Continuing the theme that effective preneed regulation requires the occasional update, the Missouri legislature is poised to pass the first ‘patch’ to SB1, the 2009 legislation that ‘re-wrote’ Chapter 436. Senate Bill No. 340 will make four noteworthy changes to Chapter 436.
Concerned that preneed sellers would use variable annuities to fund preneed contracts, Missouri’s insurance regulators sought to have SB1 limit the use of annuities to the single premium variety. This proved burdensome to funeral homes committed to insurance funded preneed. The single premium requirement denied the funeral home the use of variable pay annuities for consumers who either do not qualify for life insurance, or who cannot afford the premium of a life insurance policy. SB340 appropriately allows variable pay annuities to be used to fund preneed contracts so long as death benefits are never less than the premiums paid.
While SB1 preserved the use of joint account funded preneed, small operators encountered problems with banks and the Patriot Act. SB340 will allow POD accounts to be used in funding preneed contracts.
SB1 provided for retroactive application in certain respects. But, with regard to preneed trusts in existence prior to August 28, 2009, SB1 provided for historic law treatment with regard to income distributions to sellers and the use of income to pay trust expenses. Section 436.031 authorized the distribution of trust income to the seller provided the mark to market requirement was satisfied. The section also obligated the seller to pay trust expenses and taxes because of trust income withdrawals. SB340 will delete that provision, and it isn’t clear the intent for this change.
Section 436.031 of the prior law also allowed a preneed seller to designate an investment advisor, and in doing so, relieve the trustee of all asset management responsibilities. This provision was exploited by NPS, and was pivotal in conversion of millions of dollars of preneed trusts to worthless insurance. Seeking a completely independent trustee, SB1 imposed restrictions on who could serve as an investment advisor to the trust. While the NPS experience proved the need to keep the fiduciary responsible for asset management, SB1 went too far in driving a wedge between the asset manager and the seller. SB340 will create an exception to that restriction for the “external” investment advisor who satisfies Section 436.440.