UPDATE: Funeral home and family agree to terms, now war veteran can be put to rest

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) —  UPDATE: After days of back and forth fighting between a family of a war veteran and a local funeral home, the two parties have agreed on signing paperwork and his body can be buried.

Family members tell WHNT News 19 they reached the agreement Friday morning and put Mr. Beck to rest at the Hampton Cove Funeral Home Friday afternoon, but there was not military honors because the honor guard could not be brought back in time for the service.

Read our previous coverage below

The body of a U.S. war veteran remained sitting inside a cooler at a north Alabama funeral home for three days, even though the man was scheduled to be buried Wednesday afternoon.

A dispute between the family of Donald Beck, who passed away last week, and workers at the Hampton Cove Funeral Home Cemetery and Crematory in Ownens Cross Roads, left friends and family along with a full military honor guard standing around waiting for a funeral that never took place Wednesday.

According to family members, Mr. Beck purchased a prepaid funeral plan decades ago. Paperwork provided by the family shows the policy was paid in full and no changes or additional charges were made over the years. But the Beck family say that is not what they are facing now.

"This is no way to honor a veteran and make their family go through this just to bury their loved one," Donald Beck Jr. told WHNT News 19 Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday morning, Hampton Cove Funeral Home Director & Owner Charles Kent called  to address the allegations against his funeral home by the Beck family.

Kent says the contract--which he provided WHNT News 19 a copy of--shows a zero dollar balance. He says his funeral home is not asking the family for any additional money.

"The family refuses to sign our at-need contract, which is something we must have signed as required by the state in order to carry out the burial," Kent said. "If the family would simply sign off on the at-need contract, we are standing by ready to carry out Mr. Beck's final wishes," he added.

Kent says the additional costs associated with the burial not covered by the preneed contract are due to Mr. Beck dying outside of Alabama. According to the paperwork provided by the funeral home, the family used another funeral home in Oklahoma to prepare the body for transportation back to Madison County, where it would be buried. Kent says because the family did not use a funeral home recommended by Hampton Cove Funeral Home Cemetery and Crematory, they will not cover those additional costs.

The family told WHNT News 19 Thursday they plan on moving forward with a lawsuit against the funeral home. They also plan on taking back Mr. Beck's remains to Oklahoma and having him cremated.

"We tried working with them again today and we are still at the same spot we have been all week," Donald Beck Jr. said Thursday. "The money is not that big of deal, but whenever you enter into an arrangement, you give your word. You either stand by your word and you are an honorable person, or you are not," Beck Jr. added.

Preneed Contract Questions

WHNT News 19 took our questions to the Alabama Department of Insurance.

The Department of Insurance’s goal is to make sure any funeral homes or cemeteries that sell preneed services deliver on that promise.  The department, however, only oversees preneed contracts starting in May of 2002.  It has no jurisdiction over cases prior to 2002 because of the way the law is written.

Government Relations Manager Mark Fowler could not comment on this situation, but spoke candidly with us about the state’s position.

The Alabama Department of Insurance says one key way to protect yourself is to make certain you`re purchasing preneed services from a funeral home or cemetery that is certified.  It must have a what`s called a "certificate of authority" that should be posted on its wall.

Another option Charles Kent recommends is getting insurance where you pay an outside agency for your funeral.  They, in turn, take care of the final payment and it’s 100 percent funded.

WHNT News 19 has collected some links and phone numbers that consumers can use to check on a funeral home or understand the current law.

For complaints regarding Preneed Funeral/Cemetery Merchandise and Services:

Alabama Department of Insurance

Preneed Division

P O Box 303351

Montgomery, AL 36130-3351

Fax: 334-241-4138

Phone: 334-240-4420

Preneed@insurance.alabama.gov

Consumer Complaint Form

 

 

 

 

 

45 comments

  • Brenda Patterson

    Alabama passes laws to protect businesses and to screw those who have contractual agreements with said businesses. Case in point is that educational college savings program that went “belly up.” The average person in Alabama is lied to, cheated, and manipulated by the lawmakers and politicians. Another case in point: if you vote, they’re in office probably because of whom you voted for; if you do not vote, shame on you for not caring about you state. Yes, it’s tough to keep up on the issues and they want it that way.

    • Say What

      Brenda, that is what Republicans are talking about when they want to create a “business friendly” environment in Alabama! Business friendly most often means worker unfriendly!

  • CT

    This is just plain out ridiculous!! The funeral home is making this out to be the families issue, but infact the funeral home is at fault. What a disgrace! This man paid for his burial in advance and now the funeral home wants more money??? That is WRONG and to do that to a veteran, I am appalled.

