Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Stumbo Announces Settlements with Mason Brothers Audubon Chapel and Mason’s Memorial Chapel over Pre-Need Burial Contracts
Attorney General Greg Stumbo announced today that his Office of Consumer Protection has settled its lawsuits against Mason Brothers Audubon Chapel of Henderson, Kentucky, Mason’s Memorial Chapel of Mayfield, Kentucky, and the owner of both, Roth S. Mason, for failing to file yearly reports regarding pre-need burial contracts.
The lawsuit against Mason Brothers Audubon Chapel was filed on September 5, 2006, in Henderson Circuit Court, as Civil Action No. 06-CI-687. The lawsuit against Mason’s Memorial Chapel was filed on August 31, 2006, in Graves Circuit Court, as Civil Action No. 06-CI-389. Roth Mason was also a defendant in both lawsuits.
Under the terms of the settlements, Mason Brothers Audubon Chapel is required to pay $8,564 in civil penalties and costs, with an additional $8,000 in civil penalties conditionally suspended so long as all settlement terms are complied with. Mason’s Memorial Chapel is required to pay $9,537 in civil penalties and costs, with an additional $9,000 in civil penalties conditionally suspended so long as all settlement terms are complied with. Roth S. Mason is also obligated for the civil penalties in both cases.
In both cases, the Defendants are also required to timely file and pay reports and fees, comply with the related statutes and regulations, and set up procedures and a training program to ensure compliance. Additionally, the Defendants will cooperate with, and pay the reasonable costs for, audits of the funeral homes' books and records.
"We are pleased to reach settlements in these lawsuits," said Attorney General Stumbo. "The Office of Consumer Protection will monitor the settlements for compliance, as it continues its work in protecting the interests of Kentucky's consumers."
The Attorney General offers the following consumer tips about making contracts to arrange and pay for funeral services before they are actually needed, also called pre-need burial contracts or prepaid funeral arrangements.
- Check that the company or person with whom you make the contract (the "agent") is licensed with the Attorney General's Office and is up to date on filing reports. Anyone who offers or accepts money on pre-need burial contracts must first get a license and file annual reports. Keep in mind that although an agent would usually be a funeral home, it could also be a cemetery or anyone else that sells pre-need contracts for funeral items (such as caskets, vaults, grave liners, and the opening and closing of the grave). (*Note that a person selling pre-need funeral arrangements funded through insurance products is regulated by the Kentucky Office of Insurance, so check with it if using insurance to pay for the pre-arrangements.)
- Know what you are buying and thoroughly review the contract, as with any important purchase. Ask questions about anything you do not fully understand. Find out what will happen if you move or die away from home or if you want to use a different funeral home. Ask whether the price of your arrangements is guaranteed and what will happen to any balance remaining in the trust fund after your funeral has been performed. Also find out how your payments will be protected if the agent you are dealing with goes out of business.
- Ask if you will receive periodic documentation that all of the money you pay on the contract has been put into trust at a financial institution. 100% of your payments, including any installment payments, must be put in trust with a financial institution within 30 days of receipt. Your payments, and earnings on those payments, must remain in the trust fund until the time of need. Before paying any money from the trust fund, the financial institution must receive a certified statement from the agent that the contract has been fully performed, and must receive a certified or verified death certificate or a provisional death certificate proving your death. (Pre-need funeral arrangements funded through insurance products are exempt from this requirement and are regulated by the Kentucky Office of Insurance.)
- You are entitled to request a refund if your contract is not in an irrevocable trust. The refund must be paid within 15 days of your request, and must include all monies you paid and all earnings on those payments. (Pre-need funeral arrangements funded through insurance products are exempt from this requirement and are regulated by the Kentucky Office of Insurance.)
- Tell your family or another person you trust about your prepaid funeral arrangements and where you keep the related documents. This will help them follow your wishes for your funeral and avoid paying for funeral arrangements elsewhere.
Anyone with questions about Kentucky's pre-need burial contract laws may visit the Office of Consumer Protection's web site at www.ag.ky.gov/consumer or call (502) 696-5389 to request a copy of the "Consumer's Guide To Pre-need Cemetery and Funeral Purchases". The Federal Trade Commission also has information about federal rules for funerals on its web site at www.ftc.gov/funerals, or the FTC can be reached at 1-877-FTC-HELP to request a copy of "Funerals: A Consumer's Guide".