I received an email today about an organization that is virtually coordinating funerals during the coronavirus crisis. The organization is called funeralocity.com. They reveal funeral prices throughout the country and they are working with lantern.co who coordinates the event. That is about the most depressing email I have ever received. I don’t know if I should be angry with the organizations for taking advantage of individuals during this crisis or admire their entrepreneurship. It did, however, make me think about some of the research we recently conducted regarding how prepared/unprepared individuals really are should a family crisis occur. Being prepared is something about which advisors should gently nudge their clients, maybe in the short term but definitely in the long term.
In our report Down to the Last Detail: Setting Your Financial Affairs in Order, Spectrem found that 86 percent of investors felt they were at least somewhat prepared for the financial aspects of passing away and distributing their assets. But when Spectrem drilled down into what tasks they had already completed, it was revealed that a large percentage of investors are woefully unprepared.
Most financial advisors have a checklist that ensures they have discussed multiple items with a client. It’s time to pull those checklists out and blow the dust off of them. Below you will see a list of multiple types of activities and legal steps that households should undertake to be safe in case of a family emergency or death. Many of you probably have multiple other activities identified but these are some high-level activities that we surveyed individuals about.
It is appropriate for financial advisors to reach out and discuss these items with investors during these depressing times. Making sure that investors have thought about both medical and financial powers of attorney is critical - especially since fewer than half have currently completed those tasks. Just over half have a list of all of their investment/bank accounts and only 42 percent have made a list of all non-investment accounts. If they should become ill, a family member may need access to their bank accounts - and less than half have provided a family member with access to those accounts.
Now, I admit it may seem rude to be reminding investors about the importance of estate planning during a national pandemic. But what if something terrible does happen to one of your clients? Wouldn’t it be better if they are prepared?
Here are some thoughts on broaching these topics with your clients:
1. Send out an email with information about Covid-19 protections. This is an opportune time to be proactive. Additionally, you should already be reaching out regarding market volatility.
2. Suggest a virtual meeting to review their existing documentation and planning. Everyone (almost everyone) is working at home. They might actually have the time to discuss some of these issues. Having a meeting during this time of national distress will show that you care.
3. Provide them with a checklist regarding the steps they need to take next. It may be a time when they are actually ready to take these steps.
The Covid-19 virus, while mild for most, can be actually savage for some individuals. While you may think it is inappropriate to be reaching out to investors at this historic time, the actuality is that they might appreciate the fact that someone is looking out for them. Take advantage of the fact that many individuals are currently assessing their financial stability and any protection they may need. Your job is to protect the financial stability of your clients.
May you stay healthy during this frightening time.