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Josephine's picture

Josephine

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Ministers receiving payment for funeral services

What are the pros and cons of Ministers receiving payment for funeral services through a funeral home business?  Does this implicate them when a funeral home defrauds their customers?  ie. The receipt lists $1,000. for "Services Requested", but doesn't list those services......then, gives the minister $200.  Who knows what the customers were told payment to the minister would be?  Also, does this legally mean that the minister is working for the funeral home?  In a town near here, the only funeral home in town, told our minister that THEY would collect the fee for him, that they do that for ALL of the ministers in this town.  I have also heard some bad news from a lot of the customers of huge, hidden costs to them.

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carolla's picture

carolla

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Hi Josephine - sorry, I'm not a minister & don't know much about they get paid for funerals.  What you describe sounds plausible though, in terms of funeral home collecting the fees & forwarding it to the minister.  Perhaps one of our ministers will also post.

 

It sounds like you're suggesting fees are exhorbitant for funerals.  I think many may agree with you.  It is a bit of a shock when one finds out how much this stuff costs.  Here's a bit of info I found which might be helpful - it's from this website - http://www.generations.on.ca/funeral-faq.htm 

..................

Has this cost increased significantly?
Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items.

Why are funerals so expensive?
In some respects, funerals are a lot like weddings or birthday celebrations. The type and cost will vary according to the tastes and budget of the consumer.

A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral.

Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned with a modest profit margin.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
While most funeral homes provide outstanding services, sometimes things can go wrong. Funeral service is regulated by the Board of Funeral Services and province licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. (To contact FSCAP, call 1-800-387-4458)

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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cjms will probably be able to add to this discussion if she is around.

cjms's picture

cjms

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Josephine wrote:

What are the pros and cons of Ministers receiving payment for funeral services through a funeral home business?  Does this implicate them when a funeral home defrauds their customers?  ie. The receipt lists $1,000. for "Services Requested", but doesn't list those services......then, gives the minister $200.  Who knows what the customers were told payment to the minister would be?  Also, does this legally mean that the minister is working for the funeral home?  In a town near here, the only funeral home in town, told our minister that THEY would collect the fee for him, that they do that for ALL of the ministers in this town.  I have also heard some bad news from a lot of the customers of huge, hidden costs to them.

I don't know the details around any fraudulent activity but I wouldn't connect the minister to the fraud unless there was proof that the minister was charging for services not rendered.  The reason that ministers often get paid directly by the funeral home is for the benefit of the church as well as the minister.  I personally don't find it unreasonable that a minister would expect to get paid for providing counselling, pastoral care as well as the funeral services for people in the community.  There are often many visits with the family pre and post funeral in which the minister participates. 

 

If the family pays the church directly, the church would be required to charge the same few that it charges its members in accordance with the Income Tax Act governing charities.  Most congregation members expect that their funeral will be provided by the church free of charge.  It becomes a very sticky situation. 

 

The minister is not an employee of the funeral home (unless they set themselves up as such and that is unlikely) but rather someone that contracts services to the funeral home.  It is the responsibility of the person receiving payment to declare any income/honoraria on their income taxes.  Of course if it was paid as an honorium, the funeral home would only have to issue a T5 for honoraria paid over a certain amount in a year.  Generally I believe these would be set up as contracted services, though.  So I suspect that they wouldn't be involved beyond paying the service fee.

 

I hope that answers some of your questions...cms

Aurora's picture

Aurora

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Josephine wrote:

What are the pros and cons of Ministers receiving payment for funeral services through a funeral home business?  

 

The funeral home gives the minister an honorarium.  The funeral home pays for the flowers,  advertising and other details that go into planning a funeral.   The reason why the funeral home pays is so the family does not have to go and pay all these bills.   There are sometimes many family members at the funeral who are kind of in charge.  If the funeral home did not pay the bills the brother/sister of the deceased may both pay one bill and another may get forgetten,  Then the family member may or may not have gotten a receipt so they may be out of pocket paying for some things twice or have to go back and collect the money back.  This way there is one bill and it is paid all at once.  Funeral homes tend to pay all the bills and then wait six months for the insurance to go through before they collect.  This way the minister/organist/caterer/ etc. do not have to wait six months.

 

Josephine wrote:
 Does this implicate them when a funeral home defrauds their customers?  ie. The receipt lists $1,000. for "Services Requested", but doesn't list those services......then, gives the minister $200.  Who knows what the customers were told payment to the minister would be?   

