By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 13, 2009
Even as companies slash employee benefits, a growing number of employers in Texas are beginning to offer funeral planning services as an additional perk.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the new benefit is being included among certain life insurance plans provided by companies such as ING and The Hartford. The program provides access to Everest, a funeral planning service in Houston, which assists bereaved families by coordinating funeral details and negotiating burial and cremation prices.
"We hope our employees never have to use it," said Kelly Cassell, benefits manager at Lattimore Materials, a Texas-based concrete maker which signed up for The Hartford's funeral planning benefit. "But if there's a death in their family, they'll be able to pass off the burden of finding a funeral home and cemetery to an Everest planner so that they can focus on comforting the other members of their family."
According to Mark Duffey, CEO of Everest, the difference in prices for funeral arrangements can vary by as much as 250 percent. But having the funeral benefit allows employees to make the best financial choices at an emotionally draining time.
"We ask our clients about their funeral and burial wishes, and then we find those services at the best prices," Duffey told the Morning News. "Our advisers will also negotiate prices and handle all the details if requested."
For Yandell Rogers, CEO of investment company Lewiston Atlas, signing up for the funeral planning services was an easy decision. It cost less that $5 per employee annually for 150 employees, and he was certain that the benefit would prove helpful.
Deanne Braley, an employee at Rogers' company, discovered the value of the perk when her 69-year-old father passed away suddenly last fall. Braley consulted with a funeral planner, who provided a price list of several funeral homes and offered options such as buying a casket online--an alternative she was unaware even existed. The service ultimately saved the family about $5,000 and allowed them to make informed choices during a difficult time.
"I hope other employers will think of this," she told the Houston Chronicle. "It's just wonderful."
Currently about 250,000 people are covered by life insurance policies with Everest's services, but Duffey told the Morning News that he expected the number to reach as many as 20 million as the benefit becomes more popular.
"We hope that funeral planning eventually becomes a standard benefit throughout the life insurance industry," he said.