FCAWM hosted an educational forum Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 1:00 - 2:30 pm: Dispelling Myths about Funeral Prepayments, at Rockridge Retirement Community, Northampton. See flyer (pdf). Panelists Morgan Mitchell, Funeral Director, Mitchell Funeral Home (Easthampton) and member of the state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers (Boston), and Seunghee Cha, Elder Law Attorney, Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP (Amherst), joined Sandy Ward of FCAWM in discussing consumer rights and options. The pros and cons of "preneed" contracts, insurance policies, and Pay-On-Death bank accounts were outlined.  Audience questions were answered.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette gave good coverage, announcing the forum in an article September 30, and reporting on it. Chad Cain, the Gazette reporter who attended the forum, wrote a report published with the headline Ryder situation prompts funeral planning forum (pages B1-B2 in the October 16 issue). Page A1 displayed a teaser in the upper left corner: "Forum offers tips on funeral planning, page B1."  Online, his report was posted under a longer heading: 'Every dollar you prepay to a funeral home has to be guaranteed' Ryder funeral home scandal prompts forum.  See the online article.

We hope to offer this forum again in other locations. The format – a joint panel of lawyer, funeral director, and consumer advocate providing education and answering consumer questions about paying for funerals – worked well. 

We all learned something. Each panelist provided a different perspective, but all agreed on the core message: It is YOUR money, think about what YOU want, and don't sign any contracts unless you understand the details and consequences. Pre-planning is recommended; pre-paying is not, except in a few circumstances (e.g., 'Medicaid spend-down'). There are simple steps consumers can take to set aside funds in banks, rather than involving insurance companies or funeral homes. Mr. Mitchell spoke of reform efforts that may, in future, prevent funeral homes from handling any prepayment funds.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog
are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect 
the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.