    • Theresa

      Political views is not in any opinion when it comes to something like this…lay this poor soldier o rest ! May God bless his soul ❤

      • Say What

        Theresa, it is not politics, it is business. Funeral homes are like any other for-profit business. They do what they do to make money — they are not a charity!

  • Jane Staton

    Is the additional charges called “opening at the graveside” or something like that? This same thing happened when my father-in-law died. We had to pay additional expense to the prepaid arrangements. I think it’s a scam to get more money. In addition , we waited almost a year to get the military marker that goes at the end of grave. The funeral home and cemetery both blamed each other for the delay. I visited both places several times and finally called Washington and it was solved.

  • cb

    It is sad when the news media and those that feed off of it believe what they see. Where were you people when the Lord handed out common sense. Judge not. How about we ask Mr. Beck how his dad got to Alabama from Oklahoma…. In the back of a Dodge pickup in a cardboard box because he was too cheap to have him flown here or transported by hearse. Maybe you should also ask him why he didn’t sign the atneed contract that gives funeral homes and cemeteries permission to perform the service and burial. Their are two sides to every story. Oops forgot to mention son doesn’t care that his dad is retired military. He placed him in the back of a truck and drove him. What kind of person does that!!!!!

      • Ashley Hall

        The new owners of the funeral home would not have had any way of knowing prior to purchase that the funds were not there for pre-need contracts. I think they are being more than fair by honoring the pre-need contracts being brought in with funding out of their own pockets when the prior owner took all the original funds. Many people don’t realize how many third party charges a funeral home incurs while conducting a traditional burial, or any service for that matter. The state REQUIRES that the next of kin sign an “at need” contract after the passing. It wasn’t that the previous contract wasn’t being honored for the price or the arrangement details, just a formality required by the state. It is also correct that Hampton Cove actually has to pay a fee to the funeral home that picked up and prepared the remains of Mr. Beck- there is no way this could have been addressed at the conception of the pre-need contract because it was a charge that there would be know way of knowing about until the time of need. It is extremely unfortunate those grieving and to the funeral home alike that there has to be coverage in this manner. I would be happy to know that the funeral home abides by the law as well as trying to do right by the family and honor the price I can almost GUARANTEE the original contract didn’t even cover expenses. There are many funeral homes that may not act out of integrity, but I do believe that Hampton Cove is not one of them. It is a highly misunderstood business and many of the details that families (luckily) don’t have to even encounter or bother with. The process of working with the state in the disposition of a body requires knowledge of the law, compliance, and SIGNATURES. Be kind when addressing this story as there are two sides and neither party deserve this negativity at this time.

    • Honoring Those Who Serve

      Was this so-called, “cardboard box” provided by the Oklahoma funeral home that embalmed Mr. Beck? I’d think that the Oklahoma funeral home didn’t just hand the deceased body over to the Beck family. I’d think the out of state funeral home provided something for Mr. Beck’s body to be transported in. That being said, did the out of state funeral home provide this “cardboard box” or did the funeral home provide something better & the Beck family took the body out & stuffed it into a cardboard box? The answer to this question is important in helping the public understand.

    • Donald Beck

      The kind of person who took the time to have this type of conversation (many times) with his Dad before the Alzheimers disease robbed him of the remaining faculties called a sound mind. I promised my Dad that I would personally bring him back and see him buried next to his wife of almost 50 years. I really do not care what you think of me as a person, I sleep very well at night knowing that I did my best to honor my Dad’s wishes and to fulfill the promise that I made to him. That is called HONOR, something that I seriously wonder if you know anything about.

  • Cojak

    I would think it would be farfetched to believe the poor guy was put in a cardboard box and sent 800 miles in the hot sun in a pickup truck. I believe there are probably laws against that and don’t really believe that happened !!!! Maybe the truth will come out if the family is getting stiffed. This is so sad someone gave their life and now all this mess happens.

    • Say What

      It is legal to transport a body yourself. State laws vary, but the family can do almost everything the funeral home does. Do an internet search for DIY funerals and see for yourself!

    • cb

      Wrong as long as you procure a permit which you get at your local health department you can transport your loved ones. But what kind of person would do that in this heat…in the nack of a oick up truck. Maybe before you all start slamming the funeral home you need to know the facts. Have channel 19 ask how Mr. Beck was transported. For any of you that have lost loved ones you can pull out the at need contract you were required to sign before the funeral/ burial could go on. There is a charge for removal of deceased. That usually has a distance that is included…most times it is a 30-50 mile radius. Anything further the family is responsible for. That also applies to preneed contracts. Possibly Mr. Beck jr was too cheap to pay the extra mileage to have Mr. Beck Sr. transported in a dignified manner such as a removal van that would cover him and keep his body at a cooler temp. Know the facts before you idiots play judge and jury.

