When You Lose a Loved One...A Consumer's Guide to Cemeteries and Funeral Services
In times of loss, we are faced with many difficult decisions involving our loved one's funeral service and burial arrangements. Unfortunately, it is during this time that consumers are most vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud.
The Securities and Business Regulation Division of the Office of Secretary of State oversees the business practices of preneed dealers, merchandise dealers and perpetual care cemeteries throughout Georgia, excluding those cemeteries that are family and church-owned.
To help sort the good from the bad, this brochure is designed to better acquaint you with the laws and rules regulating perpetual care cemeteries, preneed dealers, and merchandise dealers in our state. With this information, you will be better prepared and better informed when the time comes for the difficult decisions of loss to be made.
The Georgia Cemetery and Funeral Services Act
The Georgia Cemetery and Funeral Services Act of 2000 sets forth a limited regulatory program for registered cemeteries, preneed salespersons, preneed dealers and burial merchandise dealers. It requires all perpetual care cemeteries to be registered with the Office of Secretary of State. Perpetual care means the maintenance and the reasonable administration of the cemetery grounds and buildings in keeping with a properly maintained cemetery. The cemeteries subject to the act are required to maintain this registration with an annual renewal and filing of reports. Under the Act, the term "cemetery" does not include governmental-owned cemeteries, fraternal cemeteries, church and synagogue cemeteries or family burial plots.
A cemetery is required to post, visible to the public, a full and complete schedule of all charges for services offered. The service fees should include the cost of opening and closing the grave site. In many cemeteries, the cost of grave openings and closings are higher on weekends, holidays, or after a certain time of day.
Consumers should insist that any oral representations made to them regarding their purchase of cemetery spaces, funeral or burial merchandise or services be so noted in writing on the contract.
Consumer Checklist When Purchasing a
Cemetery Lot, Funeral or Burial Merchandise or Services
§ Make sure to look at the price list and compare prices on the contract with posted prices before signing the contract.
§ Make sure the contract has all itemized prices and specifies whether or not there will be any future costs.
§ Make sure any representations made to you are in writing in the contract. Oral representations are not enforceable.
§ Make sure the grave space is fully identified on the contract, with space number and location. Look at a map of the cemetery to ensure the space you are buying is located exactly where you believe it to be located.
§ Find out if your merchandise and space are transferable if you move locally or out of state. Details should be in writing.
§ Find out the cancellation and refund policy.
§ Look at the overall quality of the cemetery's maintenance and care before purchasing a cemetery lot.
§ Obtain a copy of the rules and regulations of the cemetery so you will know your rights and/or restrictions concerning, for example, placement of flowers, operating hours of cemetery and replacement of damaged or stolen merchandise.
§ A cemetery may not prevent installation of markers purchased from outside merchandise dealers on your plot, as long as the merchandise dealer meets the cemetery's reasonable rules and regulations which have been filed with the Office of Secretary of State and such merchandise dealer adheres to all rules and regulations of the Office of Secretary of State.
On November 1, 2002, this office issued two policy statements interpreting the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act of 2000 ("the Act"). These policy statements address certain sales practices engaged in by funeral homes. The conclusions expressed in those policy statements can be summarized as follows:
1. Life Insurance Policies. The use of a life insurance policy as a funding vehicle for sales of services and merchandise by a funeral home does not constitute a preneed sale under the Act if the customer retains both the sole ownership of the policy and the right to change the beneficiary and to revoke any assignment made in connection with the policy benefits.
2. Certificates of Deposit. The use of a certificate of deposit as a funding vehicle for sales of services and merchandise by a funeral home does not constitute a preneed sale if the customer retains both the sole ownership of the certificate and the right to revoke any payable-upon-death designation.
A funeral home that fails to register as a preneed dealer in supposed reliance upon one or both of the policy statements may be liable for civil penalties and other sanctions if the circumstances in fact require registration. Therefore, if you intend to utilize life insurance policies or certificates of deposit as funding vehicles, you are strongly encouraged to review the applicable policy statement in detail with your own legal counsel.(available in Adobe Acrobat format)
Policy Statement - Use of Certificates of Deposit for Funding the Purchase of Preneed Funeral Services and Merchandise (available in Adobe Acrobat format)
For additional information, please call our