The first week under the new preneed law was a confusing one for the Missouri funeral industry. SB1 has many drafting conflicts and ambiguities, and that has give rise to different interpretations from the Attorney General’s Office, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, and the death care industry.
The State Board and the Attorney General’s Office have been criticized for the NPS debacle. While some of that criticism may be justified, NPS exploited the weaknesses of Chapter 436 (and the Board’s enforcement budget), and kept the regulators at bay for years. With SB1, the regulators have been given the keys to a new vehicle for preneed oversight and enforcement, but they are not in total agreement about the map to follow.
The State Board’s immediate agenda are the emergency rules that will keep the preneed industry functioning for the next 3 to 9 months. Consequently, debate over interpretations must be brief and concessions must be made. In some respects, the resulting emergency rules will be overly burdensome. But, these emergency rules will be the law until regulations are promulgated pursuant to the normal rulemaking process. Funeral homes that disregard the emergency rules, do so at substantial risks. It is crucial that funeral directors also understand that the emergency rules will impact the preneed contracts sold prior to August 28th.