Lawmakers want to know what happened to funeral funding

 
By Dan Carden
Daily Herald Staff
Published4/23/2009 12:01 AM

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois House of Representatives voted 115-0 Wednesday to investigate the alleged mismanagement of millions of dollars held in pre-need funeral and burial trust funds.

"This is a potential scandal of multimillions of dollars, and your constituents and my constituents could very well be the victims of whatever has transpired," said state Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican.

 

Funeral home directors across the state have sued the Illinois Association of Funeral Directors to find out what happened to more than $40 million allegedly lost in a pre-need funeral trust fund administered by the association. In 2007, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes stripped the association of its license to manage the fund.

"The funeral and cemetery side of pre-need needs to be reviewed and investigated," said state Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, funeral director and sponsor of the plan.

The head of the Illinois Funeral Directors Association said the organization welcomes the investigation.

"Our association supports Rep. Dan Brady's resolution creating this task force. During this process, I personally spoke with Rep. Dan Brady and confirmed to him our support for his initiative. It is an important process and we support it," said executive director Duane Marsh.

According to the lawsuit, the association invested pre-need money in life insurance policies on its directors, who did not die quickly enough to be able to pay for the funerals of pre-need investors.

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More than 49,000 Illinoisans have pre-need funeral accounts and thousands more have similar pre-need burial funds, Brady said.

"I have a funeral director in my district that estimates his losses alone in the pre-need burial program at a million dollars. I have constituents calling me who wonder if their pre-need burial program will, in fact, be paid," Black said.

The Funeral and Burial Pre-Arrangement Investigation Task Force will take testimony from people connected to investing and maintaining the funds and make recommendations concerning how to increase oversight of those funds. The report is due at the end of the year.

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