The Missouri Legislature has reform of Chapter 436, the preneed funeral law, on the fast track. With the speed that Senate Bill 1 has been amended and perfected, it may be more appropriate to label this reform as being in the express lane. However, Missouri legislators must not lose track of the cemetery industry’s efforts to effect its own reforms for Chapter 214.
As with most states, Missouri regulates cemeteries under a separate law and a separate regulator. For the most part, Missouri’s cemeteries have been spared from the NPS abuses. Regardless, the state’s cemetery industry has been pursuing needed changes to Chapter 214. Appropriately, Senate Substitute for the SCS SB1, attempts to carve out cemetery exemptions from preneed funeral regulation, but misses the mark.
Chapter 333 vests regulation of funeral directors and funeral establishments in the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. SB1 will expand the State Board’s authorities to regulate the preneed transaction, and the revisions to Chapter 333 include new definitions of “funeral merchandise” and “preneed contract”. Those definitions overlap with the property, merchandise and services sold by cemeteries. To exclude cemeteries from the State Board’s jurisdiction, SB1 includes a new Section 333.310:
333.310. The provisions of sections 333.300 to 333.340 shall not apply to a cemetery operator who sells contracts or arrangements for services for which payments received by, or on behalf of, the purchaser are required to be placed in an endowed care fund or for which a deposit into a segregated account is required under chapter 214, RSMo, provided that a cemetery operator shall comply with sections 333.300 to 333.340 if the contract or arrangement sold by the operator includes services that may only be provided by a licensed funeral director or embalmer.
With Chapter 333 now defining funeral merchandise to include grave spaces, markers and vaults, cemeteries that sell these items on a preneed basis will be subject to the State Board’s licensing jurisdiction. Section 333.310 exempts cemeteries from the State Board’s jurisdiction to the extent that the cemetery sells only preneed burial services such as opening and closings (and then one has to question the exemption’s reference to endowed care fund or segregated account). If the cemetery sells property or merchandise, the State Board would have jurisdiction for requiring preneed licensing.
In contrast, the cemetery exemption from Chapter 436 does not reference services (and consequently, has a broader affect):
436.410. The provisions of sections 436.400 to 436.520 shall not apply to any contract or other arrangement sold by a cemetery operator for which payments received by or on behalf of the purchaser are required to be placed in an endowed care fund or for which a deposit into a segregated account is required under chapter 214, RSMo, provided that a cemetery operator shall comply with sections 436.400 to 436.520 if the contract or arrangement sold by the operator includes services that may only be provided by a licensed funeral director or embalmer.
However, the Chapter 436 exemption is also problematic for cemeteries. This provision would exempt contracts sold by cemeteries where the purchaser payments are deposited to an endowed care fund or to a segregated account required under Chapter 214. This provision is rather confusing because endowed care trusts cannot be used for preneed payments, but rather for the care and maintenance of the cemetery. The reference to “segregated accounts” contemplates Section 214.387, a provision that authorizes cemetery operators a procedure for deferring the delivery of markers pursuant to a purchaser’s instructions. The segregated account does not provide adequate consumer protections, and should not be the basis for an exemption from Chapter 436.
If would be preferable to address Chapter 436 and Chapter 214 at the same time so that the exemptions can be dovetailed, but if Chapter 436 continues on its current pace, the cemetery exemption must contemplate future trusting/escrow arrangements under Chapter 214, or provide the Director of the Division of Professional Registration the authority to exempt cemeteries based on their individual preneed programs.