Surprise fees could add thousands to your pre-paid burial plan

KC man pays for burial plan, still owes thousands

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the past 12 years, Bob Lockler has made payments on a burial plan, so that when he dies his family doesn't have to worry about getting a bill.

In August, he made his last payment to Park Lawn Funeral Homes, which owns several funeral homes and cemeteries across Kansas City. Overall, he's paid nearly $10,000 for the plan.  Like most people who pay off a debt, Locker was relieved.

"Now I don't have to worry about it anymore," Lockler said.

That was until October came around. Two months after he made that final payment, Lockler said, he got a knock at the door and was handed a bill.

"The [funeral home] came out and said, 'Well, there's a few more expenses,' and I said, 'What do you mean, I thought this was paid for?'" Lockler said.

It wasn't paid for. Not even close.

"He went on to tell me it was going to cost another $3,000 to pay for everything," Lockler said.

Lockler still hasn't made any payments to the bill. Instead, he called the 41 Action News investigators.

Lockler feels like he's been taken advantage of. He said he's a victim of hidden fees.

We took his concerns to Hank DeVry, president of Park Lawn Funeral Homes. He told the 41 Action News investigators that his business has nothing to hide.

"There are several items that are not included in a burial and funeral agreement, such that he [Lockler] has," DeVry said.

DeVry said the bill that was taken to Lockler's home was actually a list of suggestions. Some items, like flowers, a newspaper notice and gratuity to a minister, are all optional costs. However, DeVry said there are some things on the suggestions list that are required to be paid before a burial can take place.

"That is the interment fee at the cemetery that is not included in his plan," DeVry said.

An interment fee covers the cost of the digging of the grave, something DeVry said costs $1,595. Also not included in Lockler's burial plan, is the cost of opening and closing the casket.

While it's not a hidden fee, the interment fee can be found in the fine print of Lockler's contract, where it states that it's not included. However, Lockler said he had no idea that something like opening and closing a casket and digging a hole wasn't included in his plan.

"I was extremely upset because I never expected that. I didn't know there were any additional charges," Lockler said. "I told them right up front when I bought it, 'I want to pay for everything, so my kids don't have to pay for anything.'"

DeVry told the 41 Action News Investigators that the reason an interment fee isn't included in a burial plan is because it's a future service.

"A future service, by law, would have to be funded in some sort of side arrangement," DeVry said.

Also not included in a burial plan are the taxes. For instance, Lockler paid for a casket, but because it's not been manufactured yet, the funeral home can't legally accept the taxes on it.

DeVry said that he discusses what's not included with all his customers. He thinks it's something that was also discussed with Lockler; however, he can't be sure because Lockler's plan was purchased over a decade ago.

Park Lawn Funeral Homes was able to remove some items from Lockler's plan, which helped bring the balance of Lockler's bill down to about $600.

Still, Lockler feels blindsided.

"I just thought it was wrong to have somebody pay for 12 years and then you turn around and tell them, 'You owe a whole bunch of money,'" he said.

Federal Trade Commission has a Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist. Buyers can take the checklist around to different funeral homes to compare prices. The list also helps keep track of what's been paid for.

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Jessica McMaster can be reached at jessica.mcmaster@kshb.com

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