Hank Investigates: Grave Disaster

(WHDH) — Did you prepay for a funeral? Then you’ll want to hear what Hank Phillippi Ryan found: Your money could have vanished, and you may be left facing a grave disaster. Hank Investigates.

Peter adores his Aunt Lydia, but because of COVID – he can’t visit her.

“She’s just a doll,” Peter said.

Peter keeps in touch by calling his 92-year-old aunt at the assisted living facility where she lives.

“She doesn’t want her family to be burdened by anything. She’s always been like that,” Peter said.

Lydia is such a planner that she pre-paid for her own funeral! Back in 2007, she gave more than $7300 to a Massachusetts funeral home to cover all of the expenses.

“She was just trying to get ahead of everything,” Peter said.

She selected her casket and prayer cards and has this contract showing she “paid in full.”

We thought that this was in the bag, completely done, behind us.

But instead, Peter says he discovered the money Lydia paid was gone!

“It’s shocking,” Peter said.

What happened?

In 2007 Lydia paid the funeral home directly.

To protect her money, the business was supposed to deposit it in a special separate account under Lydia’s name.

But apparently, the funeral director didn’t do that.

Then he died, and no one knows where her money went.

“It is very heartbreaking,” Peter said.

Peter complained to state regulators, and they sent this letter to the funeral home’s last known owner: “Our division is formally requesting that you refund $7385.”

But no one responded.

“I think it’s terrible,” Peter said.

Our investigation found similar cases of missing money recently prompted officials to strengthen state regulations.

Now prepayments must go directly to a bank or insurance company, so death bed dollars don’t go missing.

Problem is, we found the new rule doesn’t protect people who pre-paid in the past. People like Lydia.

In her case, we tracked down the last owner of the funeral home; their lawyer admitted the $7300 was gone.  But agreed to pay Lydia back.

Now she’s relieved her family is still protected, just the way she planned.

“She’s very excited that you guys were helping us. It’s really nice. Thank you,” Peter said.

If you prepaid for a funeral, you should be getting annual statements from the bank or insurance company that’s holding your money. If you’re not, you should call the funeral home and ask about your account.

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