On April 26th Governor Kemp signed one of the bills GCUA was engaged on to protect the industry: HB 490 by Rep. Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth). This bill reflects a two-year effort that went from a very negative issue in the 2018 state legislative session to positive, through the regular engagement of the Representative who was pushing the bill and the engagement of a credit union task force. Last year GCUA kept dialogue open with Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) on his previous attempts to expedite the payment of funeral expenses. Currently, there is a waiting period in which the funds must be held before payment if the person passed without a will or joint account holder. In 2018 Williams sought to abolish the waiting period and instruct financial institutions to pay funeral home expenses first before anyone.
However, Rep. Williams was very open to working with the industry to ensure that what is pursued is positive for credit unions. He modified his original effort to remove the onerous language and included liability protection for the financial institution as well as a clear system in which to apply for payment. And after months of dialogue, engagement of the Credit Union State Law Review Task Force to identify what changes were needed, and work in the state Legislature to ensure that the bill maintained the language and protections needed for credit unions, this bill is now law.
What does this mean for credit unions? Funeral homes still have the ability to access funds, up to $15,000 under specific situations, but will need to provide a statutory form that outlines their ability to do so as well as the charges sought from the account by 45 days, if it is not claimed by one of the family members outlined in law. And, credit unions are protected from liability in paying these funds as outlined in law.