Like many other states, my home state of Minnesota requires continuing education for funeral directors and pre-need licensed insurance agents. I happen to hold both types of licenses so I typically try to find some courses where I can get credit as a funeral director and as an insurance agent in the same course.
Yesterday as I was looking at a brochure trying to entice me to come to that particular education session I noticed who it was addressed to and I thought about “What’s in a name”? What caught my eye was the seminar listed that it was relevant for “Funeral Directors and Pre-Need Specialists”.
Well, funeral directors are funeral directors and used to be morticians or undertakers, depending on what area of the country you come from. The calling has moved from being called morticians or undertakers to funeral directors even if they predominantly preside over families choosing cremation services. We don’t really have “Cremation Directors” — well, at least not yet. Funeral director just seems to be the common vernacular in American society today.
Then I thought of Pre-Need “Specialist” and started to wonder where in the world did that name come from? I thought, we should all be “Specialists” in any profession we serve, however we don’t call people Dental “Specialists” or Auto Sales “Specialists” or Financial “Specialists”.
I’m guessing that the title Pre-Need or Pre-Planning “Specialist” came about when funeral homes started to get large enough to hire people to coordinate their pre-need business that were not funeral directors. In the 60’s, 70’s, and even the 80’s in some parts of the country it was just an additional duty of funeral directors to help set aside funds for people in trust accounts. In general, there was not any remuneration for doing such a task and depositing it into a certificate of deposit at the local bank.
Many states allowed the use of insurance as a funding vehicle for pre-need accounts during the same three decades. Funeral homes then hired licensed insurance agents or had their own staff trained and licensed to handle this duty. Calling them Pre-Planning “Agents” had too much of a capitalistic ring to it so the name Pre-Need or Pre-Planning “Specialist” came about that kind of hid the fact that they received commissions for their duties.
So, now we are in 2017 and the name seems to still be out there. Pre-planning departments have become big business and a considerable source of revenue for many funeral homes. We expect these non-funeral director pre-planning employees to really advise client families on many of the financial aspects of funeral or cremation services without the help of a licensed funeral director. So, just as the funeral director has escaped the titles of mortician or undertaker, how about a new moniker that more closely resembles what these people do. . . . how about a name change to Pre-Planning Adviser or Pre-Planning Counselor? Maybe a small change to some, but in my book it gives the public a more accurate description of what these people do.