KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Vickie Hancock has buried everyone from her brother to her grandmother at Forest Hill Cemetery on Troost Avenue. That’s why she was so surprised by what cemetery employees told her when she prepared to bury her mother-in-law in early March.
Hancock said employees told her she’d have to pay nearly $500 to have her mother-in-law’s name, date of birth and date of death put on the crypt.
“We’re like, ‘No, it’s paid in full, and here’s the documentation,'” she said.
Hancock said she’s buried multiple family members with prepaid burial plans and has never before been asked for money from the cemetery for the inscription on the headstone.
She pointed that out to Forest Hill, but it made little difference. She said all she was offered was a 30% discount.
“Are you kidding me? Thirty percent off of zero is zero because we owe you zero,” Hancock said she told the cemetery manager before calling FOX4 Problem Solvers for help.
Problem Solvers looked at the prepaid contract Hancock’s mother-in-law had signed. Unfortunately, it’s pretty vague. Besides providing the crypt, it doesn’t spell out hardly any other services that are to be included in the prepaid price, including the cost of the inscription.
Making matters even more complicated, the contract was negotiated in 2000 when Forest Hill was owned by a different company. Even the current company has changed managers since Hancock buried her birth mother at Forest Hill five years ago.
Problem Solvers called the cemetery manager. He was surprised to learn that the price of engraving the headstone had been included in the prepaid plans of Hancock’s other family members. He then asked to see those contracts, something Hancock is now trying to find. We’ll let you know what happens.
Problem Solvers did some checking and discovered it’s not unusual to be charged extra to add a name and date to a headstone even when there’s a prepaid burial plan. Cemeteries don’t often include the cost of the inscription because the service is typically performed by a third party and the cemetery has no control over the cost.
That’s why it’s important to get — in writing — anything you are promised will be covered by a prepaid funeral plan. If what’s promised isn’t listed in the contract, ask the cemetery to provide you with a signed and dated letter on the cemetery’s letterhead specifying what the prepaid plan includes.
If those services aren’t provided, then surviving family members can file a complaint with the Missouri Office of Endowed Care Cemeteries and request an investigation.
Here are some more tips when paying for a funeral in advance from the Missouri Office of Endowed Care Cemeteries and from the Federal Trade Commission.