Funeral Industry News

Illinois FDA President Resigns; Merrill Lynch Looks to Exit as Preneed Trustee

December 11, 2009

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Illinois FDA President Resigns; Merrill Lynch Looks to Exit as Preneed Trustee

imageMemorial Business Journal – Springfield, Ill. ? The Illinois Funeral Directors Association has been hit by key defections in its leadership and administration. First, Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Co. sent a letter informing the association of its intention to step aside as interim trustee for the association?s beleaguered preneed trust fund. Then, Chris Wooldridge resigned as association president.

Despite the timing between the two resignations, Duane Marsh, Illinois FDA executive director, said there is no connection between the trust situation and Wooldridge?s resignation. ?Chris made a personal decision and it is our job to go on and that is what we will do. We?re going to honor it,? Marsh said.

Finding a replacement for Wooldridge, who stepped aside due to personal reasons, was simply a matter of procedure. President-elect Linda Allan, whose own term was scheduled to begin in July 2010, will fill out Wooldridge?s unexpired term and continue as president until June 2011.

Finding a new trustee for the preneed fund will not be as simple.

?As of Jan. 18, 2010, Merrill Lynch will be accepting no new money into the common fund but will continue to allow installments in the sequestered fund,? said Marsh, noting that the association was notified of Merrill Lynch?s decision in writing on Nov. 18. ?No new money has been going into the sequestered fund for several months. But they will allow installments because it was part of an installment contract.?

Although Merrill Lynch may resign with 60-day notice, Marsh said the resignation would not become final until a successor trustee has been named.

?A successor has to be appointed before they can give up totally their trustee duties,? he said. ?Simply because they have resigned it does not mean they have to give up their trust duties,? Marsh said.

?We continue to speak with potential successor trustees,? he added. ?We have had several conversations and we continue to have conversations with a couple of interested parties and we?re going to continue to pursue those with the hope of being able to get through with the complexities and have an alternative.?

Marsh used the phrase ?guardedly optimistic? when assessing the association?s chances of having a new trustee in place by Jan. 18, 2010. ?I keep thinking that every time we speak that we move the ball forward but it is very complex to get the details done. We?re working on it every day and it is our desire to do that and I am guardedly optimistic that something will happen here.?

The trust, which once held as much as $300 million, started losing money in 2001 and since then has seen nearly $100 million in losses accumulate.

Source: Memorial Business Journal