UPDATE: Funeral home and family agree to terms, now war veteran can be put to rest
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
P O Box 303351
Montgomery, AL 36130-3351
Consumer Complaint Form