State senate supporters of pre-need funeral programs have had to answer a basic question—why have them?
The question came up as the senate passed a bill changing Missouri’s pre-need funeral laws to better regulate those who sell the plans and to make the plans more flexible. The House has to approve the bill before the law is actually changed. The revisions in the laws were forced last year when one of the nation’s major pre-need funeral insurance companies collapsed with 335-million dollars in policies.
But before the bill could be passed, supporters had to talk Senator Jane Cunningham out of banning pre-need funeral programs. "The more I listened to the complications of consumers buying pre-need funerals, I thought, ‘Why in the world would anyone be stupid enough to buy one of these things," she said. Cunningham, who is from Chesterfield, said she decided to propose a ban on those plans because "nobody should be able to buy pre-need funerals because you can just get yourself into such trouble and and it’s so darn complicated."
She withdrew her amendment after sponsors of the bill assured her pre-need funerals are good investments for people who want to relieve relatives of the burden of planning their funeral, especially with the changes in supervision of those plans that are part of this bill.
Sponsor Delbert Scott of Lowry City noted, "If you go out and buy a funeral today, whatever quality of funeral you want to buy…if you live another thirty years you’re going to have that quality of service which may have cost, if you go out and buy it thirty years from now, another $5,000. To that extent I think it’s a good investment because you’re away ahead of inflation and you lock in the value of the service."
Mount Vernon Senator Jack Goodman added an option to the bill that lets people set aside as much as $10,000 in a pre-need funeral trust fund. He says his idea will not lock in the price of a funeral, which makes it a less attractive alternative for younger people. But he says the trust fund is portable and could be used wherever a person was living when they died. Services under regular pre-need funeral contracts have to be held with the funeral home through which they were issued.