The Country’s #1 Funeral Trust Marketer
It’s one of the two certainties in life, and it’s even more difficult to talk about than taxes. But helping older adults make arrangements to ensure their end-of-life wishes are fulfilled—and protected financially—is not only a critical service, it’s also potentially lucrative for the attorneys, financial planners, and insurance agents who offer funeral trust products.
Pioneering a Solution
Michael O’Dell was already a successful business owner—serving 25 years as president of the multi-office Delco Estate Planning Services—when he tripped across an idea that has changed the way funeral trusts are managed across the country.
“Our firm assisted senior citizens with financial planning with an emphasis on full estate planning,” he explains.
“Since 93% of all seniors don’t have long-term care insurance, we provided legal assistance in protecting assets such as their homes, money, and funeral planning funds. As part of our estate planning process we sent clients to local funeral homes to pre-pay their funerals.
One day a client came back to our office after visiting the funeral home and showed us their plan. It consisted of a single-payment life policy with a funeral trust drafted by the insurance company, naming the funeral home as the beneficiary. After reviewing the trust, it seemed to me that I could write this.”
O’Dell, a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Elder Planner, called the insurance company that offered this trust and life policy and expressed his interest in marketing the product. Since it had previously been restricted to funeral homes, they were understandably hesitant. But he persisted and eventually succeeded in convincing the company to allow him to write the funeral trust at his offices.
“Since 1995, I’ve written over $7 million in premium with the funeral trust,” he says. “It truly has been a great addition to our practice.”
O’Dell’s mission over the last 14 years has been to spread the word about this innovative product not only to his own clients, but to other financial professionals.
“Once I realized that mine was probably the only financial planning office marketing the funeral trust, I came up with the idea of marketing the funeral trust nationally to financial planners, insurance agents, and attorneys. The rest is history. My firm has become the premier marketing company nationally for the funeral trust, and we now have proprietary products with several insurance companies,” he says.
Of course, the reason this product is so crucial is the protection element.
“People should be funding funeral trusts to protect these funds from the nursing home,” O’Dell explains. “Based on Medicaid law, if the client prepays their funerals, it would be Medicaid exempt if they entered a nursing home.”
It’s genuinely a win-win situation, O’Dell says, because the clients are protected and the professionals selling the product can add thousands of dollars to their bottom line.
“It’s a great opportunity to show other financial planners, attorneys, and insurance agents how to make an extra $7,000 per month marketing the funeral trust to their existing clients. Each of their clients is concerned about protecting funeral funds from the nursing home, so this is a simple sale.”
A New Chapter
In 2008, O’Dell sold his financial planning practice to a company based in Waukesha, Wisconsin, which allowed him the opportunity to open a new national headquarters for Delco Brokerage Services. As CEO and president of the company, he travels throughout the U.S. sharing with financial planners, insurance agents, and attorneys the benefits of providing funeral trusts to their clients.
He says one of the secrets to his success has been surrounding himself with the right people. “Working with elder law attorney Karl Dovnik has been a tremendous advantage in terms of knowing Medicaid law and estate planning,” he states. “He and I have spent 14 years personally marketing the funeral trust program to our clients, and we have the marketing expertise to share with agents. Our marketing program is the finest in this industry. We provide seminars throughout the country with one-on-one funeral trust training.”
The product itself has also been key to his success. “My dad would say to me when I was younger, ‘Find a need and fill it,’ and this product has filled a need for financial planners, attorneys, and insurance agents all over the United States. We have agents who make an extra $20,000 per month marketing to their existing clients. The sky is the limit.”
No matter the economic climate, O’Dell says the funeral trust product is a sure thing. “The best part of my job is showing agents how to make an extra $85,000 in a bad economy by marketing the funeral trust to their existing clients.”
What makes the market so wide open for fellow financial professionals is that no one wants to think about death—so they haven’t. But with this product, the process is much easier on clients than it ever has been. “Most people don’t want to go to the funeral home to pick out caskets and all of those things. However, with our business plan, the client doesn’t have to. Clients can meet with their trusted advisors in the comfort of their own homes and fund the funeral trust. The great thing is that these funds can be used with any funeral home at the time of death.”
Because the funds are transferable, clients often feel better about making a commitment to the trust, O’Dell says. “Many times people will relocate, retire to a warmer climate, or move closer to their children later in life. Why would someone want to tie down their funeral planning to one funeral home if they can get a funeral trust that can be used with any funeral home?”
His experience in assisting attorneys, agents, and planners substantially increase their revenue—and knowing all of the benefits associated with the funeral trust product—has convinced O’Dell that the future of this business is huge.
“At this time we’re marketing to about 3% of the registered insurance agents and financial planners in the United States. In the next few months we’re expanding to national advertising in all 50 states, and I believe that our business will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming few years.”
He encourages professionals to experience for themselves the results of the funeral trust product.
“If you’re a financial planner, attorney, or insurance agent looking to increase business, please feel free to call our firm,” he suggests. “The funeral trust product is great for the consumer and for trusted advisors recommending it to their clients.”