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State

Ill. funeral home keeping cremains until debt paid

SPARTA – A southern Illinois funeral home is defending its decision to hold onto the cremains of two people who died last year until their survivors pay the outstanding funeral expenses and related interest.

McDaniel and Lee Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Sparta, southeast of St. Louis, isn’t saying how much is owed by survivors of Shane Inselmann and Deborah Hubert, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Tuesday.

Inselmann died in November, and Hubert passed away in April 2012. Both were 45.

Nathan Lee, an owner of the funeral home, said it has a written agreement with at least one of the families saying until the debt is paid, the cremains will be kept in urns at the funeral home.

Terry Plummer, the Illinois Funeral Directors Association’s president and acting executive director, said that while the funeral home isn’t part of the group, it’s against the group’s ethics to hang on to any human remains, even with a written agreement.

Plummer added that funeral directors sometimes go unpaid for services and that the proper recourse is to take the matter to a small-claims court or ask a judge to attach the debt to a property deed, thus keeping the property from being transferred to another owner if the debt remained unpaid.

“There is this Walmart mentality among some funeral directors that you pay before you leave the store,” Plummer said.

Dale Lehr, the father of Hubert, told the newspaper he was shocked to learn his daughter’s cremated remains still were with the funeral home, saying “I think that’s just not right.” Lehr, of Laveen, Ariz., insisted he left $1,500 with another relative the day of the funeral to cover the expense and assumed the debt had been paid.

Melissa Martin, a sister of Inselmann, said money to pay for her brother’s cremation and funeral services was raised at the time he died and turned over to someone close to her brother, who apparently still did not pay the debt.

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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