The Passing of a Client

June 13, 2012 at 3:09 PM

I found out yesterday that a long-time client of mine suddenly passed away.  I was shocked to say the least.  In my business, I have to expect that I am going to lose clients on occasion since I am often dealing with folks who are older and sometimes sick.  It is always tough for me, but when it happens to the ones who aren\'t in either of those categories, it is especially hard.  My only comfort at a time like this is that I get to be the one who can reduce some of the stress on the family.  I can tell them where the bank accounts are and what is in them.  I can tell them where to find contracts and policies.  I can sit with them and show them that everything is under control from a financial perspective so they have one less thing to worry about.  I can often answer many of the questions that come up that no one else can answer.  That is a great feeling to know I can make a difference to a family at a time like that.  Nothing is more rewarding than hearing a family member say "Thank God he had you.  I don\'t know where we would be without this information. I feel so relieved after talking to you." But the only way I can do that is by having important conversations with my clients before events like this happen.  I always ask new clients if they have a will, a POA, a health care surrogate.  I ask them who will handle their affairs if something should happen to them.  I ask them who I can call if I am concerned about their mental or physical well being.  I learn where the bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and important documents are.  I clean up their files and set up financial tracking systems, like Quicken so everything is in one place.  I have user names and passwords organized. So, what happens if you don\'t have a Professional Daily Money Manager in your life?  What would you leave behind for your family if you got hit by a bus tomorrow?  Would your family easily be able to find any important documents? (Remember - do not put these in a safe deposit box where no one else can access them without a court order.)  Do they know who your lawyer is?  Your accountant?  Your insurance agent?  Your financial advisor? How would they manage to keep paying the bills while everything is sorted out?  Do they know what your wishes are for your funeral?  Could they find user names and passwords for your accounts? Are they aware of life insurance policies? You need to sit down with your family members and talk through these things so that your spouse, children and/or parents are aware of important items in the event something happens.  I know these aren\'t easy conversations to have, but they need to be had.  Think of what your family will be going through in the aftermath of your death, do you really want to make things harder for them?  How will you be emotionally after your parents pass?  Will you be able to cope with the added stress of having to track everything down? Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to talk to members of older generations because they might not consider it polite to talk about money, but it is so important to explain why you need to know.  You don\'t want to control them or their money, but if something happens, you will need to know.  It is always a good idea to write out where all your bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, safe deposit boxes, etc. are.  Include policy numbers, contact phone numbers and names. Don\'t forget locations of keys that would be needed for safe deposits or storage units. Include log ins and passwords for online accounts.  Don\'t forget to include locations and log in information for picture websites and websites like dropbox. If you don\'t want to share all of the information with your family now or aren\'t able to have those conversations with your family members, writing it down and telling them where they can find that piece of paper will at least make things easier.  And if your parents or grandparents won\'t have the conversation, ask them to do the same.  And remember to update it as things change.  Dealing with loss is hard enough, we should do everything we can to make it a little easier on those we leave behind.


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