Advisor checklist: 125 tasks that must be done on the most difficult day of your client's lifeArticle added by Christopher P. Hill on April 7, 2014
Christopher P. Hill, RFC

Christopher P. Hill

Vienna, VA

Joined: January 08, 2010

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Picture this scenario. Your phone rings and immediately you realize by the tone of the caller’s voice that something terrible has happened. Your client then tells you that a close loved one has unexpectedly died.

After offering your sincere condolences, what value can you bring your client at that very moment? What can you tell them with regards to what they need to do next? What are the steps and details they need to begin looking into and planning for? And most importantly, have you had “the conversation” about death with your clients, and subsequently implemented plans and preparations for this exact situation?

Questions and answers most families need

The three most common questions families ask after experiencing a loved one’s death are:
  • What do we do next?
  • What kind of funeral/burial/cremation/memorial arrangements do we prepare?
  • How do we pay for the expenses?
For most of my 20+ year career as a financial services professional, I was not able to provide much value in answering these three questions As a trusted advisor and valued resource, clearly I wanted to help as much as possible, but I was not equipped with the necessary knowledge, tools and resources.

Our industry needs end-of-life training and support

Regrettably, the financial services industry has not yet readily adopted end-of-life planning as a part of the standard services we provide. I firmly believe this needs to change. I also believe end-of-life planning will become a valuable tool for financial professionals and their practices in the years ahead.

If you think about it, death is a guaranteed and unavoidable event, and is almost always accompanied by many time-sensitive and extremely difficult emotional and financial decisions. The harsh reality is that the financial services industry rarely:
  • encourages having “the conversation” about death
  • teaches the most effective ways to approach this sensitive topic
  • provides education and/or training on how to create a sound end-of-life plan
Make a difference by being different

Why am I so passionate about helping you add end-of-life planning to your practice? Well, maybe you don’t want to hear this any more than most people enjoy talking about it. But if you have not yet, some day you, too, will face the death of a loved one and the many difficult tasks that are commonly associated with this painful loss. What you will quickly learn and realize is this simple fact: When it comes to planning a funeral, most people are largely unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unprepared.

My mission is to promote end-of-life planning to help make a difficult situation easier, both for the financial services industry and the families we serve. In addition to the helpful 125 tasks listed below, I hope these two quotes further inspire more financial services professionals to expand their practices and adopt end-of-life planning as a standard service to provide.

"Don't let yourself be weighed down by what other people think, because in a few years, in a few decades or in a few centuries, that way of thinking will have changed. Live now what others will only live in the future." — Paulo Coelho

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers." — M. Scott Peck

Here are 125 tasks that must be done on the most difficult day of your client's life, which I am fully confident will serve as a valuable tool for anyone who has recently lost a loved one. I sincerely hope many financial services professionals will use this task list to initiate “the conversation” with their clients and begin creating their end-of-life plan. By doing this soon, your clients can minimize or eliminate many of these difficult tasks.
A. Secure vital statistics

1. Full legal name, complete address, telephone number and email address
2. Religious name (if any)
3. Date of birth
4. Place of birth
5. Marital status
6. Name of spouse (if married)
7. Spouse’s maiden name (if wife)
8. Educational attainment
9. Citizenship
10. Father’s full legal name
11. Father’s birthplace
12. Mother’s name and maiden name
13. Mother’s birthplace
14. Full names, phone numbers and addresses of all children/grandchildren/great-granchilden
15. Social Security number
16. Veteran’s serial/service number
17. Date and place of military service
18. Date of military discharge
19. How long at current residence and former residence(s)
20. Occupation, job title, nature of work, and employment history
21. Workplace name, address, phone number and email address
22. Family origin

B. Pay some or all of the following

23. Estate/inheritance taxes
24. Funeral expenses
25. Purchase a family burial plot, estate, mausoleum, crypt or cremation niche
26. Permanent resting place
27. Monument and marker engraving details
28. Funeral director
29. Clergy
30. Organist and vocalist
31. Florist
32. Obituary
33. Clothing preferences
34. Long-distance telephone service
35. Food
36. Transportation
37. Doctors
38. Nurses
39. Medical practitioners
40. Ambulance
41. Hospital or nursing home
42. List of all medications and drugs
43. Current and urgent bills (mortgage/rent, taxes, car payments, debts, utilities, etc.)

C. Collect documents and paperwork

44. Last will (check will to see if any final wishes were specified)
45. Prepare legal papers, death certificates and state-specific permits
46. Birth certificates and/or any legal forms of proof of age
47. Citizenship papers
48. Social Security card or number
49. Marriage license
50. Veteran’s discharge certificate
51. Submit all insurance policies (life, health, accident, property, auto) and government forms
52. Disability claims
53. Bank books and listing of all accounts
54. Records of other financial documents (outside of bank)
55. Property deeds
56. Cemetery deed or proof of ownership
57. Auto titles or bill of sale
58. Income tax returns, receipts and cancelled checks
D. Decide and arrange within a few hours

59. Make cemetery arrangements
60. Secure internment space and get exact location of burial/disposition
61. Arrange for opening and closing of the grave/mausoleum/crypt/estate/niche space
62. Secure endowment care
63. Arrange graveside committal service
64. Secure use of cemetery chapel for committal prayers
65. Decide on embalming and other preparations of the deceased
66. Choose restorative art
67. Funeral home preference
68. Location of funeral service
69. Service type (religious, fraternal, military, etc.)
70. Time and place of visitation and funeral service
71. Arrange any special religious services
72. Choose person and provide information for eulogy
73. Select casket (open or closed?)
74. Select outer burial container and/or burial vault
75. Select urn/niche space (if cremation)
76. Provide vital statistics of deceased for the newspaper obituary
77. Choose clothing for the deceased
78. Choose jewelry and glasses for the deceased
79. Select cosmetology and hairdressing for deceased
80. Selection of scripture, readings, poems, etc.
81. Clergy to officiate
82. Marking of grave (either temporary or permanent)
83. Select memorial market/monument setting and inscription
84. Select charitable contributions for memorials in memory of the deceased
85. Register book, memorial/prayer cards
86. Select pallbearers
87. Floral arrangements and transportation (before and after services)
88. Select music
89. Organist, pianist, vocalist
90. Arrange for funeral coach
91. Arrange for limousine for family and pallbearers
92. Arrange funeral car list for family and guests
93. Clothing for you and children
94. Decide who will look after children and/or pets
95. House cleaning
96. Extra chairs
97. Transportation for family and guests
98 Reviewing and signing all paperwork (burial permits, etc.)
99. Answering innumerable phone calls, emails, letters and visitors
100. Necessary meetings with funeral director, lawyer, clergy and cemetery caretaker
101. Arrange transportation and lodging for out-of-town guests
102. Acknowledge those who help in a special way (flowers, food, donations, etc.)
103. Decide how many certified copies of death certificates to order
104. Food for family and out-of-town relatives and guests
105. Items for memento display and/or memorial board
106. Decide on memorial video tribute production, pictures, music, etc.
107. Arrange for writing thank you notes

E. Plan to notify ASAP

108. All family members
109. All relatives
110. All friends
111. Minister and church
112. Funeral director
113. Pallbearers
114. Cemetery
115. Doctor
116. Employer of deceased
117. Employers of relatives not going to work
118. Organist, musicians and vocalists
119. Newspapers regarding notices
120. Social Security administration
121. Veterans administration
122. Insurance agents and financial advisors
123. Religious, fraternal, civic organizations and unions
124. Attorney, accountant, financial planner and executor of estate
125. Credit card companies, mortgages, utility bills, etc.
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