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MDRT INSIGHTS

Asset Protection Across Life's Timeline

A growing number of prospects are approaching or entering retirement ready, to indulge in the things they may have put off during their early income-earning years. Although everyone deserves a chance to let loose, they can't forget about the realities that come with reaching this stage in life, including reduced income, increased health risks or even the loss of a spouse. As advisors, we must help clients merge these realities with their dreams for their non-income-earning years by developing a secure estate plan that will protect their assets during their life and long after their death.

It's Not Just Business It's Personal

Many people do not address the fate of their assets until later in life, and then typically rely on a son, daughter or close friend for advice. As professional advisors, it's our job to work with our clients to develop a sound estate plan to ensure their assets are protected. When coordinating something this personal, clients need to feel they can rely on their advisor to help educate them and act in their best interest.

When working with clients to develop an estate plan, it's important to remember a few key things:

• If your clients led interesting lives during their working years, they will probably lead even more interesting lives after. People don't change as they age; they get more like themselves. • Older clients place high significance on relationships, and they value the expertise you have to offer.

• As my friend Gary Froid says, "Technology can never be a substitute for careful thought." Take the time to use all available resources to find a unique solution that will work best for each client.

• These clients have high expectations. Be prompt and value their time. This is about their assets, not yours!

It can be difficult to convince clients to focus their efforts on estate planning, especially new retirees who may feel they have finally reached the prime of their life. But most clients have experienced what it is like to lose a loved one. They don't have to be convinced that they will also leave behind their loved ones.

I recently worked with a family that experienced three deaths in less than 24 months. Situations like this are rare, but this illustrates why it's never too early to be prepared. Estate planning should be considered a cautionary measure to help protect against the unexpected at any age - and the expected when the time comes. Because this family had plans in place, they were more easily able to adapt to the unexpected losses.

Safeguarding Client Assets

Before setting up a will and assigning a power of attorney, encourage your clients to take inventory of their assets. This will include any investments, savings for retirement, insurance policies and real estate. Developing a comprehensive list of assets will help make the estate planning process run more smoothly.

Clients then need to determine who will make decisions regarding their health and assets prior to and following their death. Who will serve as beneficiaries? Will the assets be transferred directly or will they be held in a trust? Who will handle the transfer of the estate? After you've helped your clients answer these questions, be sure to explain how some products allow us to live and some allow us to live well. Help them discover insurance and investment opportunities available to them now. Will the investments they have be enough for them and those they love? And be sure to keep federal and state taxes and policies at the forefront of these plans to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Once your clients have considered these crucial factors, guide them in developing their estate plan. Help them create a will that clearly spells out their needs and desires. They can also secure new investments, purchase insurance policies and set up trusts. Clients often begin creating an estate plan, but fail to see it through to completion. As advisors, we need to assist them every step of the way, guaranteeing they can enjoy their non-income-generating years without worry.

Finding the Silver Lining

I remember how I felt as a young advisor in my 20s, sitting at the visitation of a client who'd lost his wife unexpectedly after she suffered an aneurysm. They were in their early 70s and had just purchased life insurance as part of their estate plan. My client looked at his three sons and said, "Boys, I want you to meet a real-life hero." I hadn't done anything extraordinary, but the time I took to help my client develop a plan for the couple's assets made his tragic loss a bit easier to bear. Reinforce the importance of estate planning with your clients. Life comes with uncertainties, but as trusted advisors to our clients, we can help eliminate some of them.

D. Scott Brennan, South Bend, Ind., is a member of the executive committee of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). He is a member of the Quarter Century Club, with past qualifications for Court of the Table and Top of the Table. He can be reached at Sco [email protected].


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