§ 10-14-7. Preneed escrow accounts or trust funds.

CODE OF GEORGIA

Title 10. COMMERCE AND TRADE

Chapter 14. GEORGIA CEMETERY AND FUNERAL SERVICES ACT OF 2000

Current through 2019 Chapter 321

§ 10-14-7. Preneed escrow accounts or trust funds

(a)
(1) Each preneed dealer which sells burial or funeral merchandise on a preneed basis or preneed burial or funeral services, other than preneed funeral services described in Code Section 10-14-7.1, shall establish and maintain a trust fund or a preneed escrow account.
(2) With respect to each monument and outer burial container, bench, coping, and other burial and funeral merchandise items except for caskets, and except as otherwise provided in paragraph (3) of this subsection, the amount to be deposited to said trust or escrow account shall be not less than 35 percent of the sales price of such monument or outer burial container; in no event shall the amount deposited be less than 120 percent of the wholesale price of such items. For caskets, the amount to be deposited to said trust or escrow account shall be not less than 100 percent of the sales price of such merchandise; in no event shall the amount deposited be less than 110 percent of the wholesale price of such merchandise. If the contract of sale shall include grave spaces or items not deemed to be burial or funeral merchandise, the portion of the sales price attributable to the sale of the burial or funeral merchandise shall be determined, and it shall only be as to such portion of the total contract as constitutes burial or funeral merchandise that the deposit described in this paragraph shall be required. In the event that the sale of burial or funeral merchandise is under an installment contract, the required trust deposit shall be a pro rata part of the principal portion of each installment payment, such deposit only being required as payments are made by the purchaser for such burial or funeral merchandise. In the event the installment contract is discounted or sold to a third party, the seller shall be required to deposit an amount equal to the undeposited portion of the required deposit of the sales price of such burial or funeral merchandise at such time as if the contract were paid in full.
(3) With respect to a monument, outer burial container, bench, coping, and other burial and funeral merchandise items except for caskets, the itemized sales price of which does not include the installation of such item, 100 percent of the installation cost shall be deposited in the trust or escrow account.
(4) With respect to cash advance items and the sale of preneed funeral services, the amount to be deposited to said trust or escrow account shall be 100 percent of the sales price of such funeral services or the full amount of a cash advance item. The time and manner of deposit shall be the same as that specified for deposit of burial or funeral merchandise sale funds to the escrow account.
(5) With respect to preneed burial services, the amount to be deposited to said trust or escrow account shall be not less than 35 percent of the sales price of such burial services; in no event shall the amount deposited be less than 120 percent of the wholesale price of such burial services. The time and manner of deposit shall be the same as that specified for deposit of burial or funeral merchandise sale funds to the escrow account.
(b) The deposit specified in paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be made not later than 30 days following the last day of the month in which any payment is received.
(c) A preneed escrow account governed by the provisions of this Code section shall be established and maintained in a state bank, state savings and loan institution, savings bank, national bank, federal savings and loan association, whose deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or other governmental agency, or a state or federally chartered credit union insured under 12 U.S. C. Section 1781 of the Federal Credit Union Act, or other organization approved by the Secretary of State which is located and doing business in this state.
(d)
(1) If the account is maintained with a trustee, the assets of the trust fund shall be invested and reinvested by the trustee subject to all the terms, conditions, limitations, and restrictions imposed by Georgia law upon executors and trustees regarding the making and depositing of investments with trust moneys pursuant to Code Sections 53-8-1 through 53-8-4 of the "Pre 1998 Probate Code," if applicable, or Code Sections 53-8-1 and 53-12-340 of the "Revised Probate Code of 1998," if applicable, or Chapter 12 of Title 53, "The Revised Georgia Trust Code of 2010." Subject to said terms, conditions, limitations, and restrictions, the trustee of the preneed accounts shall have full power to hold, purchase, sell, assign, transfer, reinvest, and dispose of any of the securities and investments in which any of the assets of said account are invested, including proceeds of investments.
(2) Any state bank, national bank, or other financial institution authorized to act in a fiduciary capacity in this state, which presently or in the future serves as a fiduciary or cofiduciary of the trust fund of a preneed dealer, may invest part or all of such trust fund held by it for investment in interests or participation in one or more common trust funds established by that state bank, national bank, or other financial institution for collective investment, if such investment is not expressly prohibited by the instrument, judgment, decree, or order creating the fiduciary relationship and if, in the case of cofiduciaries, the trust institution procures the consent of its cofiduciary or cofiduciaries to such investment, and notwithstanding the fact that such common trust funds are not invested and reinvested subject to all the terms, conditions, limitations, and restrictions imposed by the laws of the State of Georgia upon executors and trustees in the making and disposing of their investments.
(e)
(1) For burial or funeral merchandise, funds shall be released from the trust or escrow account when the burial or funeral merchandise is delivered or, if the burial or funeral merchandise is not yet delivered, within the time required by law after a purchaser requests a refund. The preneed dealer is considered to have delivered burial or funeral merchandise when the burial or funeral merchandise is:
(A) Actually delivered to the purchaser at the time of need;
(B) Actually delivered to the purchaser at the purchaser's request;
(C) In the case of a monument, when the monument is attached to realty;
(D) In the case of a monument, when the preneed dealer has the monument manufactured for the purchaser and placed into storage with a responsible third party bonded and insured for the wholesale value thereof and evidenced by a receipt specifically identifying the monument, the specific preneed contract, the location of the monument, and identify and address of the bonding and insuring parties; or
(E) At such other times as prescribed by the rule or order of the Secretary of State.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, outer burial containers may not be delivered prior to need.

