It seems paradoxical to see preneed regulators ramping up audit programs while state budgets are being slashed to the bone. Yet, several I-70 corridor states will soon implement new preneed audit programs.
Missouri’s preneed funeral audits will be funded out of a combination of license fees and preneed contract fees. Missouri’s new cemetery law did not provide for any additional fees to offset the expense of a new reporting system and audits, and so, one most anticipate the state will look to recover from its expenses from non-compliant cemeteries.
Colorado had a modest, but significant, law change: the preneed regulator was granted authority to assess fees against preneed sellers to fund examinations. With a source for funding, new audit procedures have been submitted for approval.
With regard to cemeteries, Kansas quietly promulgated a regulation authorizing a $20 per preneed contract fee. Kansas would like to use a portion of those fees to implement a preneed contract database that would provide data that would be used in cemetery audits.
Nebraska also has plans to implement a new preneed database for auditing master trusts. In the absence of funding legislation, the Department of Insurance must use a carrot and stick approach with the state’s larger preneed sellers. Similar to the Illinois approach, the Nebraska stick would be the assessment of audit expenses against the non-compliant preneed seller. Illinois’ recent preneed law change (SB1682) raised the possible assessment from $7,500 to $20,000. For the preneed seller found to have issues of material non-compliance, the costs of a full audit could cost tens of thousands of dollars. And then there’s the issue of funding up deficiencies. As the Illinois law spells out, the audit penalty cannot be paid out of the preneed trust.
For preneed sellers from Illinois to Colorado, it isn’t a matter of whether there will be exams or audits, but when. For some states, those exams will come sooner than others. Missouri is currently training new examiners, and could well release them on those sellers who miss the October 31st renewal deadline.