Recent cemetery failures are causing regulators from Illinois, Missouri and Kansas to take a closer look at the oversight provided for preneed sales of vaults, markers, urns and burial services.

Cemetery preneed is a different animal for that offered by funeral homes. As Mr. Newcomer suggested to a reporter, the big difference between the two industries revolves around the grave. The interment represents a perpetual obligation on the part of the cemetery.

For the cemetery, the preneed sale typically begins with the grave sale. For the larger cemetery, the preneed sale seldom ends there. The cemetery may sell a variety of merchandise and services to lot owners. Many of the items can be delivered in advance of death, but often the lot owner will want to defer delivery of some of the items.

In contrast to a funeral, cemetery preneed can not be tied to a death, and as a consequence, life insurance is not a viable funding vehicle. Trusts or constructive delivery are the main methods of safeguarding the consumer.

When trust funded preneed is used by the cemetery, the preneed accounting involves a ‘bucket’ for each category of merchandise or service offered to the consumer. Cemetery preneed sales are often made in stages, with the consumer adding items as his/her budget allows. Consequently, buckets are added or emptied as the consumer adds purchases or consents to the delivery of merchandise (like a marker).

As regulators look to provide more oversight to the cemetery preneed transaction, they need to understand the bucket factor.