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Practice Management

How to help a grieving client manage and organize finances after a loss

Every client faces tough times, and rarely is there a life event more significant and emotional than losing a loved one.

As people live longer and retirement continues to lengthen, you’re likely to experience the death of a client, their spouse or close loved one over your career.

There’s no doubt this can put you in a challenging situation. As a financial professional, it’s your job to cover the basics when it comes to end of life planning – life insurance, wills and beneficiaries. However, it’s also critical that you’re prepared to go beyond the basics; you should connect with your grieving clients as they try to manage and organize their new financial reality.

Financial professionals who go above and beyond may find a loyal client for life. Here are a handful of strategies you can employ to help your client after a loss.

Have a difficult conversation

Death is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s also something everyone faces. Rather than brush over the emotional aspects of death and end-of-life planning, have a real conversation with your clients about what death may mean for their future finances.

It’s also important to realize that your surviving clients could have many years ahead of them. The CDC recently released numbers that show women, on average, live a few years longer than men. It also found that for those hitting age 65, the average life expectancy was nearly 20 additional years.

A widow who loses a spouse at age 65, right when she’s in the honeymoon phase of retirement, for example, may have decades of financial management and planning ahead.

Discuss with your clients both their future hopes and dreams, but also how you can help them stay on track after a death occurs. A difficult conversation now may help your client be better prepared for the inevitable later.

Prepare for the inevitable

People often don’t understand just how many details go into processing the passing of a loved one. Of course, there’s the emotional toll a death takes on family and friends, but in many cases there’s also paperwork to find and sign, information to pass between lawyers and wills to execute.

For those left behind, it can feel like an impossible burden to deal with while grieving. This is one area where you can help with coordination and preparation, even before a death occurs.

Consider creating a death preparation checklist. It should go beyond setting up standard will and end-of-life planning. It can include the steps you (and your client) should prepare and take over a realistic time frame. Some of these involve preparing for burial, locating necessary forms such as deeds and insurance policies, collecting passwords for online accounts, and notifying accountants, attorneys and even the post office.

Having this information prepared can help manage stress during an emotional and confusing time, and reduce family squabbles and other common roadblocks that happen after a death.

Lead with empathy

Of course, nothing can adequately prepare someone for the death of a loved one. But for clients, knowing that you’re there to help them through it can provide comfort during trying times.

One way to do this is by leading with empathy. While the business dealings with your clients are important, the personal side matters just as much. As a financial professional, you’re fortunate in that you can have conversations with your clients about their fears, goals and desires in life. Those conversations are meaningful and help build a lasting professional relationship.

As a trusted source, consider going the extra mile. In addition to sending a card or flowers, many financial professionals will attend memorial services for clients who have passed. For some clients, you may even consider making a house visit; it’s a way for you to express your condolences and let them know you’re there to help them every step of the way. You can also work hand-in-hand with their attorneys to try and make the transition period as smooth as possible.

You may also want to familiarize yourself with local and online grief resources you could recommend if it feels appropriate. By having difficult conversations early, making sure your clients are prepared and treating your clients and their loved ones the way you would want to be treated, you can provide much-needed support and expertise during a difficult time.

 

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