What Happens to Your Pre-needs If You Sell Your Funeral Home or Go Out Of Business?

August 28, 2009
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image After dealing with all the bills that surfaced after her husband died in 1995, Harriet Bristol of Visalia decided she did not want to leave her family with a similar financial burden following her death. So in 1997, Bristol purchased a prepaid funeral plan from Hadley Funeral Chapels in Visalia, contracting to receive a full funeral for a set price that she would pay over 10 years. A down payment and 119 monthly payments of $33.64 later, Bristol was proud in 2007 to finally pay off her funeral. That pride has since turned to frustration and worry about whether her family will end up having to pay for a big chunk of her funeral after all. She may be one of about 250 people who bought “pre-need” funeral contracts from Hadley only to learn those contracts no longer would be honored after the funeral home went out of business in 2008.

“I thought I had everything settled. I felt so smart. I thought I’d taken care of everything,” said Bristol, a retired J.C. Penney customer service representative who turns 85 Sunday.

Instead, she said, a representative from Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia, which took over Hadley funeral contracts, told her in May that the funds for her funeral were worth about $200 less than the $3,884 she had diligently paid over the years.

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As for the promised goods and services she had contracted to receive from Hadley, Bristol said she was told the money would cover only part of a similar funeral that Salser & Dillard could provide, and her family would either have to pay for a casket after she died or she could begin five more years of monthly payments for a $1,095 casket.

Bristol was one of more than 200 people with fully paid or partially paid pre-need contracts when Hadley closed, and those contracts were turned over to Salser &lDillard.

But taking over the contracts doesn’t mean his funeral home took on all of Hadley’s obligations, said Steve Dillard, co-owner of Salser & Dillard.

That’s not how Bristol and her family see it.

“Because, like I said, I don’t want my son stuck with bills. And I was so secure in my knowledge I had done everything right,” Bristol said.

And since Salser & Dillard now have her pre-need contract, she believes the funeral home should provide all the services for which she paid.

“This is a guaranteed contract,” said her daughter-in-law, D.D. Brown of Phoenix, who attended the meeting with Bristol at Salser & Dillard. “I said,

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