Many Illinois funeral homes were surprised when they opened their mail this past week. The Illinois Department of Insurance wrote to each funeral home that was determined to have a claim in the $18,000,000 Fund established by Merrill Lynch for IFDA master trust participants. The letter included a check and a spreadsheet allocating the check amount by individual consumer contracts.

Each funeral home will need to review the spreadsheet and identify those contracts that were serviced or terminated, and those contracts that remain active.

The funeral home will be entitled to keep the amounts allocated to guaranteed contracts that have been serviced according to the terms of the contract. If the goods and services were changed from what was described in the contract, the funeral home may owe the consumer a refund.

For non-guaranteed contracts that were serviced, the funeral home must compare the credit provided the family to the total amounts received for the contract. The funeral home will have to add the ML funds to the amount received from trust when the contract was serviced. If the credit given the consumer on the contract is less than the sum of the trust distribution and the ML funds, a refund is due the consumer.

If the preneed contract was terminated, the funeral home will need to review the contract and the amount originally refunded. In most cases, the settlement amount will be owed to the consumer.

For the active preneed contracts described on the spreadsheet, the funeral home will be obligated to apply the ML funds to the trust (or insurance) that funds the contract. Funeral homes must anticipate that the Comptroller’s Office will hold them accountable for these funds. (Funeral homes tempted to retain the entire settlement check should see the preceding blog entry.)

If the funeral home is entitled to a portion of the ML fund check, the check could be deposited to an operating account. The funeral home should then promptly write a check to the trust for the active contracts. If all of the contracts on the spreadsheet are active, the funeral home may want to endorse the check over to the trustee. The trustee will need a copy of the spreadsheet for purposes of crediting the accounts with the proper amounts.