planlogo

Independent Funeral /

Cremation Planning

& Medicaid Specialists

About Us

We are two independent funeral professionals who provide objective guidance and deliver solutions in all areas relative to advance funeral / cremation planning and death care.   Our services extend across many important functions with only one objective; to work with you, and for you, so that we can successfully manage any need on your behalf.

Comfortable Process:  We are available to visit at your home or at our home office. 

Convenient Scheduling:  We work within your schedule by offering evening and weekend appointments in addition to weekdays.

Complete Results:  We are your one resource toward effectively delivering the results you desire, and deserve.

Phone consultation available without fee or obligation. It all begins with a conversation… 734-855-5432

– see profile below –

Funeral Planning

Laura A. Francke

 Family Service Advisor
Funding Specialist

Laura enjoyed a devoted career as a mother, volunteer, teacher and working in the customer service industry.  A few years ago she pursued her interest of assisting families with the death of a loved one by becoming a Family Service Advisor as well as securing her Limited Life Insurance License so that she can effectively allocate funeral funds.

Laura grew up in Flint, Michigan where she often visits family, friends and manages the care of PlanB4 clients.  She now makes her home in Livonia, Michigan.

– see profile below –

Tom Zupko

Michigan Licensed Funeral Director

Certified Preplanning Consultant

Certified Cremation Services Provider

Tom has been a Licensed Funeral Director in the State of Michigan for 30 years.  He has also achieved his Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) and Certified Cremation Services Provider (CCSP) designations with the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).  Tom attended Olivet College before graduating from the Wayne State School of Mortuary Science in 1987.

Tom has spent the past 25 years consulting with Michigan Funeral Homes, in addition to across the Mid-West, with respect to best practices toward advance funeral planning, marketing and providing appropriate funding solutions.

He has collaborated and presented with, and for: Veteran Associations, Elder Law Practices, Churches, Senior Groups, Financial Planners, Funeral Homes and Hospice Organizations throughout Eastern Michigan and North to the Tri-Cities.

Tom grew up in Flint, Michigan where he continues to visit and assists PlanB4 clients in Genesee County as well as Metropolitan Detroit where he now resides.

Services

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Advance Funeral Planning

Advance Funeral Planning

 

Throughout our lives, we routinely take measures to prepare for what might happen.  Though when it comes to the only thing in life that we are certain will happen; so many people fail to planB4.

The loss of a loved one presents so many levels of emotions, each personal and often times different, to each family member.  It is at this time when a family would prefer to be focusing on their needs, grief, faith and cherished memories that instead; immediate decisions have to be made, documents have to be located, information has to be organized, family travel has to be planned, work schedules need to be adjusted, choices have to be considered and all in a very short time-frame.

Making decisions and planning in advance of a death does not ease the burden of the loss, but it certainly makes all that happens next less complicated.   Talking as a family, making educated decisions, considering options, evaluating / comparing associated costs, selecting a funeral home are never easy conversations, but the measure of difficulty increases significantly once the death has occurred.

Planning in advance does not suggest that you have to pay in advance.  It simply allows you time to think clearly, organize information and prepare a path to follow.  It begins with a conversation, a trusted advisor and the use of planning tools that transition into a planB4.

 

“The price of a funeral is a transaction.  Thoughtful planning in advance is priceless.”

– PlanB4

 

> Link / Funeral Planning Article – Wall Street Journal

> Link / Planning Your Own Funeral – FTC

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Medicaid Spend-Down / Asset Allocation

Medicaid Spend-Down / Asset Protection

 

Properly allocating finances for purposes of funeral / cremation services is an exempt asset, and permissible, before qualifying for Medicaid eligibility.

This is a regulated process that requires expertise in knowing how much money can be funded, for what purposes, necessary documentation and acceptable funding methods & investment companies.

PlanB4 guides you through this process to insure that your needs, or those of someone under your care, are; identified, properly funded, compliant and Irrevocably assigned to the acceptable standards of a funeral provider and Medicaid / Department of Human Services.

 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

– Benjamin Franklin

 

>Link / DHS Bridges Administrative Manual

>Link / DHS Bridges Eligibility Manual

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Burial / Cremation Options

Burial / Cremation Options

 

Personalization, Tributes and Options to some degree have now replaced what was once considered traditional.  There is no template on funeral or cremation planning, as every family is as different as their needs at a time of loss.  It is this dynamic that makes exploring all of your options in advance so vital toward celebrating the life of a loved one in the most meaningful way.

Avoidance can come at a big price, both emotionally and financially.

