LA VALLE, Wis. - A La Valle man said a local funeral home took advantage of his wife's death, leaving him out thousands of dollars.
Ed Pillow planned years ago to go through Thompson Funeral Home when the time came, putting away about $7,800 in a prepaid funeral account.
For his wife, Patricia, that time came this spring, when she died of complications from Alzheimer's.
Pillow said the family chose to have its own funeral, and the bill only came to about $4,100. Pillow alleges Thompson Funeral Home told him the rest of the money, about $3,790, had been sent to the state to pay for Medicaid expenses accrued through his wife's years in a nursing home.
Pillow said he never thought anything of it until he reached out to the state this summer for a death benefit he hadn't received, amounting to $250.
"When I called down there, they said, ‘We didn't get the $3,790,' and he said, 'nor would we have kept it if we had,'" Pillow recalled of his conversation with workers in Wisconsin's Estate Recovery program.
Pillow said he's been told state rules stipulate that extra burial money should be returned to the state unless the deceased person has a living spouse -- in this case, Ed.
Pillow said he couldn't get ahold of the funeral director to get that $3,790 back.
"He'd just stall and wouldn't answer and wouldn't call me back," Pillow said.
Call for Action volunteers got involved on Pillow's behalf. Thompson Funeral Director Steve Mitchell told News 3 that wasn't his understanding of the law, and he had just been holding on to Pillow's money until he got further direction from the state.
"It just so happened that it fell through the cracks," Mitchell said. "I've spent 20 years of my life in this profession, dedicated to caring for the families I serve, and it's made me sick to my stomach that Mr. Pillow has made it out that I'm taking advantage of him."
More than a month after Call for Action volunteers stepped in, Mitchell personally delivered a check to Pillow for the missing $3,790.
Mitchell said the funeral home did nothing wrong, but Pillow isn't convinced that's true.
"He was figuring on taking it from the word go, from the first day we sat down and talked to him," Pillow said.
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