 

The funeral home should be giving a breakdown of expenses on the bill.   I would demand one.

 

 

Josephine wrote:
Also, does this legally mean that the minister is working for the funeral home? 

 

Not anymore than the flowershop, newspaper, Church facility rental, organist, etc.

 

Josephine wrote:
In a town near here, the only funeral home in town, told our minister that THEY would collect the fee for him, that they do that for ALL of the ministers in this town.  I have also heard some bad news from a lot of the customers of huge, hidden costs to them. 

 

That does happen.  Often people are not aware of what they are spending because of grief and shock so it may not register.  A middle of the road funeral costs about $10,000 nowadays.  It is expensive to die.

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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And it shouldn't be. this is a big beef for me.

Eileenrl's picture

Eileenrl

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Perhaps a way to get around this is to have a preplanned funeral and all arrangements made and the minister's money in a separate envelope so that the executor of your estate hands it to the minister.  Funerals cost far too much money in my opinion.  I have been paying for mine for a few years now and I have a couple more to go.

Instructions are written out - nothing in the newspaper - no flowers etc - my executors know what is to be done - funeral service is planned.

The reason it is taking a little longer is because I've been paying for two funerals, plot and stone etc. at the same time. 

Sometimes Ministers won't accept a fee if they know you well -

 

BrettA's picture

BrettA

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For many, it needn't be a huge expense - so-called 'memorial socities' in several cities allow disposal for around $1,000 (admitedly, still too much for my likes, but an order of magnitude below Aurora's middle ain't so shabby).  And if you happen to live somewhere where no such group exists and feel strongly about this, create one! 

 

However, I think a better direction would be to develop a national version of the same, which might allow large numbers of like-minded people to lower costs even more (exclusive of costs to transport the body to a cremation facility).  Maybe I'll suggest it to my local society to see if there might be interest.  The whole death industry as it currently stands would be better dead from my point of view (and yes, I recognise my bias)... or at least given *major* competition which seems sadly lacking at this time.

RevMatt's picture

RevMatt

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You have a lot of questions.  I'll see what I can do to answer them as someone who has worked in the funeral industry, and is now clergy.

 

Josephine wrote:

What are the pros and cons of Ministers receiving payment for funeral services through a funeral home business?

Pros - for the family, it is one fewer bill to have to pay, one fewer cheque to write, one fewer thing to remember.

- for the minister's congregation, they are also freed from having to be involved in the financial aspects.  As one poster already posted, that helps dodge some of the Revenue Canada issues (although the jury is still out on whether this is kosher or not)

- for the minister, this means not having to chase down the money, which is something that most of us are not good at.

 

Cons - not sure I can think of any.

 

 

Josephine wrote:

  Does this implicate them when a funeral home defrauds their customers?  ie. The receipt lists $1,000. for "Services Requested", but doesn't list those services......then, gives the minister $200.  Who knows what the customers were told payment to the minister would be?

I don't see why it would implicate the clergy person.  The Funeral Home must, by law, give you an itemized list of all expenses if you ask for one.  There is no reason at all to pay without knowing what you are getting.

 

Josephine wrote:

Also, does this legally mean that the minister is working for the funeral home?

As others have said, the FH also pays the newspaper.  That doesn't mean they now own the paper.

 

Josephine wrote:

  In a town near here, the only funeral home in town, told our minister that THEY would collect the fee for him, that they do that for ALL of the ministers in this town.

I often run into this, and there are two things at work here.  Firstly, it's just easier administratively for the FHs to treat all families, and all clergy, the same.  Secondly, if someone has pre-paid the funeral (not simply pre-arranged, but pre-paid), then the FH MUST put out the same fees as the contract specifies, and it is illegal for them to do otherwise.  Since they have no way of knowing who the clergy person will be at the time of prepaying, they simply build it into the cost.  They are then required by law to pay it out as they planned to, no matter what the clergy person wants.

 

Josephine wrote:

  I have also heard some bad news from a lot of the customers of huge, hidden costs to them.

Buyer beware.  Make them give you a list of expenses and fees.  They have to, by law, once you ask.

