Just because you may not be directly involved in your client’s estate-planning process (why aren’t you again?) doesn’t mean that you won’t be affected by it. There are a number of useful resources that advisors should be aware of that can both help your clients and their families avoid sticky end-of-life situations, keep financial advisors in the estate planning loop and, potentially, act as nice value adds as well. Here are a couple:
Will Registries. Many advisors have experienced the frustration of being approached by a deceased client’s children who know that a will exists but simply can’t remember what became of it. These services seek to create searchable databases of wills to provide families and other beneficiaries with a means to find lost Wills of those who have passed away.
The U.S. Will Registry, for example, is a free service that allows clients or their advisors to register the locations of their wills and/or attorneys to contact for information about said wills. This information is stored until the date the client would have reached age 120. Only the location of the physical document is registered and searchable, not the information contained in the will itself.
The National Will Registry, a competing service, has a similar free offering but also features several paid levels of document storage, protection and notification.
Registration for either site takes all of a minute. For such potentially useful services, these sites are still relatively under the radar, particularly outside of the estate-planning community. Whether you end up actually using either of these services is ultimately up to individual circumstance, but simply being aware of their existence can save you and your clients some potential grief.
End-of-life planners. Available on a number of platforms, these products offer checklists and question prompts to get your clients and their families, either on their own or together with you, thinking about the myriad issues that can arise after death.
For clients who don’t have an estate planner or haven’t even started their end-of-life planning, these guides can be invaluable, as the prompts they use can ease your client into beginning to answer what can initially be some very daunting questions. Often simply starting the estate-planning conversation can be the hardest part, and these aids can help get a client over that hump, while simultaneously ensuring that you’re involved in the estate planning process from the very beginning.
Even if your client has a complex estate plan in place managed by a competent professional estate planner, there are still a mind boggling array of smaller issues that may be overlooked as everyone concentrates on the macro, ranging from a list of his account passwords to something as simply as where he left his house keys. These guides offer both a checklist of these potential oversights and a centralized location to house the information required to ensure they don’t eventually become major problems.
Lasting Matters and Get it Together both offer comprehensive, well-received planners in ebook and paperback. It should be noted, however, that these planners, while useful tools, are nowhere close to being adequate replacements for an actual estate-planning professional.