Family says pre-arranged funeral plan did them no good

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

PHOENIX - Sixty-three years of marriage came to an end for Robert Matthews when his wife, Noelle, passed away in early August.

“That was the love of my life we're talking about. So, yeah, it was hard,” Matthews said.

As painful as it was, Matthews planned ahead years ago to make things easier when either he or his wife died.

“I didn't want the family involved in final expenses,” he said.

For that reason, Matthews purchased a plan way back in 1987 for himself and his wife, a plan he thought would cover all their arrangements when they passed.

He bought the plan from a Chandler company called Valley of the Sun Memorial Park.

The contract states the cremation fee, funeral service and transportation of the cremation container itself were all covered.

The cost was $1,051 for both of them.

“I figured we were both going to live another 20 years maybe and prices would go up,” he said. “So it would be an economical time to do it.”

But despite those preparations, Matthews says he was told he still owed nearly $3,000 more after his wife died.

Matthews and his son say they didn't think they owed anything since their contract had been paid in full. Still, they felt obligated to pay.

“When you're in a situation like that, with my wife's remains are there and what do I say to them when they say it's $3,000 more? Do I say I want my wife back?” he said.

The company is now called Valley of the Sun Mortuary.

Not only did 3 On Your Side contact them, we also got a hold of the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors to review the contract.

Rudy Thomas is the director of that agency.

He says problems with contracts from the 1980s are common and that there have been a lot of changes in the industry since then.

“This is a very difficult and a harsh reality for this family, especially during this time,” Thomas said.

Thomas says cremations today cost between $600 and $2,000.

The Matthews family said they feel the plan bought years earlier really didn't help out at all because they wound up paying for more.

But Valley of the Sun Mortuary stands by the extra costs, telling 3 On Your Side the Matthews plan only covered cemetery fees and did not cover mortuary costs, which is why Matthews had to come up with another $3,000.

We're told mortuary fees cover things like administrative costs, the initial removal and transportation of the body and refridgeration and embalming.

Still, Robert says getting hit with a bill was a surprise, and says, after his wife's death, it was the last thing he was expecting to have to deal with.

“You never saw a nicer woman,” he said.