The FBI recently announced convictions of the top officers of National Prearranged Services. The company worked in 19 states, helping people put money for their funerals aside in trusts and insurance policies, and also purchasing prepaid trusts from funeral homes who needed liquidity, and purchasing life insurance policies instead.
What the 92,000 victims didn’t know, was NPS officials invested those funds in risky investments, changed the beneficiaries of the insurance policies to themselves, and just plain kept the money for themselves. Victims included individuals, funeral homes, and insurance companies. After admitting to the $450 million fraud, the company’s founder was sentenced to 115 months in prison, his son got 60 months. In total, the six people indicted were sentenced to 46 years in prison.
So why would you want to pay for a funeral in advance when scams like this seem so rampant?
Fortunately, NY is the most regulated state in the nation with regard to funding in advance. By law, all prepaid funeral funds must be placed in an interest-bearing, FDIC backed- account, for which the planner is the sole beneficiary. The only way a funeral home or funeral director can touch those funds is with a death certificate in hand.
Most New York Funeral homes use PrePlan, a non-profit master trust backed by the New York State Funeral Directors Association. All funds and interest remain the property of the planner, but by managing so many trusts, they tend to earn a higher interest return. It has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and since the funds are always yours, you can move or remove* them at any time.
*Note: when individuals are on Medicaid or trying to become eligible, those funds are required to be put in an Irrevocable trust. You are still free to choose another funeral home at any time, but you cannot get a refund. In the event money is leftover after services are rendered, those funds go to the county in which the person was receiving Medicaid.