Mendalla's picture

Mendalla

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UU ministers do not generally do funerals/memorials for non-members (they are supposed to focus on servicing members), rather this is done by lay chaplains ordained locally by the congregation who have a fee schedule set by the church's board. Of course, there are churches where the practice may be different and there may be ordained UU ministers not in pastoral charges providing services through funeral homes, chapels, etc. However, lay chaplaincy is the norm in the UU congregations I've been involved with.

 

On another note, concern about funeral expenses and other issues led to the founding of the memorial society here in London (UUs were involved in founding it and several UU friends of mine are involved in the London society today although it is not affiliated with any specific church) and other places. The London Memorial Society's website is http://www.londonmemorialsociety.com/index.html and if you go to their Links page, they have links to other memorial societies in Ontario. These days, they are basically education/advocacy groups for pre-planning, economical funerals and, more recently, green burials. Worth a look if you're interested in pre-planning your funeral/memorial.

 

Mendalla

 

Josephine's picture

Josephine

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Everyone,  I so much appreciated your replies!  You all gave some great insight into this relationship between F.H. and ministers. 

I have suffered defraud at the hands of a funeral home in Calif. last year when my brother died.  Of course, being in shock, I didn't know what my rights were with the un-itemized bill...Calif. is probably different from B.C.

Just to let you know, BrettA, here, in B.C., we found out that family and significant others CAN transport the remains to a crematorium.   Any Government Agent can help out with the paper work for this.  A poor family in our church did this and they said that it ended up meaning the world to them!  Otherwise, it would have cost them $800. to rent-a-casket, plus the cost of the F.H. transporting the body to the crematorium 120 kms.  from here and then, the cost of cremation. They could never have done it!  It would have been $3,000. they didn't have!

I so wish Funeral Homes could actually help grieving, shocked people to know what they CAN afford...maybe turn them on to other places they can go...or how to do some of it themselves.  There are a lot of poor people here!  Gotta do something about this.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi Josephine,

 

Josephine wrote:

What are the pros and cons of Ministers receiving payment for funeral services through a funeral home business?  Does this implicate them when a funeral home defrauds their customers?

 

The pro is that the clergy do not have to speak to the family about the honorarium in the initial aftershock of the death or even later when normalcy reasserts itself.

 

The con is that the clergy typically do not know how the funeral home structures the honorarium.

 

Most funeral homes make the honorarium an optional component of the whole fee structure.  The family can pay the honorarium to the minister directly or through the funeral home.

 

Josephine wrote:

ie. The receipt lists $1,000. for "Services Requested", but doesn't list those services......then, gives the minister $200.  Who knows what the customers were told payment to the minister would be?

 

That is a good question.  An itemized reciept breaking down what the actual "Services Requested" is probably in order.

 

Josephine wrote:

Also, does this legally mean that the minister is working for the funeral home?

 

No.  It does not.  Honorarium are for services rendered they do not constitute a contract.

 

Josephine wrote:

In a town near here, the only funeral home in town, told our minister that THEY would collect the fee for him, that they do that for ALL of the ministers in this town.  I have also heard some bad news from a lot of the customers of huge, hidden costs to them.

 

Sadly, this happens.  I have heard complaints from clergy colleagues with respect to suspected gouging.  I would imagine it is more likely to happen when there is no competition.  If I own the only grocery store for miles around you either pay my prices or you burn more gas. 

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

cjms's picture

cjms

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Now what is interesting is that the ministers here are talking about their fee as an honoraria.  So are the funeral homes issuing a T5 each year for your payments?  As I recall the threshold is $1,000.  This could be an interesting...cms

GordW's picture

GordW

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Ministers fees for weddings and funerals are honouraria.  And we are expected to claim it as income.

 

Mind you I have never made more than $1000 in any year since I have been in ministry (and that is for both together).

 

When I do a funeral working with a funeral home it is about 50% they pay and 50% the family pays me direct.  Most funerals I do I am not working with a funeral home though.  And I never worry about "chasing down" payment.  If the family forgets to give me an honourarium I am not going to worry about it.

cjms's picture

cjms

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I suspect that it is more of an issue for more urban pastoral charges.  I live in a city of 60K and I remember the minister at the church that I  used to attend officiating at a minimum of 5 services a month (and usually more).  I even remember weeks where there were 3 a week.  Obviously this amount adds up...cms

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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I also know of a minister that is quite adament that he is never paid an honorarium. He insists it goes to the pastoral charge. Has riled a few other ministry personel.

