Cemetery Software for Today and Tomorrow
When you think of cemeteries, you might not think of the most technologically advanced places. After all, most cemeteries still use a lot of paper in their day-to-day operations. However, cemeteries can use technology to stay relevant in today’s competitive markets.
If you own a cemetery that sells pre-need contracts, you are familiar with the regulations that require you to place the funds into a trust. But did you know that several states allow you to distribute any surplus from the trust to your business? The regulations, which differ by state, refer to this situation as “excess income within the trust.”
Proper accounting of pre-need contracts for financial reporting often clouds the picture of the operations of a cemetery. Typically, management needs to review other metrics, such as cash flow, pre-need, sales volume, and call volume, to assess the true health of the business. An excess income audit could let you know if an excess income distribution is an option to alleviate your cash flow constraints. Or, it could be useful if you have plans to expand by acquiring another property or building a new mausoleum, by letting you know if you have the funds for these investments.
Individuals can purchase, in advance, some or all of their funeral and cemetery merchandise and services through what’s called a preneed contract. Some people choose to only pre-arrange and pre-purchase their cemetery property (interment rights), such as a plot, crypt, mausoleum or niche, while others choose their burial services and merchandise.
A preneed contract allows the consumer to purchase future services and merchandise at current prices. Services available for purchase on a preneed contract include grave openings and closings, marker and vault installations, and other services sold in advance of need. Merchandise available for purchase on a preneed contract include, but are not limited, to items such as caskets, burial vaults, granite bases, markers, benches, vaults, vases, and urns.
When someone enters into a preneed contract with a funeral home or cemetery, they agree to pay for the funeral and cemetery goods and services in advance of their need. This leaves many wondering how they can be sure that the money will be there upon their death to cover these expenses. This is where preneed trusts come into play.
Proper management of the cash flow of your perpetual care trust can maximize the ultimate benefit of the trust to your cemetery company or non-profit cemetery association, and your customers. In many cases, however, not enough attention is paid to ensure proper tax planning, which is sufficient to eliminate the tax burden of the trust earnings and maximize cemetery reimbursement for maintenance expenses. Here, we’ve summarized the key points related to perpetual care rules and taxes that you should be aware of. Read More
Funeral homes are the last place most people expect to see technology; however, to improve service levels, to meet the changing needs and wants of customers and to stay competitive (In 2015, there were 19,391 funeral homes in the U.S.) funeral homes must continuously review how they operate and make adjustments as necessary.
After the addition of three amendments, passing through the Senate and almost making it through the House, Senator Tom McGarrigle’s Senate Bill 874 was removed from the table in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in mid April 2016. This doesn’t, by any means, mean the bill will not resurface, which is what those in the death care industry need to be concerned with.
If this bill passes, cemeteries throughout Pennsylvania, and potentially other states, would need to change, in some cases significantly, the way they’ve been for doing business for decades. However, there has been pushback. In January 2016, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association submitted testimony to the House of Representatives stating that there has been no evidence of consumer harm from the current laws. There’s even a Facebook page for consumers who are against the bill.
Here, we’ve assembled some of the information related to PA Senate Bill 874, to give you a better understanding of the changes it would require from those in the death care industry, in case the bill surfaces again.
Earlier this year two of the largest publicly owned death care companies in North America merged, creating further consolidation in an industry that was once dominated by smaller family owned businesses. Consolidation within an industry can raise concerns for smaller entities. Larger companies have the ability to centralize many of the services provided to customers and significantly reduce overhead. In addition, they have the competitive advantage of purchasing goods in volume which leads to large volume discounts.