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QUESTION: In 1971 my parents purchased two plots and two vaults from Christian memorial cemetery, after paying for 1 year and a half, the contract was cancelled.  in the 90's they again purchased lots, vaults, markers, bases and a ?non refundable reusable casket.  We have quite a few contracts, all for the same lots, but with different tweaks done to them.. BUT they ALL have this non refundable casket on them.  2 weeks ago, my father passed away, we had a heck of a time making burial arrangements, arrangements that we were all under the assumption was completely taken care of.  The last contract change per the company was in 2011, suddenly whoever died first is being buried and whoever dies last was to be cremated.  Long story short, we have gotten my father buried, in the plots they purchased over and over again. There is a contract for my mothers plot, but the question is, my parents have paid over 5000.00 for these lots throughout the years, and now since they rewrote the contract in 2011 there is STILL almost 4000 owing.  In negotiating with this company, we are being told over and over again that they CANNOT refund 1495.00 for this heritage deluxe casket that is actually a rented outside box, with a fiberglass box inside that you get buried in.  Even tho NO ONE will use this, as we purchased my dads casket from our local funeral home, as well as a different vault for him and will be doing the same for my mom.  They (christian memorial (a part of stonemor partners)) keep telling us that they cannot refund or take that out because, its actually the same contract used over and over, so its a "continuance". We are lost in this huge mess.  Can you help? At all?  As for Christian Memorial Cemetery in Peck Michigan, its a disgrace, this company has promised and promised beautiful landscaping, monuments, fountains.  None has happened. When you look on their website you see their Rochester Hills cemetery, beautiful..  Pecks, well its awful, tree stumps, old vehicles, broken signs.  It is so bad that this company offered to GIVE the village of Peck this cemetery, to which, Peck refused.  ~Sighs~ please please please give us some sort of direction, laws anything that will help.
thank you so much in advance.  ~cindy~

ANSWER: Without any paperwork in front of me, it's hard to be more specific about what to do about it. I don't doubt your report of their mischief at all.

What are they saying the $4,000 is for? Typically, the opening/closing charges are not billed and paid-for ahead of time. But that should be only $1,000 or so, I'm guessing. And what was the $5,000 already paid allocated to? I'd like to know these other details.

Am I correct in assuming that when your mother dies, you want to get her buried with minimal additional charges? If we can't get Stonmor to agree to that, you can definitely file a complaint with the state agency that regulates cemeteries. You might want to file a complaint anyway given the lack of maintenance you mentioned -- The Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth: www.michigan.gov/cemetery

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: of the 5000.00 already paid, there was/is a non reundable casket charge of 1495.00. this is one of our big issues, this "casket" is a reusable casket. Its outside layer is for display purposes only. The inside is a fiberglass case that is taken out with the body at the time of burial. They bury you with the fiberglass shell and take the actual reusable casket back.  Now sometime in the 80's 90's or early 2000's there was a law passed or something about these so called caskets.  I don't know exactly what for but, neither of my parents WANT or will ever USE this heritage rental casket, but the company tells us we cannot get the 1495.00 back even as a credit because it is NON REFUNDABLE.  The only reason it is still left on the "new" contract is because (their words) it is a continuance of the Old contract and therefore they cannot LEGALLY remove it.  

And yes we will be filing a complaint with the Dept of Energy,labor and econ, growth.  Anything place we can, we will do so,  NO family should have to go through what we have been going through since March 28, 2013 the day my father died.  

Is there an attorney in our area or specific attorney that we should be contacting?  Even our local funeral home is telling us that what these people are doing to us is not right.  Sad thing is my grandparents, uncles, niece are all buried there, and the section where my father is buried there is one plot (for mom) and my brother and his wife purchased 3 more plots adjacent.  So, mom will be buried there and this company knows that.  We just need help and direction.

Thank you so very much for the speedy reply and information.  I will be printing this out for the rest of my family to see and read.

Cindy

ANSWER: I certainly understand your issue with the $1,495 casket.

But can you give me the other details--for the rest of the $5,000 and $4,000?