There is a long-standing analogy in funeral service that the planning of a funeral has some similarities to that of planning a wedding.  In the sense that you need a venue to hold the event, announcements, clergy, flowers, transportation / accommodation for those attending, monies, appropriate attire, music, date / time, reception, etc.  Now imagine making all those decisions in the scope of only a couple of hours in comparison to the months, sometimes years, that was taken to plan a wedding.  Finally, consider planning that same wedding without the bride and groom’s input and hoping to get it right.  PlanB4.

Burial and cremation are considered methods of disposition.  Currently in the state of Michigan the ratio between the two is at approximately 50%, though varies with geography.  The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) projects that the cremation rate in Michigan will be at 65.5% in 2020 and 83.8% by 2030 with a national average of 56% in 2020 and 71.1% in 2030 respectively.  However, the details within can be complicated…and here is why:

 

Burial is the lineage to what for over hundred years has been referred to as, traditional.  Honoring the loved one by having a public visitation, service at a church or at the funeral home, procession to, and burial at, the cemetery and many times a reception of a meal & fellowship to follow.  Like anything else, there are variations such as Immediate Burial (no public viewing and/or embalming or formal service) with the burial being private and/or sometimes with a graveside committal service.  Green Burials also have a presence and cater to those who desire to care for their loved one with consideration of their concern for the ecology.

The opening of Great Lakes National Cemetery in 2005 (Holly, Michigan) has afforded Veterans, and their spouses, an alternative to where it may have been assumed they would be buried and/or where their family owns grave space.  Great Lakes National Cemetery accommodates burial services as well as options for cremated remains for honorably discharged Veterans without cost.  For a Veteran and their family, this is for sure a discussion that should be fostered before the loss of a loved one and not at a time of crisis.

 

Cremation is an alternative method of disposition and has steadily increased in popularity over the years.  However, because cremation offers so many paths, it deserves educated thought and conversation.

The simplest form of cremation is Direct Cremation or Immediate Cremation.  This means that upon death, the elected service provider transfers the deceased the their facility, meets with the next of kin to attain necessary biographical detail for purposes of filing a death certificate and in most cases collecting service & family information for an obituary, obtain approval from the medical examiner for cremation, secure required signatures, transport the deceased to the crematory and return the cremated remains to the family upon completion.

The more comprehensive selection of cremation is similar to a traditional funeral with cremation being an alternative to burial, though it remains common for families to elect to have the cremated remains either interred at a cemetery, placed in a niche (columbarium), scattered at a memorable place(s), and/or kept at home in a decorative urn / keepsakes. However there are many options between the two extremes.  Here are just a few to know and think about and… PlanB4:

  • For purposes of record, cremation is considered the means of disposition. It is not necessary to report or file what may be done with the cremated remains unless it is within a cemetery, or any other private property, in which there is accountability for permission to be obtained.
  • Some service providers are equipped to host a brief viewing (typically just immediate family and only for a limited amount of time) in advance of cremation without embalming or the purchase of a casket. The manner of death and circumstances within will always dictate the availability of this service and therefore cannot be guaranteed, though important to know in advance who may be able to provide it.
  • If there is more than one legal next of kin (example: more than one child) than the crematory will generally (and should) require a majority with respect to signature authorization.
  • If one elects cremation without public viewing, a visitation can still be hosted. This affords the family an opportunity to share their loss with family, friends, colleagues, church members, etc. at a specific place and time while avoiding the cost of a casket, embalming, and other fees typically associated with viewing.  The creative use of slideshow DVD’s, picture boards, flowers, table displays of mementos and the display of an urn (if applicable) creates a personal tribute in lieu of the deceased being present.
  • Funerals, where the deceased is present and burial will follow, are generally held in the early part of the day (and rarely on Sundays) because most cemeteries require the burial to take place before a defined time. A service with cremation, regardless of whether there is public viewing, can be conveniently scheduled on any day as well as in the evening to accommodate work schedules for those attending.
  • It is not necessary to purchase a casket for cremation when there is no public viewing, but it is a choice. There is also no requirement to purchase an urn, the cremated remains are most commonly returned to the surviving family in a plastic container that is suitable for burial, scattering, and placement in a niche or keeping at home.
  • There is flexibility when it comes to scheduling a memorial service as well the disposition of the cremated remains. There are no time constraints.  In addition, the location can be at the selection of the surviving family and can be done without the presence of the funeral provider.
  • Cremated remains can be divided for purposes such as scattering and/or keepsake items.

