Local Funeral Homes Help Customers of Defunct Independence Funeral Home
Hundreds of area residents who purchased prearranged services from a now-defunct Independence Funeral Home have since sought out new funeral plans from two local companies.
Representatives of Charter Funerals and Speaks Family Legacy Chapels said hundreds of Mount Washington Forever clients had brought in paperwork documenting their transactions with Mount Washington, which ceased operations in July.
A substantial number have agreed to new contracts, taking advantage of credits offered by the companies.
What remains unclear is the fate of payments made on contracts to National Prearranged Services Inc., a St. Louis area company that figures in federal litigation alleging fraud in as many as 19 states.
The Missouri attorney general?s office reported last week that 284 residents had registered complaints regarding Mount Washington Forever, which the office said was controlled by National Prearranged. However, the attorney general has offered no hint of what action it might take to seek relief for those holding worthless funeral contracts.
?We are continuing to monitor the situation,? a spokeswoman said last week.
Also watching is Carla Lark Carpenter of Independence. She and her husband, Richard, had been making payments for about two years on roughly $2,200 worth of cremation services purchased through Mount Washington Forever.
But the attorney general?s office said that since May 2008, National Prearranged did not put such payments in a trust. Consequently, payments made since then directly to Mount Washington or related companies were not forwarded to the Texas receiver that is overseeing National Prearranged?s liquidation.
Late last month, Carpenter received paperwork from Texas that documented payments by the Carpenters. But Carpenter said not all the couple?s payments were reflected in the documents.
Carpenter and others may not receive credit for payments made since 2008.
?It?s sad that somebody would do this to people trying to take care of themselves and their families,? Carpenter said.
Both the Speaks and Charter companies said they would continue, in the near term, to offer credits on money invested in Mount Washington Forever funeral service contracts.
?This is such a huge failure that it has tainted things for everyone in the industry,? said Duke Radovich, president of Charter Funerals.
He said Charter was asked by Mount Washington Cemetery?s lenders to manage the facility for now.
?This situation is completely unprecedented, especially on this scale, and there is no road map or template on how to respond,? said Brad Speaks, president of the Speaks Family Legacy Chapels.
?We are part of the community, and we felt we should be part of the solution.?
About 250 individuals have brought Mount Washington paperwork to the Speaks homes, whose representatives have sat down with about 50 people.
Meanwhile, ?hundreds? of callers have brought paperwork to Charter, Radovich said.
Charter is offering anywhere from 50 to 80 percent discount credits on whatever families might have paid into Mount Washington funeral services, if they purchase another pre-need arrangement or contract, Radovich said.
If there is an immediate death, he added, there is a 100 percent discount credit.
Speaks, meanwhile, is offering a ?substantial credit for funeral or cremation services, in some cases more than the families actually paid in.?
Those who purchased Mount Washington property contracts for mausoleum spaces, niches or plots need to continue making payments, said Radovich.
?We will be handling that money right now,? he said.
Both companies said that people entering into a new pre-need arrangement or contract are not precluded from participating in future litigation against National Prearranged Services.
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