'Could be up to 50 instances' where prepaid funeral money was improperly handled
Funeral home in Sydney says it's taken 'a series of measures' to clean up its practices
The provincial government has received as many as 85 inquiries since it announced a Sydney funeral home would no longer be permitted to sell prearranged funerals and asked the public to contact Service Nova Scotia if they had questions about their arrangements with the business.
"We are actively looking into each [inquiry] and believe there could be up to 50 instances where money for a prearranged funeral was not placed in trust," Service Nova Scotia spokesperson Marla MacInnis said in an email concerning the S.W. Chant Funeral Home.
MacInnis said the other 35 inquiries related to money that was placed in an insurance-funded, prearranged funeral plan "and would be accounted for."
Legislation in Nova Scotia requires that money paid for a prearranged funeral be placed in trust in the person's name.
Funeral home violated legislation
Funeral homes are required to provide the person paying for the prearrangement with written proof from the bank that the payment has been deposited into a trust account within 21 days of payment.
If the prepayment involves instalments, the funeral home must also give proof, at least twice a year, that the payments have been deposited.
Service Nova Scotia announced it was investigating the funeral home in May after receiving a single complaint about prearranged funeral money not being placed in trust.
At the time, MacInnis said the funeral home's records had been inspected, but she did not disclose what had been found.
Poor business practices blamed
Following a hearing later that month, the province took the unusual step of permanently revoking Chant's ability to sell prearranged funerals in trust, citing careless behaviour, poor record-keeping, poor bookkeeping and lack of managerial oversight.
At the time, Chant's said it had taken a "series of measures so that a matter of this sort will not occur again."
The government also suspended Chant's ability to sell prearranged funerals through insurance plans for six months.
MacInnis said the government is working "very closely" with the business "to ensure that all money paid for a prearranged funeral is protected."
Funeral home will issue refunds
She said the funeral home has agreed "and is prepared to provide" purchasers with a full refund or it will put the money into an insurance-funded, prearrangement plan, which guarantees funeral costs will be covered when the person dies.
In an email, funeral home owner Sheldon Chant said he believes "the corrective measures we have put in place have remedied the situation such that future reoccurrences of this sort will not again take place."
Chant said they are "overwhelmed by the support and affection" shown to them.