|That Difficult Client Conversation
Talking with clients about planning for the ultimate life transition can be difficult, but clients — and their families — will be deeply appreciative.
December 17, 2009
In my last column, I revealed how important it is for financial advisors to go beyond the numbers with clients in order to ensure that all your client’s “money baggage” is out in the open. It’s the best way to help them achieve their financial objectives. From conversations I’ve had with scores of other advisors, I know that some of my colleagues have a hard time talking about these kinds of things with clients. I urge them to push past their discomfort, because this is the stuff of financial planning excellence. The best scenario planning in the world won’t mean much, if your clients blow the plan because they couldn’t recognize how their behavior resulted in self-sabotage.
While much of the time financial advisors spend with clients is focused on reviewing their plans and ensuring that they are on track to meet their financial objectives, there are other conversations that can be of tremendous value to the client. One of these topics is estate planning. As advisors, we want to be sure that our clients have the pieces in place to ensure that their financial legacy is transferred according to their wishes. We make recommendations about having a will, setting up trusts where appropriate, identifying beneficiaries, etc. All of that is pretty straightforward — the technical details of the estate.
But what about the client’s own preparation? Many advisors avoid this conversation because they are uncomfortable asking clients to think about the inevitable. The conversation about getting organized and thinking about your clients’ personal legacy is a huge opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with your clients.
If this topic is one you have avoided, here are some tips to help you get started.
These details are important and starting a conversation will get clients engaged in realizing how much there is to pass on, and it would be nice to pass it on in a way that was orderly and accessible.
There are an ever-increasing number of products and services available to help people think about and plan for transferring their legacy. As we round the corner into 2010, here are some resources you can explore. You might even think about presenting one or another of them as gifts to clients.
Executor’s Resource has created an exhaustive, high quality, easy-to-use system that allows people to organize their lives online. Their EstateLogicâ product is a "virtual safe deposit vault" that can help you and your clients organize and archive critical information in the right way, across four categories:
They offer a host of materials for advisors to use to introduce the concept to their clients. For your A-level clients, you could gift them a subscription and help them start the process of uploading their information.
These are just a few examples of companies and products focused on helping people manage their documents and their legacies in a variety of ways. Speaking with your clients about these issues can help you provide value above and beyond the particular services that you offer. It’s another way to enhance the relationship with clients and to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
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Karen J. Lee, CFP, ChFC, MSFS, AEP, Registered Representative. Advisory Services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc. Lee is a financial planner in Atlanta and author of the forthcoming book, It's Just Money — So Why Does It Cause So Many Problems. Reach Lee through her Web site. Karen Lee & Associates, LLC, Integrated Financial Group, Inc., and the Securities America companies are unaffiliated. Karen Lee & Associates, LLC is a member firm of Integrated Financial Group, Inc, a consortium of independent financial consultants.