New rules in WA to keep funds for a future funeral safe

A new mandatory code of practice for Western Australia’s prepaid funeral industry has been approved by the McGowan Government that aims to safeguard the estimated $170 million being held to pay for future funerals.

The new code, which comes into effect on March 1, 2021, will ensure that the funds will be managed within secure investments under the name of the client until they are required.

Payments received by the prepaid funeral seller must be forwarded within 16 days of receipt to specified investment managers that are restricted to life insurance companies, friendly societies, licensed trustee companies or the Public Trustee of WA.

There will also be greater clarity and certainty surrounding contracts with all goods and services provided to be detailed and the individual cost of each component and any fees to be included. Prices in the contract will be fixed at the time of signing, so they will be immune from future cost increases and inflation. A cooling off period of 30 days will apply and the contract can only be changed if both parties agree.

Under the code, the contract must outline what happens in the event of insolvency of the funeral organiser’s business; if the client moves interstate; when payments are missed or are late; if the client dies before full payment is made; and under what circumstances a refund is payable.

Sellers of prepaid funeral plans, who are mostly funeral directors, will have a period of six months to change their business practices before the new code comes into force in March 2021.

Comments attributed to Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray:

“The new code of practice should give older Western Australians some peace of mind knowing that the money being put towards a future funeral is being protected by being placed in secure investments.

“With such a large amount of money being held by the industry, and the amount is growing with an ageing population, it is necessary to put some safeguards in place to prevent any potential misuse.

“The new rules around contracts and costs will also provide our seniors with more certainty by fixing prices and preventing inflation from eroding the value of the contract over time.”

Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Media Release 31/08/2020

Minister’s office – 6552 6400