(2) Deposits made from funds received in payment of preneed services shall remain in the trust or escrow account until such services are performed, at which time said funds may be released to the preneed dealer. The trustee may require certification by the preneed dealer of delivery of merchandise or performance of services before release of funds.
(3) The funds on deposit under the terms of this subsection regarded as escrow funds may not be pledged, hypothecated, transferred, or in any manner encumbered by the escrow agent nor may said funds be offset or taken for the debts of the preneed dealer until such time as the merchandise has been delivered or the services performed, but after delivery of the burial or funeral merchandise concerned.
(f) At any time, in the event that the preneed trust or escrow account contains an amount less than the amount required by this Code section, the preneed dealer shall, within 15 days after the earlier of becoming aware of such fact or having been so notified by the Secretary of State, deposit into the preneed account an amount equal to such shortfall. In the event that the Secretary of State and the preneed dealer disagree regarding the amount of such shortfall, no penalty shall be imposed upon the preneed dealer for any failure to comply with this provision unless such failure occurs after notice and opportunity for a hearing as provided in Code Section 10-14-23.
(g) In the case of release of trusted or escrowed funds to a purchaser at the purchaser's request pursuant to subsection (e) of this Code section, a sum not less than the lesser of 10 percent of the trusted or escrowed amount or one-half of the interest earned or return upon such funds as of the date of release, as provided by the Secretary of State by rule or regulation, may be retained by the preneed dealer as an administrative fee for reimbursement of the preneed dealer for costs.
(h) The trustee shall furnish yearly to the Secretary of State a financial report in a form designated by the Secretary of State with respect to the preneed trust or escrow account.
(i) Trust funds shall not be invested in or loaned to any business venture controlled by the preneed dealer, a person who owns a controlling interest of a cemetery owner that is not a natural person, or an affiliate of any of these persons or entities.
(j) Upon a finding by a court of competent jurisdiction of failure to deposit or maintain funds in the preneed trust or escrow account as required by this chapter or of fraud, theft, or other misconduct by the preneed dealer or the officers or directors of the preneed dealer which has wasted or depleted such funds, the preneed dealer or the officers or directors of the preneed dealer may be held jointly and severally liable for any deficiencies in the preneed trust or escrow account.

Cite as OCGA § 10-14-7

History. Amended by 2012 Ga. Laws 637, §11, eff. 7/1/2012.

Amended by 2006 Ga. Laws 944, §3, eff. 7/1/2006.