Heritage is the term that the death care industry uses to describe the relationship each funeral home or cemetery attempts to forge with the community through years of service. Heritage reflects a commitment to the community, and through that commitment, the operator can expect the community’s business.
Initially, the vast majority of funeral directors fought preneed because the upstart operator used pricing strategies to undermine the heritage of the established competitor. Accordingly, the early preneed laws were intended to choke off preneed. But now, the vast majority of funeral homes offer some form of preneed, and preneed laws are slowly changing to reflect that.
Funeral directors also perceive the business practices of the national companies as a threat to their heritage. The larger the funeral operator, the more access it has to economies of scale, investment capital, and resources for advertising and administration. For sixty years, Pennsylvania funeral homes have been subject to a law that was intended to give the ‘little guy’ a level playing field. As reported by the Philly.com, a Federal court has found many provisions of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Law unconstitutional.
The Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association expressed “surprise” over the decision, and encouraged the State Board of Funeral Directors to appeal the decision. The Association is being somewhat disingenuous with its membership, the public and the State Board. The ruling’s issues had been the subject of years of litigation, and the Court’s frustration with the State Board to heed warnings to change the law bubble out in a footnote on page 154 of the ruling. While the State Board takes the brunt of the Court’s rebuke, we anticipate the Association’s influence has played a pivotal role in the Board’s response to the litigation.