As it relates to personalization, the only limits are your imagination.  Here are a few things to consider, and to your comfort, PlanB4 and organize in advance:

  • Picture(s): At least one is generally requested for purposes of an obituary, provider website and many times for service print material (register book, memorial folders, etc.).  And for a female where public viewing will take place; a picture is helpful for a hairdresser.   Remember, just one picture can tell an amazing story so imagine organizing several for purposes of a slideshow DVD and/or picture boards to incorporate into the visitation, service or family gathering.
  • Music? Favorite songs?
  • If a Veteran, the manner in which the flag is displayed? Military Honors?
  • Dove or balloon release?
  • Bagpiper?
  • The display of memento’s? Scrapbooks?  Photo albums?
  • A favorite food, snack or treat to have available at the reception or family gathering?
  • Flower arrangements?
  • The selection of a charity for purposes of memorial contributions in memory of the deceased?

 

 

“You have as many options as you give yourself.”

– Kasie West

>Link / Arranging a Funeral or Cremation in Michigan

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Funeral Representative Designation

Funeral Representative Designation

 

In 2016, the State of Michigan passed The Right of Disposition Law (Public Act 57 of 2016) which granted authority for anyone to designate a; Funeral Representative.

A properly designated Funeral Representative is empowered to make all decisions relative to funeral / cremation services on behalf of the person that appointed them.  The Funeral Representative’s authority supersedes standard rights of survivorship.

Though we are advocates of families working together to make important decisions toward the services and disposition of a loved one.  We also recognize that at times, for a variety of reasons, there are suitable dynamics that dictate the designee appointing one person (Funeral Representative).

Upon request and after careful understanding, PlanB4 will execute and notarize the necessary documents to facilitate this action.  In addition, we assist our clients in advising their Funeral Representative of the scope & guidelines of their responsibility, as well as family members* and service provider* (*as applicable and only with client authorization) that this instrument is in place.

 

“It is more substantial to represent a purpose, rather than just a title.”

– F. Hodge

 

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.   He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

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Pre-Paid Funeral Contracts

Pre-Paid Funeral Contracts

 

The ability to pay for funeral / cremation services in advance, if properly executed, has significant benefits for the buyer.  Not only is it a permissible manner in which to divest assets for those seeking public medical assistance (Medicaid / Department of Human Services) due to long term care needs.  It also offers peace of mind, eliminates the burden of a certain future expense and achieves a contractual agreement with the provider to insure the delivery of future products and services to be carried out without any additional significant costs to the surviving family.

It is essential that all pre-paid contracts are not only effective, but also clearly understood by the buyer, their family and the provider.

Inspect what you expect!

A common challenge is when a buyer thinks they have taken all necessary steps with respect to planning & funding, informs their family of the same and then on the day when the buyer has passed away; what was thought…is not what truly is…and the buyer’s voice is now silent.  PlanB4 assists their clients, and offers disclosure to their family members & advisors, to ensure detailed planning & funding that can be relied upon when needed.   We also provide a thorough exam (see Existing Plan Review section) of any existing plan to measure out what is included, what is not, as well as offer recommendations for action steps so that expectations can be properly managed at the time of need.

Another misunderstanding comes in knowing what services and products are guaranteed and which are non-guaranteed (often times referred to as third party charges or cash advance items).  It should be assumed that all services & products offered within the scope of the provider are guaranteed and any costs associated with third party vendors (death certificates, cemetery / crematory fees, obituary notices, clergy honorarium, flowers, etc.) are generally not guaranteed.  Though rather than assume, inspect that any agreements entered into clearly defines the manner in which funds will be distributed upon claim.

As reflected in the Burial / Cremation Options section of this site, the cremation rate is projected to significantly increase over the next 10 years, to the extent that one could also assume that the cost of cremation will also ascend as a result.  This dynamic would suggest that paying for this service in advance, with a guaranteed agreement and secured investment; will hold a high value in the years to come.

All monies paid in advance for the promise of future delivery of funeral & cemetery goods and services must be deposited and managed by a state approved third party escrow company, funeral insurance company or in some cases, a combination of the two.   It is unlawful for the service provider, though they may accept the payment, to hold these funds in their business account for a period not to exceed 30 days.

Because service providers are not the owners of pre-paid funeral monies, there is the ability to transfer the arrangements either before death or after (see Transferring a Plan / Portability section) to another service provider.  This action will void the original agreement (contract) but with proper evaluation and understanding, can lead to a new agreement, with a different provider, that is more suitable.

