Funeral expenses paid by ward

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eric.ao.yuli
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Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby eric.ao.yuli » Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:35 pm

In our ward, we have had multiple funerals this year that have required the financial assistance of the ward. Assistance provided has included flowers for the service, clothing for the deceased, food for an after-service meal for the family, and a couple other items that aren't coming to me right now. All of these expenses have been taken out of the ward budget.

As we're approaching the end of the year, I'm wondering if some of these expenses would have been appropriate to come out of fast offering funds. Since these are expenses spent to assist individual members who couldn't otherwise afford them. The only input I can find in the Church handbooks is from 18.6.7:

In some cases, bishops can arrange with morticians to provide respectable burial services at cost when expenses are paid from fast-offering funds.


Is there specific guidance on how to handle funeral expenses? From experience, what has been the common procedure?

Thanks!

Gary_Miller
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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby Gary_Miller » Mon Oct 28, 2013 3:23 pm

In my opinion only the essential items should be paid out of fast offerings. Form the items on your list that would be burial clothing. All other items are nice to have and should come from other sources, in this case budget.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby idjeeper2 » Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:06 pm

I agree with Gary_Miller. I imagine if a family needed help with the mortuary services, that could come out of fast offerings as well.

We created a budget sub-category under Administration for funerals and place a modest amount in there for post-service family meals. We estimate 3 or 4 funerals per year. We've never been asked to provide any other items but I guess they could be paid from that too. Over the past couple of years the Relief Society presidency has figured out how to provide a nice meal for a very reasonable cost.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby jirp » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:47 pm

From what we have been told those are definitely budget expenses. We normally have 3 or 4 funerals a year. Last year there were more and several were huge funerals. So given how badly that bent the budget the bishop wanted to run some of it out of fast offering and was told definitely NO.

But this year we haven't had any yet. So my bishop is discussing with the stake presidency if we can create an other category for funerals to help level out the budget. The conclusion we reached as a bishopric after reading the rules for other accounts was we were probably within the letter of the law for other accounts but probably not quite meeting the spirit. So it is being left to the stake presidency to decide.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby eblood66 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 7:00 pm

jirp wrote:From what we have been told those are definitely budget expenses. We normally have 3 or 4 funerals a year. Last year there were more and several were huge funerals. So given how badly that bent the budget the bishop wanted to run some of it out of fast offering and was told definitely NO.

But this year we haven't had any yet. So my bishop is discussing with the stake presidency if we can create an other category for funerals to help level out the budget. The conclusion we reached as a bishopric after reading the rules for other accounts was we were probably within the letter of the law for other accounts but probably not quite meeting the spirit. So it is being left to the stake presidency to decide.

Where would the funds in the other account come from?

If they come from the budget then using the other account is both inappropriate and unnecessary. Inappropriate because budget funds shouldn't be transferred to an other account except to cover appropriate member financed activities where the member payments don't cover all the expenses. Other accounts shouldn't be used as a savings account. Unnecessary because budget funds automatically carry over from one year to the next. If you don't spend it this year you can just keep it in the budget for next year (assuming you stake president is OK with that and doesn't request you return the funds to the stake).

If they come from member donations specifically for the funerals then that may be OK but I would think that the donations shouldn't be made until there is actually a funeral. In that case there should only be a balance in the Other account for a short time.

If there are member donations in advance of the need that's kind of suspect. Holding funds in an Other account for an unspecified time but for a specific purpose isn't exactly prohibited but doesn't follow the general guidance that money should pass in and then out of Other accounts in a reasonable time. It seems like it would be more appropriate to wait until the need to get the donation.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby lajackson » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:52 am

jirp wrote:From what we have been told those are definitely budget expenses. We normally have 3 or 4 funerals a year. Last year there were more and several were huge funerals. So given how badly that bent the budget the bishop wanted to run some of it out of fast offering and was told definitely NO.

Once again, the Handbook comes to the rescue.

Handbook 2: 18.6.7, Financial Policies

"In some cases, bishops can arrange with morticians to provide respectable burial services at cost when expenses are paid from fast-offering funds."