  • Ron Coble

    The idea in prepaid contracts is to take care of funeral and burial business details prior to death and to keep families from having to worry about business matters during that time of grieving between the death and the funeral and burial. It sounds like Mr Beck Sr. paid to relieve his family of that burden. If he made that agreement with Hampton Cove Funeral Home and they are not honoring the contract, everyone should be made aware of the way they do business.

    • Say What

      This is nothing new! This type of thing often happens to people with prepaid plans. The only reason this one made the news is because of the veteran angle makes it more “newsworthy.”

    • cb

      Maybe you should know the facts before you say poor pitiful Beck family.

      Actually, maybe all of you people that think it is so much the funeral homes fault should look into Alabama’s preneed law. Said law did not go into effect until 2002. Any preneeds written prior to that don’t have to be honored if funeral homes change ownership. The new owner can’t help it that the original owner spent that persons hard earned money. The Alabama Department of Insurance should have done a better job of protecting families from those types of people. Its sad when the original owner was heard saying “Ha Ha no money in accounts for preneed, you have to pay for now” while she lives in her nice big house living off of innocent victims. New owners agree to honor prelaw preneed cotracts. They produce merchandise every day for these type of situations. Maybe you loved one that took out that preneed contract needs to read the fine print on the back where it says some items are not price protected.

      • sjbb

        Thanks CB for TRYING to explain to the folks but I’m sure the damage has probably already been done by people not knowing all the facts or the laws or what the heck they are talking about.

  • grimbo

    I’m just guessing but I think that it might have something to do with money because the article states that Mr Beck purchased a prepaid funeral plan “DECADES AGO”. Maybe way back then, the funeral plan only cost a few hundred dollars.

  • Tammy

    Went through this same thing last week: due to inflation, the burial policy my fil purchased provided only a satin-covered wooden casket and almost none of the other things a funeral home normally provides: lead car to gravesite, register book, cards, flower van, etc. Digging the grave was $350 on top of everything else. So, we ended up like most people and bought the $,000.00 + pkg….

  • Jessica

    Same thing happened to my grandfather, who was also a veteran that fought in WW2. He purchased a burial policy in like the 30’s or 40’s. When he passed away a couple years ago, the funeral home wanted to put him in a cardboard box.

  • NRA Is Here To Stay

    @ Say What: He knows ALL about “Charity. He being a “Lib”, i’m sure he gets his “Obam-a-nation welfare. Everyone: Please help control the LIBERAL Population, Have your “Lib” Spayed/Neutered!!

  • Concerned Citizen

    Actually, in regards to the burial policies-they only cover the services provided by the funeral home and a specific casket. Of course in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s the policy covered most all the charges. Funeral homes DO NOT have to honor those policies, in fact they do not even get face amount of the policy. Most do honor them as a service for the families they serve. I believe there is a big misunderstanding when it comes to those policies. Probably why those types of policies haven’t been sold in YEARS.

  • Honoring Those Who Serve

    Didn’t the present owners of Hampton Cove funeral home know what they were getting into before they purchased the cemetery? Didn’t they agree to take on the liabilities as well as the assets? Doesn’t Hampton Cove owners know anything about the cemetery business? If they have been in funeral home acquisition for years, shouldn’t they be aware of what they were getting into? It seems to me that someone wants all the privileges & assets minus the responsibilities & liabilities. Also some of the comments on here are very hateful & inconsiderate to those grieving! Furthermore there is a deceased war veteran that is not even buried & some commenting have the audacity to defend the bad behavior & conduct of those who are called to be professionals caring for people in their time of grief?! Whoever made the nasty comments about Mr. Beck & his surviving family has to be missing something vital to humanity; a heart! Mr. Beck is a veteran & I thought we, in the United States, honor our veterans. This veteran’s family had all the documentation in their hands where his funeral was paid for. Yet, Hampton Cove makes this all about money?! WHNT’s news story wasn’t just about someone refusing to sign a paper. This is about money plain & simple. Mr. Beck & his family aren’t the enemy here to be denigrated. They are merely clients wanting what they paid for. Hampton Cove should have honored this veteran’s contracts even if they don’t care about the veteran or his family. They, as funeral professionals, should care about & respect the contracts even if they can’t bring themselves to care about the living or the dead. What dishonor & disgrace!

