The Wall Street Journal has long been viewed as a leading source of business and investment news. But last weekend, the WSJ ran a short article on preneed, and demonstrated its lack of understanding of the transaction.
The article attempts to characterize preneed as an investment, and then explores issues such as cash surrender charges, cancellation penalties and the NPS failure. This is all very misleading because preneed is not an investment, or a security, but rather the purchase of funeral goods and services.
Those who are considering the purchase of preneed should not view the transaction as an investment. The Securities Exchange Commission determined decades ago that the transaction is a purchase of goods and services, not an investment. While the transaction may be entered as a ‘hedge against rising costs’, there are forms of preneed that do not provide such protections.
The WSJ article ends with advice that also misses the mark. An elder law attorney suggests that a simple trust, costing “a few hundred dollars”, could substitute for the preneed transaction. Unless the attorney is considering individual trustees who serve without compensation, the combined cost of the trust document and the initial corporate fiduciary fee could be several hundred dollars. The corporate fiduciary will then have a minimum annual fee that will be ‘a few hundred dollars’. With a corporate fiduciary, this rather simple plan could end up costing 'a few thousand dollars'.
The next time the WSJ reports on preneed, it should do its homework, and not use the transaction as weekend filler.