Boston – To strengthen their relationships with their clients, advisors should help prepare them for the inevitable.

That was the somber message presented at IMCA's annual conference this week by Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, an end-of-life consulting firm.

Florian told the assembled attendees that as their clientele ages it behooves advisors to address the issues related to their clients’ mortality head on.

"While not every financial firm may be doing all this, as an advisor you want to be at the forefront of the action. You want to be the quarterback," declared Florian, who is also author of "No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients through the Toughest Times of Life."

Financial advisors find themselves increasingly working with an aging population. According to research from Cerulli Associates, more than half of all advisors' clients are now between 50 and 70 years-old.

To help them and their families cope with the end-of-life issues they will inevitably confront, Florian’s advice centered on the legal and financial documentation that’s needed to ease the transition.

There are eight types of documents, Florian said, that advisors should get their aging clients to complete before they become incapacitated or die. They include:

  • A living will (including a 'five wishes' document)
  • A durable power of attorney for healthcare
  • A durable power of attorney for property and finances
  • A do-not-resuscitate order
  • An organ donor registry
  • A last will and testament
  • Life insurance
  • Ethical wills and legacy documents.

While Florian acknowledged that there may be some overlap between these documents, such as a will and a five wishes document, which details what a person wants if they should become incapacitated or die, she emphasized that "Redundancy is your friend."
Preparing these documents may seem like a no-brainer, but many people have not done it, Florian said, thus creating a potential bureaucratic nightmare for their advisors and family members at precisely the worst moment in time.

"Most people say they just haven't gotten around to it. My recommendation: Get your client around to it," she urged.

Florian also recommended that advisors put aside copies these documents on behalf of their clients, and ensure they are up-to-date at their regular client meetings. The advisor should also meet with the client and the people who hold the client’s powers of attorney in the advisor's office, where the advisor should have the client read their wishes document aloud. This provides an opportunity for questions and clarifies the clients wishes for all concerned.

Florian acknowledged that these steps take additional time, but says the investment is worth it for both advisors and their clients.

"When clients leave that office, what will they be thinking about? They'll be thinking about the efforts their advisor is making on their behalf," Florian said.

Florian also suggested that advisors build connections with their client's inner circle. An advisor can simply ask the client for permission to take the holder of the client’s power of attorney, most likely a son or daughter, out for a cup of coffee, explaining that it would be awkward that if the first time that they engaged with one another was during a crisis or emergency.

"What better way to connect with the adult kids?” she asked. “They will see that you care and are willing to go that extra mile to ensure that your clients are taken care of."