We provide our expert, and independent, services, to assist you in the creation, or review, of a properly funded Pre-Paid Funeral Contract that addresses only the goods & services you require and is funded in accordance with the State of Michigan (Prepaid Funeral and Cemetery Sales Act 255 of 1986 / Amended Public Act 21 of 2004) in addition to Medicaid code.

“I don’t understand this irony – valuable things like cars, gold, diamonds are made up of hard materials but most valuable things like money, contracts and books are made up of soft paper”

– Amit Kalantri

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Existing Plan Review

Existing Plan Review

 

All instruments of planning (wills, trusts, insurance, retirement investments, etc.) should be reviewed on occasion to measure their effectiveness at the time of need.  Funeral plans, regardless of whether funded or not, should not be treated any different.

Why should a funeral plan be reviewed?

Often times, plans are made without the participation of other family members and/or many years ago and in consideration of changing circumstances, time and perhaps the uncertainty of the scope of the arrangements, some of the following should be inspected:

  • Is the arrangement funded or not? If yes, where is the money invested?  What is its current value?
  • What components of service / merchandise is covered in the agreement?
  • Is the file complete? Or should the information within be updated?
  • Has a Funeral Representative been designated? Is this noted within the file?
  • Are cemetery costs paid for as well? Note: it is common for funeral homes to not accept prepaid monies for cemeteries and if these expenses were not paid in advance at the cemetery, the opening / closing of a grave alone can exceed $1,000.  Most cemeteries do offer the ability to pre-pay expenses associated with burial (grave, opening/closing, purchasing of a grave marker / monument).
  • 20 years ago when a plan may have been made for a Veteran, the only burial option would have been a local cemetery or Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan. In 2005, Great Lakes National Cemetery (Holly, Michigan) opened, and as a result, may present consideration.
  • Is the service provider still suitable? Perhaps ownership has changed and therefore pricing, service standards and/or the facility are not the same. There are also many cases in which family has moved to a new area and would like to work through a provider now local to them (see Transferring A Plan / Portability section).
  • Cremation and all the service and personalization options; have impacted a lot of previously made plans. Whether as a result of cost savings, religious acceptance and/or a shift of family wishes…there are many who seek to have this conversation and understand options B4.
  • Is the Pre-Paid Funeral Contract Irrevocably Assigned and within regulatory limits to meet Medicaid eligibility?

 

If any of these questions have caused you to wonder about your plan, or that of a loved one, or if you have other concerns, contact us.  We have a defined process that allows us to provide you with a detailed analysis of your existing arrangements and offer our counsel upon review.

 

“Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning…anyone can start over and make a new ending.” 

 – Chico Xavier

 

“Your assumptions are your window on the world.  Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

– Isaac Asimov

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Veteran Benefits

Veteran Benefits

 

In recognition of the death of an Honorably Discharged Veteran, the U.S. Government extends the following benefits*:

  • United States Flag
  • Grave Marker / Headstone (at any cemetery)
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate
  • Military Honors
  • Grave Space**, Grave Liner, Opening & Closing and Perpetual Care at a National Cemetery***

*Based upon military service, place of death and financial need; there could be additional benefits available from the Veterans Administration as well as local Government.

**Grave space is also extended to the spouse of a Veteran and dependent children ages 21 and under.

***This cost of this benefit can reflect over thousands of dollars in value.

Although there are declared benefits to honor those who have sacrificed for our country, the manner in which they are applied should require inspection.   A conversation in advance of death removes the mystery toward; ‘what does the Veteran want?” vs. “what would have the Veteran wanted.”  PlanB4.

The first step is being able to provide Discharge Papers (DD214) so that the benefits can be applied for, and received.    Then there are considerations such as:

  • Should the flag be folded or draped on the casket for purposes of display?
  • Did the Veteran belong to a local Veteran organization (American Legion, VFW, etc.)? And if so, should they provide a service to honor their member and comrade?
  • Should Military Honors be incorporated into the service? And if so, at the place of service or at the cemetery?
  • Are their service mementos, uniform, medals or pictures that should be on display for visitation and/or the service?
  • Great Lakes National Cemetery* in Holly, Michigan offers Veterans an option that was not available prior to 2005. However, many Veterans had already purchased, or inherited, burial property at a public / private cemetery.  This is a discussion to be had in advance for sure.

*There is also the option of Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, MI.  Note that Fort Mackinaw Post Cemetery (Mackinaw Island, MI) and Lakeside Cemetery Soldier’s Lot (Port Huron, MI) are no longer accepting new burials.

