CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believes the recent indictment of a funeral home owner highlights not only his office’s civil enforcement of preneed funeral contracts, but also the benefit such agreements provide families across the state.
Preneed funeral contracts give people the choice to preplan their final arrangements and lock in current prices, all within the protection and monitoring of the Attorney General’s Office.
Approximately one-third of funerals are planned in such fashion.
“Funerals can cost more than $10,000 and that price is likely to rise over time,” Morrisey said. “Our office works to ensure preneed funeral contracts work for West Virginia consumers, giving everyone a trusted option so their loved ones do not incur costs and face difficult decisions at the time of need.”
This month’s criminal indictment, secured by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Joel L. McGuire, followed nearly three years of civil enforcement by the Attorney General’s Office against McGuire and his former business, Broyles-McGuire Funeral Home in Monroe County.
The Attorney General’s Office, in June 2015, won a judgment of more than $177,000 in civil penalties and restitution.
Last fall, the office then secured liens against McGuire and the business for nonpayment, both of which remain active.
Such monitoring and enforcement enhances trust with preneed contracts, which ensure funeral homes provide the preselected services and merchandise. If something is later unavailable, the substituted item must be of the same quality and value.
Funeral homes manage the money in preneed accounts until the consumer’s death and funeral service.
The businesses then are required to place the funds in a special interest-bearing account within 30 days of deposit or purchase an insurance policy or annuity to fund the preneed contract.
Morrisey recommends consumers select a funeral home that is in good standing with his office to avoid any possible scam.
Consumers also are encouraged to ask questions and keep a copy of the finalized contract, which state law requires the funeral home provide the Attorney General’s Office within 10 days of signing.
For more information on preneed funeral contracts, reach the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.