Taxpayers, through their local governments, have always borne some of the cost of death care. Taxes go toward the maintenance of abandoned cemeteries and the final disposition of the indigent. But as the New York Times reports, the economy is causing more families to abandon the care of their dead to local governments. While many funeral homes will do what they can to assist the indigent, regulators and legislators are being forced to address this growing problem.

When Missouri’s legislature re-wrote that state’s preneed law this year, one of the earlier bill proposals included a revision to the public assistance law that would have allowed a person to set aside funds in a trust to be used for funeral and burial expenses. The trust would serve as an alternative to a preneed funeral contract. The public assistance law would also have been amended to contemplate the preneed reforms to be made to Chapter 436. However, the Chapter 436 reform passed by the Missouri legislature, and signed by the Missouri Governor, did not include any of the public assistance law amendments.

If interpreted strictly, Missouri’s public assistance law (Chapter 208), does not even exclude an irrevocable preneed funeral contract from the resources of an applicant for public assistance. It is unlikely Missouri residents will be denied the use of “spend downs” to qualify for pubic assistance, but legislators and regulators need to understand that SB1 was not a “one and done” fix for the NPS problems.