 

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause.  Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

– Abraham Lincoln

>Link / Great Lakes National Cemetery

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Transferring A Plan / Portability

Transferring A Plan / Portability

 

Clearly stated, any funeral plan, regardless of whether funded or not, can be transferred to different provider.  There is no contractual agreement that stipulates that the creator of the plan must serve the plan.  Depending on your needs and the content of the agreement, there are always pros and cons that define suitability.

It matters not the reason, if it is a thought or desire; then a transfer should be pursued.  Such a decision should only be made with educated guidance, qualified options and total understanding with respect to what may be at risk vs. what may be gained.

The movement of a nonfunded plan is a simple process and is typically done to improve the client’s position with regard to value, ability to meet the client’s needs, cost, geography, etc.

Independent advisement is critical in converting an existing funded funeral plan from one provider to another.  A pre-paid funeral contract is constructed with itemized costs that reflect goods & services to be provided at a future date.  Therefore it imperative to assess where the pre-paid funds are invested, the present value and then determine if there are advantages to proceed with the transfer.

All plans are portable.  It is not knowing what you don’t know that can make the process complicated, but certainly achievable when you PlanB4.

 

“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

– Tom Stoppard

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Selecting A Funeral Home

Selecting A Funeral Home

 

Choosing a funeral home, or any other service provider, is generally accomplished with considerable thought and often times with relative reasoning, such as:

  • Religious Affiliation
  • Previously Served
  • Recommendation
  • Family Owned vs. Corporate Owned
  • Advertising
  • Staff / Known
  • Civic Involvement / Affinity Groups

All of these are significant factors and should not be overlooked.

However, our client interaction suggests the following as the most important:

  • Cost / Value: Although all providers in funeral service are governed by the Federal Trade Commission to upon request, produce and provide the following:

 

  • General Price List
  • Casket Price List
  • Vault Price List

>Link / The FTC Funeral Rule

Some of these documents can be as many as 10 pages and although created to demonstrate itemized and consistent pricing (all are date stamped and typically adjusted annually), they frequently initiate confusion, though certainly not the intended result.  Not all pricing is the same!  For example, the fee difference for an immediate cremation contract can differ in excess of $1,500 from one provider to another.  Professional advisement from PlanB4 will safeguard that you are receiving the value you seek, and deserve.

  • Facilities / Ability to serve your needs: It is imperative to work with a provider that can accommodate the services you require and support your needs within.  The following areas are critical to examine…in advance:
  • Chapel Space
  • Music
  • Personalization (Slideshow DVD, Memento Display’s, Picture Boards, Burial after luncheon reception, etc.)
  • Grief Support
  • Barrier Free? Adequate handicapped facilities?
  • Family Lounge? Size?  Is it permissible to bring food in during visitation?
  • Parking
  • Viewing in advance of cremation without embalming?
  • Friendly Staff

Providers are unique with respect to their facilities, staff, cost, value propositions and ability to deliver the personalized service required by each family they assist.  PlanB4 has been consulting with Eastern Michigan (including Genesee County) Funeral Homes for over 25 years and uses this expertise to guide you to this crucial selection.

  • Location / Convenience: Positioning of a provider is important as it relates to convenience (distance) for family & friends to travel to.  But also should be evaluated in conjunction with the location of the church, cemetery, reception hall and hotel availability (all as applicable).

Most people that experience a loss already have a pre-determined provider in mind, but many of these families make this selection without examining some of the details that can influence the manner in which they are served.

Understanding the appropriate components that lead to an educated election of a service provider is valuable.  Knowledge is important and consideration of this process only becomes more complicated after a death has occurred.

PlanB4 presents a detailed analysis of three* service providers that will encompass: Cost, Facilities and Location.

We do not furnish referrals / recommendations toward any service provider.  We do provide objective detailed information that allows our clients to comfortably make this important decision from an educated platform.

*Up to three (3), suggested by our clients and/or determined by location.  Though it is common for our clients to only, at least initially, request this analysis for their preferred provider to confirm suitability.

 

“Don’t be blurred by impulse, to avoid regrets, refrain from doing things that will make you regret.”

– Michael Bassey Johnson

“Waiting hurts.  Forgetting hurts.  But not knowing which decision to take can sometimes be the most painful…”

-Jose’ N. Harris

>Link / FTC Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist

Contact Us

Phone consultation available without fee or obligation.

It all begins with a conversation….

Call: 734-855-5432
Fax: 734-743-5286
Email: Mail@PlanB4.us

Secure / Business Mailing Address:
37637 Five Mile Road / #399
Livonia, Michigan 48154

Crossing Bridges With Families For Over 30 Years