Pinga's picture

Pinga

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If the minister is performing any of the work or the preparation on "church time", then any fees should go to the pastoral charge in my opinion.

 

It would be like me getting paid for consulting during company time. 

 

If they do it on their own time, then, yes, I guess that is independent funds; however, as a professional work I do for the company on my own time is just part of the expectation of my career.  Wonder why the work of the church would be any different?

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi cjms,

 

cjms wrote:

Now what is interesting is that the ministers here are talking about their fee as an honoraria.  So are the funeral homes issuing a T5 each year for your payments?  As I recall the threshold is $1,000.  This could be an interesting...cms

 

I use the term honorarium because all funerals I do are members of my pastoral charge.  I believe that the service provided (pastorally and liturgically) is one that has already been remediated through what I already recieve from the Church.

 

If the honorarium is mediated by the funeral home it will be the same honorarium given to any clergy who presides over similar services.

 

If the honorarium is mediated by the family it will be what they feel is appropriate.  It is a gift depending upon their generosity and/or thankfulness.

 

In Newfoundland and Labrador where I averaged 10 funerals a year the average honorarium I recieved was $25.  One family embarassed me by their generosity.  I have never had a colleague share that they have ever come close to recieving such an honorarium.

 

Since I returned to Ontario in 2005 I have barely presided over ten funerals in total.

 

I have never recieved a T5.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

cjms's picture

cjms

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...and I wouldn't disagree in theory, Pinga.  The minister/music/admin/janitorial and volunteers should be willing to centre a large number of hours around the community and be willing to do that for the same fee that they charge their members (usually nothing).  Unfortunately, not everyone in the church is willing to do this work or are willing to give up the resources of the staff so often funeral participation to limited.  Of course, then there is also the fact that most ministers work in the neighbourhood of third+ their assignment. 

 

It's not a perfect system and given the levels of education, I don't begrudge paying ministers for doing a funeral service - either during "business hours" or outside of them...cms

GordW's picture

GordW

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Some clergy sign all honouraria over to the church.  I know one clergy couple ho do this and the congregation uses the monies for the "sabbatical fund".  However it is probable that an equal number of congregations (and likely more clergy) see the honouraria for weddings and funerals as a supplement to a salary that should be higher.  And so it is seen as part of the overall compensation package.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi GordW,

 

GordW wrote:

I know one clergy couple ho

 

Can you clarify this for me.

 

Are they both ho or is it one particular member of the couple? 

 

Oh to be a fly on the wall at that presbytery.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

RichardBott's picture

RichardBott

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Following up on Gord's last post -

 

This is something that Ministry Personnel and Ministry & Personnel Committees need to sit down and talk about, really early in their relationship. There are often huge assumptions (for both parties) about where honouraria come from, how much they are, where they go, etc. etc. bloomin' etc.

 

Each minister makes decisions about what they'll do with the 'thank you gift'. For me, it has depended on where I was in my life. As a single, with few bills, I used to add it on top of my tithe, or donate it to another ministry. With financial responsibilities for family - sometimes as the sole financial contributor - those honouraria become much more important kept within the family. In future (after our chid(ren) get out of post-secondary education, I'll bet!), I may be in a place where those funds can go to a ministry. (And, yes - I claim every penny on my income tax, whether I've a T5 or not... I'm one of those people who sees my taxes as part of the support of both myself and my neighbour. Weird, I know.)

 

Christ's peace - r

GordW's picture

GordW

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revjohn wrote:

Hi GordW,

 

GordW wrote:

I know one clergy couple ho

 

Can you clarify this for me.

 

Are they both ho or is it one particular member of the couple? 

 

Oh to be a fly on the wall at that presbytery.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

Add a "w" John.  I trust you will add it wherever you see fit...

Pinga's picture

Pinga

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richardbott:  How is it a thank-you gift  if the amount is stated in the rental agreement, along with the custodian's, musicians, and sanctuary charge?

 

It is even more challenging, I think, now that those who are members are changed the same as those who are non-members

crazyheart's picture

crazyheart

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used to be called a "love offering" as well, Pinga, (I think)

Pinga's picture

Pinga

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RichardBott's wisdom is appreciated.  A good thing to have cleared up early in the relationship, and even have a policy set as part of it.

 

Note: I am unaware of any issues in our pastoral charge, well, other than a person who was shocked & stunned that as a member of the church they were being asked to pay for the wedding charges.

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