As a fiduciary, you have an obligation to help your clients with end-of-life planning.
- Develop language to comfortably explain to clients why end-of-life planning is an essential part of a holistic plan to address their comprehensive financial well-being.
- Develop a clear list of specific documents they need to complete.
- Be dogged. People are notorious for procrastinating when it comes to end-of-life planning – they think they have plenty of time, or they just don’t want to think about it at all. Introduce them to an estate attorney you know will do a great job for them if they need more help. Whatever you do, don’t let your clients neglect this important activity!
Related: Value Added or Value Wasted?
Have you sufficiently prepared your clients for the inevitable?
I’m talking about death. Now, just give me a moment, because I know it’s a bit of a macabre topic to talk about. But the reality is, none of us are getting out of here alive.
We all have heard that nothing is certain, apart from death and taxes, and yet, we’ve already seen taxes can be monkeyed around with a little bit—dates can be deferred, limits can be changed. . .
If you are representing yourself as a fiduciary advisor (i.e. doing what is best for your clients ), you need to make them aware of the integral, important documents and details they need to have buttoned-down, such as documents like a will, or trust, durable power of attorney, beneficiary declarations, a letter of intent, a healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations.
Now, more than ever, this should be front and center on people’s minds. If it’s not, again because you’re putting yourself out as a fiduciary, you need to make sure your clients have these details taken care of. Obviously, in the course of a comprehensive financial plan, you’re going to have surfaced these needs or learned that these aspects of their financial well-being are already taken care of. Either way, don’t hesitate to bring these details up, thinking that death is something to avoid talking about.
Along those lines (wearing my jail-chaplaincy hat more than an advisor hat), you also might want to mention to them to think about what they want the time of their passing to look like for them and for their family members. How would they like their memorial service to look? Who would they want to have speaking there? I’ve been at these memorial services, and I’m sure you have too, where there’s an open mic, but after 15 or 20 minutes, things can drag on a bit. I encourage people to think about who are those three or four key people in their life whom they would love to have speak at their memorial service?
This isn’t only something for clients to think about. What about you? Who might two or three people be that have been key in your life that you would have present some memories at your memorial service? These are things for you, the advisor, to think about for yourself and the benefit of your family and to discuss with clients when the time is right and it’s appropriate to do so. However, understand, because you’re a fiduciary, it’s incumbent upon you to raise these issues, whether they’re comfortable to talk about or not.
To most effectively introduce this topic to your clients,
- Develop the language. Get comfortable and confident with language to explain to your clients why these facets of end-of-life planning are so important to their overall financial plan.
- Have a very clear list of the documents they need to complete and bring back to you. They need to understand why these items are so important, and that will be easier for them if you are clear about what documents need to be highlighted and can explain why they need to take care of these
- Be dogged with this. People are great for procrastinating in this area related to issues of death. Sometimes they just don’t know how to take care of these things or who can help them, so be prepared to introduce them to an estate attorney, who, hopefully, you work with. Let your clients know that you know just the person to take care of these documents for them.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the last year, it’s that life and death are unpredictable. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. As a fiduciary and as a good friend to your clients, you need to have them and their family members prepared to navigate what could be the most difficult stage in their lives. It’s your job to do that, and helping your clients with this is a great opportunity to do a phenomenal job for them.
I look forward to bringing you another Distraction-Proof Advisor Idea next week.