In preceding posts, we have outlined recommendations to the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors regarding the preneed examination process and record keeping requirements. While our correspondence was not included on the Board’s December 13th agenda, the Board entertained a motion to amend the agenda to include our correspondence on the afternoon open session. The State Board attorney advised against the motion on the basis that 24 hour notice to the public was required. While frustrated with the Chairman’s decision to omit our correspondence from the December agenda, we agreed in principal with the position taken by the Board’s attorney. Although the Board may be free to take up issues raised by the public, we felt the last minute addition of our correspondence to the agenda would not afford those sellers with the most at stake a fair opportunity to provide input. By a unanimous vote, the Board agreed to schedule a special examination review meeting after the current mandatory rule review process is completed.
While there was readiness on the part of Board members to take up the exam and record keeping issues on December 13th, the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association must be involved in the process. For the better part of two years, the Board staff exhibited a reluctance to openly discuss record keeping requirements. The staff proposals were vague, and potentially burdensome to all sellers. Those proposals also hinted at additional record keeping requirements for preneed fiduciaries. Out of concern for trust funded programs, we reached out to the MFDEA to plan a push for special record keeping meetings. This author agreed to take the lead in requesting meetings or hearings on exams and records, and the MFDEA would provide input on behalf of the Missouri Funeral Trust and other sellers who were members of the Association. But, our requests for a special meeting were never granted, and the Board eventually filed its Complaint against the MFT.
In hindsight, it could be said that the Division was afraid of tipping their hand before filing the MFT complaint. Their strategy may have been to first secure discipline, and thus gain an advantage in obtaining concessions for record keeping requirements. But, in an unrelated administrative hearing proceeding, we did not find the State Board and its staff knowledgeable about fiduciary administration. Accordingly, we anticipate that it will be difficult for the MFT to resolve the Complaint’s record keeping allegations so long as seller record requirements remain undefined.
Ultimately, it will be the State Board members’ decision to set the record requirements to be imposed on MFT and its trustee. To the extent those record keeping requirements are imposed on the MFT trustee, the state’s other preneed fiduciaries could be impacted. Accordingly, we are seeking the special meetings to educate the State Board members on fiduciary administration before setting standards that could burden other fiduciaries.
In prior posts we have alluded to how accounting and administrative platforms vary from bank to bank. As a part of the education process, we will drill down into those issues in upcoming posts.