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Death of a Client: Checklists for Advisors and Executors

This time of sadness and uncertainty also provides an opportunity to demonstrate your compassion, skill, and expertise.

Helen Modly and Tommie Monez, 01/10/2013

Eventually you will get a call telling you that a client has died. So now what? You should have a process in place that will facilitate distribution of the assets and ideally retain the beneficiaries as clients.

Advance Preparation
Keep up to date with your clients' wishes regarding final disposition of their assets. Ask them to share any concerns regarding any conflicts that may arise and discuss how they might be avoided.

Encourage them to take a step beyond preparation of estate documents and share their plans with the heirs, and especially with the executor. Make estate discussions part of regular reviews for all clients--not just for those who are old or in poor health--and get to know your clients' other advisors. Advance preparation should include the following:  

Legal documents: Review client legal documents--wills, trusts, advance medical directives, etc.--and keep copies on file. Identify the executor or successor trustee.

Beneficiary designations: Ensure they reflect the client's current wishes.

Family: Connect with the client's family, either at formal meetings or informally at client appreciation events.

Estate attorneys: Get to know attorneys who are doing a good job for your clients.

Outside assets: Stay up to date with assets that are held away. This knowledge and a current net worth statement may prove to be invaluable to the heirs and may help to determine when it is safe to distribute funds from various accounts.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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