Turn National Estate Planning Awareness Week into your next business opportunity

By Skip Rapp

Executor's Resource

In September 2008, Congress enacted HR 1499, which set aside the third full week in October each year as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. In this article, I’ll explain how you can offer a free 30-minute estate organization review for your clients that will bring them peace of mind while providing an opportunity for you to deepen and expand your existing client relationships.

What is an estate organization review?

An estate organization review provides you and your client with an opportunity to meet in person to review the major financial accounts and policies held through you and discuss three things:

  • How those accounts are titled
  • Named beneficiaries
  • Alignment with your client’s current wishes and planning documents
> An estate organization review focuses on the areas that typically cause chaos during estate settlement: inconsistent account titling and beneficiaries, and locating all of the assets, liabilities, and items of importance. It establishes you as the primary future go-to resource so you are the family’s first phone call. As assets are distributed, you’ll want the opportunity to convert inheritances into new accounts and policies. Working with your clients on estate organization over time builds both trust and familiarity.

As an important note, an estate organization review does not include activities that attempt to take the place of qualified legal assistance through an estate planning attorney. The fundamental counsel that an attorney can provide continues to be more important than ever for families across all wealth ranges.

Referring your clients to a qualified estate planning attorney remains an important part of your value. Keep this in mind, as you will undoubtedly identify clients whose needs include updating or creating estate planning documents.

Segment your client base, then invite

With the nation entering an unprecedented period of intergenerational wealth transfer, your baby boomer clients ought to be the starting point:
  • They will likely be the future executor for their aging parents or a spouse.
  • They need to address their own estate planning situation.
As I discussed in a prior article, a recent study demonstrated that families have an extremely tough time with estate settlement because the experience wasn’t properly prepped for them. Family member executors or personal representatives can feel blind-sided by the commitment required, have difficulty locating assets, liabilities and instructions, and even harbor some negativity because they weren’t kept in the know by the deceased prior to his or her passing. A good estate organization review process and proper communication can help address these issues.

When inviting your boomer clients, mention that this free 30-minute estate organization review is in honor of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, and ask them to bring their spouse, adult child, sibling — whoever will serve as future executor, personal representative or trustee.

Conduct the 30-minute meeting

Begin your meeting by inquiring of your client and his guest, “Have you ever served as an executor or personal representative before or know someone who has?”

Encourage them to share their opinion of what the experience was like. If they parallel the average experience, they may use descriptions like painful or time consuming. If they haven’t served, explain that it can take a lot of work to locate all the important information needed and can sometimes take as much as a year or more to settle even an modest-sized estate.
In addition, it tends to be the small details that can cause future problems. Beneficiary designations and account titling are good examples. Life is constantly changing, and it’s rare that people take time to update them. A good estate organization process can help avoid future surprises.

Next, identify each major account with the client and his guest. State how each account is titled and the current named beneficiary. Ask the client for verification given his current wishes and estate planning documents. If there are discrepancies, make a note.

When finished with the client’s account roster, provide the requisite forms necessary to implement changes where applicable. Listen and provide an opportunity for the client and his guest to talk to each other if you sense issues or uncertainty.

Now ask, “Are you receiving this type of personal service from other advisors or agents with whom you work?”

The answer will likely be no. Encourage the client to check titling and beneficiaries on those other accounts and policies. Ask them to keep you in mind, as it’s often valuable to take a second look at the terms (e.g., yields, rates) they’re getting elsewhere. Note that you could create a comparative proposal upon request.

Close by thanking the client and his guest for the meeting. Reiterate that you will be conducting reviews like this in the future as a service to your client base to foster open communication, set expectations and provide a point of contact for families. Ask if they found today’s meeting to be valuable, explaining why or why not. Make a note of any suggestions your client provides.

Don’t forget the follow up

Leverage your normal workflow processes to identify and fulfill on any follow ups (i.e., change forms to send, if applicable). Send the client and guest a thank you note. Include your business card. If they thought your time together was helpful, ask for a referral to their like-minded friends and contacts.

It may be obvious to you, but it bears repeating. Through offering a free 30-minute estate organization review in honor of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, you and your clients can realize value across multiple fronts. They’ll have peace of mind knowing that their reality aligns with their wishes when it comes to the financial accounts and insurance policies held through you.

Your ability to demonstrate value as a multi-generational advisor to the family will aide you in generating new business in the short-term through consolidations, additional product sale opportunities, and client referrals. Over the long-term, as the nation ushers in this unprecedented period of wealth transfer, you’ll be well positioned to retain assets and capture money on the move.

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