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Financial Planning

Helping your clients build an "In Case of Death" binder

Talking about death with your clients can be difficult, but it's important for you to help clients understand the pressures and tasks that may fall to their loved ones after they pass away.

One popular approach is creating an "In Case of Death" binder, a master folder or document where all important financial information is kept. Having one of these binders can go a long way toward easing the emotional and mental burden on your clients' loved ones during an already stressful time.

Here are some tips for how to help your clients put together their "In Case of Death" file.

Provide an example

It's one thing to chat with your clients about creating a file for their family in the event of their death, but another option is to provide them with a tangible example they can use.

Consider creating a sample binder for your office. Fill it with the necessary documents and have it on-hand when you meet with your clients to discuss this topic. Having an example that your clients can hold and flip through can help remove some of the anxiety around talking about end-of-life planning. Here are some ideas of basic information you will want to include in your example:

              • Will
              • Living trust
              • Power of attorney
              • Life insurance policy
              • Birth certificate
              • Marriage license
              • Bank and credit card accounts
              • Loan documents
              • Automobile titles
              • Property deeds
              • Copies of keys to automobiles, safe deposit boxes, etc.
              • Account and device passwords

It's a good idea to also have a digital example ready to go on your computer or tablet, too, so your clients can see how to organize their information electronically.

If you want to go a step further, consider offering your clients a physical booklet or digital kit that can help them create their own binder. Include checklists of the documents and information they'll need.

If you don't already do so, you may share examples from your experience that highlight instances when having this binder helped a client in a similar situation. For example, you might talk about how a grieving widow who hadn't looked at any of the family finances was able to manage the process after her husband's death using their binder.

Approach the topic with empathy

Although your clients may be young and healthy now, part of your job is to help them prepare for the unexpected. That can mean a long-term illness, disability or death.

For today's sandwich generation — those who are raising kids and taking care of parents — there are concerns, too: these clients might need to not only think about their own retirement down the road, but prepare for the end stages of their parent's retirement, as well.

Just as with discussions about long-term care, disability and life insurance, you'll want to approach this topic with empathy and care. You can plan for a specific discussion around this topic or include is as part of an overall long-term retirement and estate planning meeting.

Understandably, death is a topic that unnerves many people. However, you can help your clients by letting them know you're here to listen to their fears and concerns, and that you can work out a solution together.

Highlight how an "In Case of Death" binder can help with probate

Something that's also important to highlight for your clients is the impact of their death on loved ones. This doesn't just include emotional loss, but the probate process, as well.

Probate can be a long and arduous process that can ignite family squabbles and cause additional stress, especially if no one knows where to find necessary information. Having all of the documents, account numbers and contact information for lawyers, accountants and other important people in one place can make the process much easier.

Communicate that this is one way your clients can help their loved ones complete their final wishes, without additional months, or even years, in court. Plus, highlight how your clients' loved ones can feel good about the process and have everything they need right at their fingertips, thanks to the binder.

Discussing death isn't easy, but you want to let your client know you're here to help them plan and prepare every step of the way.

Learn more about how you can help your clients through the grieving process.


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