Exclusive: Prepaid burial law signing ceremony

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — This law is meant to ensure that families don’t get cheated- when they are planning a funeral or buying a grave space  even if they pay years in advance.

State lawmakers hope it will prevent situations like the one at George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens last fall and protect families during a vulnerable time

This law is meant to ensure that families don’t get cheated when they are planning a funeral or buying a grave space – even if they pay years in advance.

State lawmakers hope it will prevent situations like what happened at George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens- and protect families during a vulnerable time.

SB 98 is the Amended version of the Preneed Funeral and Cemetery Act which  gives the alabama department of insurance new power to investigate records and make sure the books are in order at funeral homes and cemeteries across the state.

From this point forward payment installments on prepaid plans at Funeral homes and cemeteries must be insured or put into a trust by the end of the following month.

“It doesn’t allow you to collect a lot of money and then go to the bank  in other words you have to go to the bank as you collect money, so that, that’s powerful too,” said State Rep. K. L. Brown, (R) Calhoun County.

Under the old law violating state regulations carried at most a misdemeanor penalty. Under the new law, breaking the rules is considered a felony.

“I don’t think that you will ever get rid of all dishonest people, but I think with this new law they will at least, least think twice before they do anything like that knowing that there is a felony penalty,” said State Rep. K. L. Brown, (R) Calhoun County.

The issues aren’t new and similar bills have died in the state legislature more than once.

“Before 98′ they tried this and it didn’t work and ever since then and before then too there’s been such an need,” said State Senator Priscilla Dunn, (D) Jefferson County.

That was need highlighted by the uncertainty surrounding the future of  George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens last September.  The phone was disconnected, the office was locked and people were left with receipts for grave markers they hadn’t received and fears that their family headstones would disappear in the tall grass. More than one thousand people attended the first town hall meeting about the topic, organized by State Representative Juandalynn Givan, (D) Jefferson County.

“The people played a huge role, again the media coverage that was, that played out it stayed in the minds of people and it was something that everybody could relate to because one thing about it. Everyone, if you live you’re going to die,” said State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, (D) Jefferson County.

“If someone should pass away you want to make sure that they receive that perpetual care you don’t have to worry about the grass being cut at the cemetery, you don’t have to worry about the opening and closing,” Givan continued.

Governor Robert Bentley also offered his perspective on why state lawmakers found common ground this year, after similar legislation stalled in years past.

“What I really think changed is when the press and particularly you and a number of people in the press helped us spotlight the George Washington Carver Memorial cemetery and the difficulties there with families not knowing if they could bury their loved ones there or not knowing what the situation was with that particular cemetery. So when that problem arose, that brought it to the forefront,” said Governor Robert Bentley.

“The bill that we signed will help with it it’s really an insurance plan and so that’s why we used our insurance department to make sure that these prepaid plans are legitimate and that they are done correctly. and that’s what the legislation does,” Bentley continued.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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