For the past several years, most preneed sellers were more likely to have been audited by the IRS than their state funeral or cemetery regulator. That will likely change in the next year or two for operators in a Midwest state.

The common response to an IRS audit would be to throw the relevant records into a box the weekend prior to the scheduled trip to the examiner’s office. But since the point of sale for preneed is at the funeral home, most states begin the examination process at the funeral home. In some states, the historical approach was to initiate the exam with little or no advance warning. Under such circumstances, it would behoove the preneed seller to organize and maintain his preneed records so as to expedite the examination.

While the duty to prove compliance is upon the licensee, few state death care regulators have issued any guidance regarding preneed record requirements. One challenge to providing such guidance is that a different set of rules is required for each method of preneed funding. Generally speaking, cemeteries are confined to trust funding because deliveries are made prior to death (thus eliminating insurance for much of what the cemetery sells). However, funeral homes often use both trust and insurance, and often multiple insurance companies and multiple trusts (Pre-88, Post-88, New Law, Old Law, my trust, state association trust, etc). And then some states also allow for depository accounts.

Sellers should set up different ‘boxes’ (or file drawers) for each method of funding. If the seller has offered insurance, trust and depository accounts, then plan on three drawers of documents. And if the seller has used Forethought, Homesteaders and NGL, three dividers will be needed for the insurance drawer. Similarly, the trust-funded drawer should have a Pre-88 folder, a Post-88 folder, and a new law folder. A folder for each bank used to fund a preneed contract should divide the depository drawer.

For the funeral home that approached the different sources of funding as diversification, this benefit comes at the cost of time to organize and maintain the necessary paperwork. Those operators that take the time to prepare and organize their records will minimize the examination’s disruption to their business, and the potential for citations for non-compliance.

In upcoming posts, the content of those folders will be addressed.