The battle to reform Illinois’ preneed funeral law was renewed by the Comptroller’s office with the release of his Amendment to Senate Bill 1862. Reform in Illinois will take months, and the final product may differ substantially from the Comptroller’s proposal. However, SB 1862 flags Mr. Hynes’ priorities, and one of those priorities could force a shotgun marriage between the IFDA and some of the small funeral homes critical of the Association.
The Illinois preneed law authorizes a preneed seller to act as its own trustee when the seller’s preneed funds are less than $500,000. This provision is a reflection of the difficulty and expense encountered by small operators attempting to find affordable trust services. However, the IFDA exploited this provision with regard to its master trust, and consequently, the Comptroller wants to eliminate the self-trusted arrangement.
The advantage of an association master trust is that it provides the requisite economies of scale to provide affordable trust administration to the smallest funeral home operator. But, many Illinois operators shunned the IFDA master trust because of a lack of transparency. The amount of preneed funds held in self-trusted arrangements could be substantial. If the Comptroller seeks to apply the elimination of the self-trusted exception retroactively to existing trusts, the cost of corporate fiduciary services and the scarcity of such fiduciaries may lead these operators back to the IFDA, perhaps with the numbers to force changes at the Association.