Lisa

This is so outrageous, I'm thinking of posting it on the Funeral Ethics website. Bet Stonemor wouldn't like that!! I'll be calling them at some point to see what they have to say. What's the local contact information?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: the original contract in july of 1971 was for two plots and two vaults and 60 x 16 veterans memorial , my mom was positive this paid in full, however, when the guy came up to meet with us on Tuesday (the 16th) he had never seen this contract but took back a partial copy of it and called me back the next morning and said that it was cancelled in Oct of 1973 for lack of payment in full.

The next contract that we have has hand written on the top (not my parents writing) that it is a continuance of #80134 and was dated for 1/31/1998(which NO ONE has a copy of) This contract ends in 140 was dated 2/4/2000 as is for granite base, casket (reusable), something we cannot make out but looks like --pr95 +150 wide, the total on this contract is 2891.31 and was paid off in 2007

The next contract is #174 dated June 5, 2000 is for internment and record total 965.00 paid off in 2003

The NEXT contract is #102 dated 11/8/2011 is for 1 burial rights, 1 grave space, 2 vaults, urn, monument, granite,  installment chg, that wonderful casket again, survey, tax, f. chgs  comes to a total of 7338.00 of which my parents wrote a check for 498.90 and for some reason the company had them turn back in contract # 140 and gave them a credit for 1839.10.  leaving 5396.10 still remaining on this SAME set of plots that were purchased in 1971.   Since then my mother has been going back and forth with them, they requested she send the "actual" contract to them for verification, she resisted and they told her there would be nothing she could unless she sent the original.  So she did.  Now that contract is missing from everyone.  Mom has made a few payments since the date of this contract to stop them from calling and harassing her while taking care of herself and my father.  Both were on medications at the time of this contract signing, and this is the first time any of us kids heard about cremation.  Now my father was 100% deaf in his left ear and only had a small percent of hearing in his right ear, and refused to ever wear his hearing aid.  My mom has had parkinsons for over 15 yrs and is on meds for it.  We kids certainly feel like this company came in in 2011 and completely took advantage of them.   

When my father passed the end of March we all took comfort knowing that his burial and everything was taken care of.  They had even purchased an Estate Planning Service a few years back so we were positive this was all taken care of until the Owner of our local funeral home called and said there was some sort of problem with Christian memorial cemetery.  So, in the midst of taking care of my mom, dealing with my fathers unexpected death we suddenly had to clarify what was going on and as of todays date, it is still not taken care of, they are claiming a balance, and ontop of all that my father was a VETERAN and on their own paperwork it states his opening and closing chg was 445.00 however there was nothing due on it and  under property it says FREE.

Is this as confusing to you as it is to us? :) Cindy

Answer
Thanks for all the details. Could you please scan and e-mail me all paperwork your mother has or fax it-- e-mail is lisa@funeralethics.org or fax is 802-304-1005. That's my husband's computer fax which I won't get until Sunday when he's back from a conference.

Also please get your mother's permission for me to call StoneMor to discuss her situation.

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Lisa Carlson

Expertise

Funeral Law. Having written a 512-page book on funeral law for consumers with state-by-state information, I am very conversant with consumer rights in this regard: What are the laws on disposition of cremated remains? Is embalming required? Do I have to use a funeral home? Can I have a home wake? Is it a state law to buy a vault? I prepaid for a funeral but changed my mind. They won`t give me all my money back. What can I do? . . . If you have an immediate need for information because a death has just occurred or is about to occur, you may call me at 802-482-6021.

Experience

I have monitored the funeral industry on behalf of consumers for over 20 years. I have been a guest speaker to funeral trade organizations, consumer workshops, and social service professionals. I am regularly consulted by lawyers and legislators as well as journalists.

Organizations
Funeral Ethics Organization (www.funeralethics.org) Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.funerals.org)

Publications
Caring for Your Own Dead (1987) Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998) I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch (2001) Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011) with co-author Joshua Slocum

Education/Credentials
Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

Past/Present Clients
Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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