Local Menu

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Lawsuit Against Erie County Funeral Home Director

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2017

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES LAWSUIT AGAINST ERIE COUNTY FUNERAL HOME DIRECTOR 

Wurtz Funeral Home Director Allegedly Shut Down Business, Owing Consumers More Than $49,000

Attorney General’s Lawsuit Seeks Full Restitution For Those Impacted, Along With Additional Monetary Penalties

BUFFALO—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against funeral home director Elizabeth Wurtz, owner and operator of the Wurtz Funeral Home located at 9287 Boston State Road in Erie County. Wurtz failed to register the Wurtz Funeral Home as required by state law, and the Bureau of Funeral Home Directing ordered her to close it on December 29, 2011. Unknown to the Bureau, however, Wurtz ignored the order and continued to operate the funeral home. In June 2016, Wurtz ceased operating the Wurtz Funeral Home and moved to Central New York, but allegedly failed to refund and provide services to at least eight individuals who collectively made more than $49,000 in advance payments.

The suit alleges that Wurtz did not notify or pay back the consumers who had made advance payments to her. As a result, panicked consumers began contacting the Bureau of Funeral Home Directing, which sought to help consumers who were victimized. Wurtz would not cooperate with the Bureau, resulting in the Attorney General launching an investigation. The lawsuit seeks full restitution for those affected, along with additional monetary penalties.

“It is appalling that a funeral home director would betray the trust these families put in her. A family mourning the death of a loved should never have to worry about being swindled. That is why we are suing to recoup the thousands of dollars in losses for the victims, and help ensure this won’t happen to others,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

New York law allows a funeral home director to accept funds from consumers for merchandise and/or services that will not be furnished until the death of the person for whom such payments were made. The advance payments remain the property of the consumer and the funeral home director must hold them in trust in an interest-bearing account until the funeral home director actually provides the merchandise and/or services. The Attorney General’s Office encourages any other consumers who made advance payments to the Wurtz Funeral Home and received no services in return to call its Buffalo Regional Office at 716-853-8400.

Many consumers pre-pay for funeral home services as a part of estate planning.  Consumers should be aware of the following:

  • A funeral home director who accepts advance payments must enter into a written agreement with the consumer that, among other things, describes the rights of the consumer, details the services, and merchandise agreed upon.
  • The advance payments remain the property of the consumer and the funeral home director must hold them in trust in an interest-bearing account until the funeral home director actually provides the merchandise and/or services for which the payments were made. 
  • The funeral home director must deposit the advance payment into the trust account within 10 days of receipt, and may not commingle advance payments with any other funds. 
  • The funeral home director must, within 30 business days after the deposit, notify the consumer of the name of the financial institution where they deposited the funds and then annually send a notice accounting for the interest accrued.
  • The funeral home director must, on demand, pay back all funds in a trust account (including interest) to the consumer who funded the trust unless the agreement is irrevocable.
  • Upon the termination, cessation of operation, or discontinuance of a funeral home business, the funeral home director must, within thirty days, repay funds in the trust account to the consumer who funded the trust.  

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General James M. Morrissey and Senior Consumer Fraud Representative Karen Davis in the Buffalo Regional Office. The Buffalo Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General in Charge Michael Russo. The Division of Regional Offices is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.