South Florida funeral home declines to honor prepaid package for woman who died from COVID-19

(WSVN) - No one likes to think about dying, but many people buy pre-planned funeral packages so their families don’t have to make these difficult decisions. One South Florida family believed a funeral home would not honor their mother’s last wishes. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has more in tonight’s 7 Investigates.

It was a memorable day for Antolina Martinez. After months of staying home, her family surprised her with a socially distanced party for her 80th birthday.

Mayelin Roman, Antolina Marquez’s daughter: “She was ecstatic. She was shocked. She was just so happy.”

But the happy day was followed by tragedy. Several weeks later, Antolina caught COVID-19 and died.

Devastated, her family called Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes, where their mother had purchased a funeral package nine years earlier.

Mory Izquierdo, Antolina Marquez’s daughter: “She picked out the coffin. She picked out the flowers. She picked out everything.”

Antolina had pre-paid for a full service closed-casket funeral. It included embalming and visitation at the funeral home.

Mayelin Roman: “At the time, in 2011, she purchased the contract for $3,500.”

But when the family called Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes, they say an employee told them they could not provide the services Antolina wanted because she was COVID positive when she died.

Luis Izquierdo, Antolina Marquez’s grandson: “There’s no viewing. There’s nothing like that. There’s no embalming. Essentially, what your choices are is, we take the body, and we can bury it, or we can cremate it.”

Mory Izquierdo: “It would have been totally against my mom’s wishes. That’s not what she had planned, and that’s not what she wanted, and that’s not what she paid with Bernardo Garcia.”

The family had to hire a new funeral company.

Mayelin Roman: “It’s twice the amount, plus a little more.”

The services that Antolina had paid $3,500 for in 2011 now cost some $8,000.

Luis Izquierdo: “Our family had to pool and pay out of pocket.”

Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes did refund the money Antolina paid. The company, which did not want to comment for this story, does do COVID funerals but could not meet the family’s wishes.

After we called, one of the funeral home’s owners contacted Antolina’s family. They say he told them there must have been a misunderstanding.

Mayelin Roman: “He said that they miscommunicated, that they did not know how to explain it.”

After our phone call, Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes sent Antolina’s family another check. This one covered the additional cost of the service that took place at the other funeral home.

Mayelin Roman: “They did the right thing.”

Now the family says they are finally able to move on.

Bernardo Garcia Funeral Homes also allowed Antolina’s husband to cancel his pre-paid funeral contract and gave him additional money to buy a new pre-planned funeral elsewhere.

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