News release from Tennesseans for Funeral Reform:
(Nashville, TN)—-February 20, 2012….The sudden or unexpected death of a loved one….it is one of the toughest times for a family. And many have not prepared by purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan.
One way to encourage that is by offering a discount as an incentive for folks to plan ahead, says Fred Berry, a fourth-generation Knoxville funeral home director and the spokesman for a new group called Tennesseans for Funeral Reform.
“Unfortunately,” says Berry, “discounts on pre-paid funerals arrangements are illegal in Tennessee. In fact, Tennessee is the only state in the entire country that prohibits such incentives.
“Tennessee is really out of step. Most states allow pre-need discounts at least for veterans or seniors, and all Tennessee consumers ought to have this option if they want to pre-plan their final rites” adds Berry. “But Tennessee is the only state in the entire country with a complete prohibition. The law has been on the books for many years (since the late 1950s) and needs to be changed. Many funeral home directors were not even aware of the law until state regulators recently began strictly enforcing the measure, fining funeral homes that try to help their clients with any kind of pre-need discounts. Tennessee even prohibits a funeral home from offering a customer a discount in order to match a competitor’s price on a prearranged funeral.”
Berry adds, ” One of the ironies created by this more than 50 year old law is that funeral homes across the state can offer discounts to help families of active duty military (as well as law enforcement and public safety officials) whose loved ones are killed in the line of duty. But these same honorable men and women cannot legally receive discounts when trying to make their own arrangements in advance to lessen the burden on their loved ones.”
Another irony, according to Berry, is that local governments across the state have a growing problem with citizens not being financially prepared to cover cremation or burial expenses. Therefore taxpayer dollars are being used for that purpose. A solution would be allowing funeral homes to give a reasonable financial incentive in the form of a discount to encourage pre-planning. That along with the ability to make affordable payments would decrease the number of people not prepared financially to face end-of-life expenses.
Tennesseans for Funeral Reform include a number of funeral home directors across the state. Its legislation has been endorsed by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA), an international trade association representing all segments of the funeral industry with membership of more than 7,500 cemeteries, funeral homes, cremation, memorial designers and related businesses worldwide .The ICCFA Executive Director has sent a letter of support to all members of the General Assembly.
For more information, and to contact your state representatives on this issue go to www.TennesseeFuneralReform.com
Note: the pending bill is HB1978/SB1286, which is listed on the legislature’s website as sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown. Pat Nolan, a spokesman for the funeral reform group, says Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, has taken over Senate sponsorship.