We don’t like to be reminded of our mortality. Cemetery operators face this issue with many marker and monument sales. An illness may lead a husband and wife to begin making plans, which often includes the purchase of a grave space and a marker. But, it is difficult for many individuals to view a marker complete except for a date of death. Consequently, it is common for the couple to defer delivery of the marker until some future date. Unfortunately, some cemeteries (or monument dealers) go out of business, or change ownership, and the marker goes undelivered.
Until the law changed in Missouri in 2010, cemeteries were required to either deliver the marker within a reasonable time, or place 110% of the wholesale cost of the marker in a segregated account. The Missouri law now requires cemeteries to trust or escrow 80% of the marker’s purchase price when delivery is deferred. The new law presents two dilemmas for the cemetery.
In the situation where the marker is to be paid with installments, the cemetery will often defer delivery until the purchase price is paid in full (or at least until the cost of the marker has been received). Many consumers need the flexibility of installment payments to meet the costs of the marker. However, the cemetery has little recourse if the family ceases to make payments, except to defer delivery of the marker. Under the new Missouri law, cemeteries will be required to deposit 80% of those payments to trust or escrow, even if the contract only involves a 12-month installment period, and a prompt delivery on the last payment. This will add another layer of expense to the marker sale.
For the consumer who does not want to see his/her name on the marker, the cemetery also has the dilemma of rising costs. The costs of granite and bronze have risen dramatically over recent years, and show no signs of leveling off. With a marker, the cemetery has a product that it may be willing and able to delivery, but may be forced to defer, and in doing so, is also forced to watch the profit of the transaction being eroded over time.
Consumers who need the flexibility of installment payments should not be surprised if cemeteries pass on the additional costs imposed by Missouri’s new law. Similarly, consumers who don’t want to see their name on the marker (for which they have already paid) may also be required to bear additional expenses when delivery is deferred.