This would not cover "huge" funerals, or family desires that they cannot afford. But if the bishop feels prompted to help a family in financial trouble with funeral expenses, the Handbook tells him how to do it.

And the Relief Society sisters will be more than willing to help with a meal, as appropriate. Often they will donate the food as a pot luck, but the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds and would be simple, as well.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby russellhltn » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:09 am

lajackson wrote:
jirp wrote:From what we have been told those are definitely budget expenses. We normally have 3 or 4 funerals a year. Last year there were more and several were huge funerals. So given how badly that bent the budget the bishop wanted to run some of it out of fast offering and was told definitely NO.

Once again, the Handbook comes to the rescue.

Handbook 2: 18.6.7, Financial Policies

"In some cases, bishops can arrange with morticians to provide respectable burial services at cost when expenses are paid from fast-offering funds."

But would that cover flowers and the after meal? That seems to be what everyone in this thread is focusing on. I don't think anyone has denied the actual services.
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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby lajackson » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:24 am

russellhltn wrote:But would that cover flowers and the after meal? That seems to be what everyone in this thread is focusing on. I don't think anyone has denied the actual services.

lajackson wrote:
And the Relief Society sisters will be more than willing to help with a meal, as appropriate. Often they will donate the food as a pot luck, but the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds and would be simple, as well.

If the bishop works with the funeral home, simple flowers can be a part of the services they provide. And at many funerals, most flowers come from friends, relatives, and other organizations.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby aebrown » Mon Nov 04, 2013 1:10 pm

lajackson wrote:And the Relief Society sisters will be more than willing to help with a meal, as appropriate. Often they will donate the food as a pot luck, but the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds and would be simple, as well.

I don't see how the RS sisters could "donate the food as a pot luck"; that seems to me to be a misinterpretation of the narrow exception for "activities in which members provide food" (HB2, Section 13.2.8). But maybe I'm misunderstanding you, since you said in that same sentence that "the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds," which seems appropriate.

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Re: Funeral expenses paid by ward

Postby lajackson » Mon Nov 04, 2013 3:03 pm

aebrown wrote:
lajackson wrote:And the Relief Society sisters will be more than willing to help with a meal, as appropriate. Often they will donate the food as a pot luck, but the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds and would be simple, as well.

I don't see how the RS sisters could "donate the food as a pot luck"; that seems to me to be a misinterpretation of the narrow exception for "activities in which members provide food" (HB2, Section 13.2.8). But maybe I'm misunderstanding you, since you said in that same sentence that "the cost of the meal would come out of budget funds," which seems appropriate.

I suppose that in an ideal world, totally handbook compliant, those who provided food at a lunch or dinner after the funeral would be reimbursed for their costs. I guess that would also apply when dinners are taken in to a family during times of illness or loss.

The funerals and dinners with which I have been associated have been low-key, low cost, and any food provided was more along the lines of a gift from the contributing family to the grieving family than that of bringing a casserole to the ward social.

I will admit to having attended some funerals in some more established areas of the Church where there were so many in attendance that a ward social budget would not handle the expense. Out here in the hinterlands, we limit the lunch or dinner to the family, their most immediate friends (including any who traveled great distance), and those who are providing the food. Just because someone attends the the funeral does not mean they are invited to dinner.

Sometimes the food is provided at the cultural hall; sometimes it is provided at the home. It is always family centered.

And if a member is asked to bring a dish and join in the meal, and is not in a financial position to do so, they are reimbursed. And if there is a larger family, the ward sometimes furnishes the main dish and others bring salads or other items.

There are usually more asking to do something than there is need.

So yes, I suppose if I were asked to take a potato casserole over to my friend who had lost a family member, I should ask to be reimbursed. Rather than do that, I just let those who need to know that I am going to do it, and ask which day would be best to take it.

On the other hand, if the plan was to feed 150 in the cultural hall after the funeral, I would expect it to be funded out of the ward budget, lock, stock, and barrel. But we do not have ward budget for that, so we do not have big ward socials at the same time we have funerals.

I can see where this may be a problem where other larger traditions are different than ours and have become well established.


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