Missouri cemeteries received a brief questionnaire last week from their primary regulator. The Office of Endowed Care Cemeteries (the OECC) has responsibility for enforcement of Chapter 214, the Missouri law that governs endowed care requirements and preneed sold by licensed cemeteries. The OECC would seem to be sizing up cemeteries as candidates for Chapter 214 preneed audits. If a cemetery is selling preneed pursuant to Chapters 333 and 436, the OECC can cross the cemetery off its list. But the likelihood is that most cemeteries selling preneed have opted away from Chapter 436.

What may not be apparent to consumers is the fact that many Missouri cemeteries claim exemption from Chapter 214 endowed care licensing requirements. Some cemeteries site exemption from these license requirements based on religious affiliations, or because they restrict grave space sales to family or association members. These ‘exempt’ cemeteries face new regulation requirements if they sell merchandise and services that would be deemed “preneed” by Chapter 436 (and the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors).

Consumers can conduct their own survey of a cemetery offering to sell burial services, monuments, urns and vaults before there is a death.

If the consumer is purchasing a monument or marker, and is making a single payment, ask whether the contract complies with Section 214.385 and provides for prompt delivery.

If the purchase of the monument or marker is being made with installments, with delivery deferred to the future, ask the cemetery for documentation regarding the trust or escrow account used for the payments. The cemetery will have to either comply with Section 214.387 of Chapter 214 or Section 436.435 Chapter 436.

If the cemetery is offering to sell burial services or vaults prior to a death, a portion of the consumer payments should be deposited to either a 214.387 trust or a 436.435 trust. If the cemetery claims to be exempt, or can’t answer the question, the consumer has reason to be concerned. Such concerns should be addressed to either the OECC or the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

Finally, ask the cemetery about their endowed care license. If it does not have a Chapter 214 license, ask to see its Chapter 333 preneed seller license. If the cemetery is not licensed as an endowed care cemetery, it has no option but to be licensed as a preneed seller under Chapter 333.