continue Reading

Consumers Payment Options: Administrative Hurdles and Preneed Trusts

Posted in Administration, Associations, Compliance, Master Trusts, Non-guaranteed, NPS/Lincoln, Recordkeeping, Trust Funded
There are three scenarios for administration of preneed installment payments: the funeral operator collects payments, the trustee collects payments or a third party administrator collects payments.  The entity collecting installment payments must be able to apply each payment to the correct preneed account, and provide the other party (or parties) current payment balances.  If the… Continue Reading

Consumer Options and Administrative Hurdles: Market Value Allocations

Posted in Administration, Associations, Compliance, Master Trusts
The conventional guaranteed preneed transaction is premised upon investment returns offsetting performance cost increases to the funeral home.  Many funeral homes restrict consumers to single payment preneed contracts to limit their exposure to funding short falls.  If the funeral home allows the consumer to pay the preneed purchase price over 60 months, the preneed trust… Continue Reading

The Fed’s Tapering Plan: A Bumpy Road for Death Care Trusts?

Posted in Compliance, Investments, Master Trusts, Uncategorized
It has been almost ten years since the return on Government bonds fell below 5%.  But bond returns did not hit bottom until four years later when the sub-prime mortgage market collapsed.  Those conditions threatened the nation’s credit markets, and so, in 2008, the Federal Reserve Board initiated a stimulus program involving the purchase of… Continue Reading

Qualified Funeral Trusts: once a simple concept

Posted in Master Trusts, Non-guaranteed, Preneed Tax, Taxes, Uncategorized
In has been almost twenty years since the Balanced Budget Act of 1995 introduced the concept of a simplified tax return for preneed trusts.  Initially, the “Qualified Funeral Trust” concept called for a flat 15% tax on accounts with contributions of $5,000 or less.  A conference committee succeeded in getting a higher contribution limitation ($7,000)… Continue Reading

The Wisconsin Master Trust: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Posted in Funeral, Master Trusts, Preneed
In a motion to convert the Wisconsin Master Trust from a preneed trust to a liquidating trust, the Receiver outlined to the court why the trust cannot keep its promises to consumers and comply with Wisconsin’s preneed law. Section 445.125 restricts preneed funeral trusts to depository accounts, and CD returns won’t even pay the Master… Continue Reading

The Bernanke Factor: The New Volatility for Death Care Trusts

Posted in Investments, Master Trusts, Preneed
A Missouri preneed auditor recently requested an explanation from a client why certain accounts were underfunded.  The handful of accounts were “underfunded” by varying amounts of a few dollars to twenty dollars.  The common fact with each was an initial deposit or substantial deposit in the month preceding the Federal Chairman’s remarks that sent the… Continue Reading

The NPS Criminal Trial: Vicarious Liability?

Posted in Fiduciary, Investments, Master Trusts, NPS/Lincoln, Preneed
David Wulf may stand alone in the crosshairs of the criminal prosecutors, but his fate will impact the NPS preneed trustees (and possibly other registered investment advisors who manage death care funds). Mr. Wulf had a situation that is unique from what existed in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, but is familiar to other death care… Continue Reading

Wisconsin: Breaking the Settlement Logjam

Posted in Funeral, Master Trusts, Preneed
In prior posts we have documented certain similarities between the old IFDA master trust and the Wisconsin master trust, and our Illinois clients have expressed sympathy for their colleagues to the north. But, key differences exist between the two master trusts, and the recent settlement agreement offered to Wisconsin funeral homes is an indication that… Continue Reading