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Helping Clients upon the Loss of a Loved One

One part of a financial adviser’s job that will eventually arise is helping a client work through the death of a family member. Whether the deceased is a spouse or parent or even a child, death typically requires some action from the client at a time of grief and transition. An adviser can help reduce the stress and facilitate the transition in a number of ways.

The first step should be more personal than business – sending condolences, coming to the funeral or celebration of life ceremony for the deceased family member, perhaps making a contribution or other action depending on the situation and relationship.

On the business side, though, the adviser can and should do a great deal for the client and the family. One step that is always helpful is providing an overview of the financial situation as affected by the death, making it easier for the client to understand what will change and what may need to be addressed. In this connection, providing contact numbers for insurance companies and ordering claims packets for the client and family members gets things rolling for insurance and annuity holdings applicable to the deceased. Providing information about rollover or inherited IRA options may be useful as well. The adviser can also offer to assist the client in filling out and submitting required forms, making it easier to get things done and avoiding the expense of hiring someone to handle those items.

You will note that this is not about recommending investments as the primary task but instead focusing on helping the client deal with the necessary steps to handle the transition of assets that typically do not pass through probate and the courts but may be products the adviser is aware of and has provided advice on over the years. Further, you will be able to assist the client by updating the financial plan to reflect the impact of the death of a family member. In this context, it is important to understand that if, as the adviser, you are not aware of these items owned by a client who has passed away, then you were missing an important aspect of the financial plan and basis for recommendations you did make while that client was alive.  

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