  • Ray

    I would think that a preneed contract has stipulations such as how far they will transport someone ie say up to 50 mile radius etc, otherwise you might have someone pass away say in California or a foreign country and they would be stuck with the bill of transporting the person back to the funeral home or record and that could exceed the price of the contract. The story says that the family did not use the funeral home that it suggested to the family to use. Most businesses contract with other businesses so they can can keep their cost’s low. Its just like your health insurance plan, it will cover certain physicians etc and if you go out of their system you pay 100%. I think this may have happend to the family the way the story told it.

  • Betty

    I am very disappointed in WHNT TV on not airing the side of The Hampton Cove Funeral Home. Just as the family had the right for their story to be aired so should the funeral home. I believe that the family just did not understand that the funeral home was abiding by the state and federal law that requires the next of kin to sign an at- need contract before services and burial can be held. This is what makes it a binding contract which is the law. In no way does this have disrespect for the grieving family or for the deceased veteran, but speaks volumes as to how uninformed the public really is, since all the information needed is just a mouse click away.

  • sjbb

    I would suggest that WHNT get more information and correct information before airing such a “news” item. It may be good for ratings but what about the damage incorrect information can do.

  • Ashley Hall

    The new owners of the funeral home would not have had any way of knowing prior to purchase that the funds were not there for pre-need contracts. I think they are being more than fair by honoring the pre-need contracts being brought in with funding out of their own pockets when the prior owner took all the original funds. Many people don’t realize how many third party charges a funeral home incurs while conducting a traditional burial, or any service for that matter. The state REQUIRES that the next of kin sign an “at need” contract after the passing. It wasn’t that the previous contract wasn’t being honored for the price or the arrangement details, just a formality required by the state. It is also correct that Hampton Cove actually has to pay a fee to the funeral home that picked up and prepared the remains of Mr. Beck- there is no way this could have been addressed at the conception of the pre-need contract because it was a charge that there would be know way of knowing about until the time of need. It is extremely unfortunate those grieving and to the funeral home alike that there has to be coverage in this manner. I would be happy to know that the funeral home abides by the law as well as trying to do right by the family and honor the price I can almost GUARANTEE the original contract didn’t even cover expenses. There are many funeral homes that may not act out of integrity, but I do believe that Hampton Cove is not one of them. It is a highly misunderstood business and many of the details that families (luckily) don’t have to even encounter or bother with. The process of working with the state in the disposition of a body requires knowledge of the law, compliance, and SIGNATURES. Be kind when addressing this story as there are two sides and neither party deserve this negativity at this time.

  • Honorable R. Reagan

    Can’t we ALL just get along?? Remember: ALL Libs have a severe form of mental illness!! i.e. @ say what!!

  • Bob

    If the owners of Hampton Cove Funeral Home are the same ones who ran it 10 years or so ago, IMHO, they are arrogant turds.

  • Valerie T. Helms

    .
    Being the funeral director that dealt with the Beck family from the very beginning, I feel I should respond…..From the very first phone call after Mr. Donald Beck passed away, it was an issue of money. I explained to the son of Mr. Beck that WE the funeral home would contact a local funeral home to handle the required procedures. He made it clear to me that he would not pay to have his father transported by any means that would cost him money…when HE contacted his local funeral home and contracted with them to handle the prepitory work, he took me and Hampton Cove Funeral Home out of it!! We, however, agreed with that said funeral home on the price they quoted us for the things that WERE on Mr. Beck’s Pre-need contract. When the Beck family arrived at Hampton Cove Funeral Home, I personally assisted the family in unloading Mr. Beck from the back of their red pick-up truck they had transported him in. I did the much needed corrections to Mr. Beck so that he was ready to be publicly viewed by his family and friends. I spent several days working with the Honor Guard to provide Mr. Beck with the Military Honors he was due….When the family arrived at the funeral home to finalize the required paperwork, the son of Mr. Beck disclosed to me how he actually felt about his father…out of the integrity that I have for my position and respect I have for the decedent, what he said will not be disclosed by me unless I am required to disclose this in a court of law!!! When the service did not go forward because we were unable by law to carry it out the way the son demanded, the family asked us to have Mr. Beck’s body ready to load in the back of their truck so they could return him to Oklahoma to have him cremated…..I am truly heartbroken about the situation, Mr. Beck deserved a respectful, honorable service and in the end, he was laid to rest with no Honor or respect!!! If ANYONE has any questions on how I take care of my families at Hampton Cove Funeral Home, I suggest they contact ANY and ALL previous families I have serviced.(actually contact any and all families I have serviced at any funeral home I have been employed)…Out of respect for the position I hold…..I WILL not respond any further.

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