Every advisor understands that you are theoretically required to know your client. But does one or two contacts a year after you do retirement planning suffice? When it comes to aging clients we at AgingInvestor.com think it takes a lot more than that. Here’s a real case that illustrates the problem with an advisor not really meeting this obligation.
Nigel is 80 and his wife, Berta is 84. Each had a large estate of separate property when they got married. Nigel owned a home in an expensive county and Berta had her own inheritance. They had had the same financial firm in a different state from where they now live for decades.
We got involved at the point of a desperate call from Nigel. His wife was being discharged from the rehab facility, he was told and he wasn’t sure what to do. He had the means to pay for private care and that was what he wanted. I consulted with him at some length and asked about the medical records. He obtained them at my request. The news was not good. His wife was terminally ill and plans for how to manage her had not been discussed with anyone: not the doctors, not the rehab folks, no one.
A person’s choices about care are driven largely by how much they have in assets that can be spent on care. I asked. He contacted his financial advisor and we all spoke together. There was plenty to cover the need, but at that point I learned that Nigel and Berta had never done any estate planning. No will, no trust, no beneficiary designation on any account naming the other as a recipient when one passed.
Where was the financial advisor in all this? Ignorant. Not involved in encouraging her clients to do what would benefit both of them. She apparently did not keep in touch with them, despite that Berta had been ill for over a year. She did not know that Berta was gravely ill and going into hospice care (comfort measures only for the terminally ill). She did not know that they were about to incur a daily cost for a private room in a well appointed nursing facility at a cost of $430 a day.
Scrambling to find an estate-planning attorney and get advice, we did accomplish what the advisor could have urged her clients to do long before this crisis. Nigel does not use a computer. The advisor emailed the power of attorney and beneficiary designation form to me and I ensured that it was signed and sent back. Now Nigel is on his wife’s account, and can access her funds, should she lose consciousness. Why, I asked did this long time advisor not do this much earlier in the planning process? At least Nigel, who needs a trust for his estate, will now have one done, no thanks to any advice from his long time advisor.
Adding value for your clients takes more than the latest algorithm and getting the best returns. It takes knowing them, their life situations, the risks posed by aging and the skill to look at the anticipated expenses of care as clients near the end of the road. The nursing home cost for what Berta needs now is not covered by Medicare.
The simplest takeaway from this: contact your clients every six months if they are at retirement age. Keep in communication and know them, not just their assets. It’s the least you can do.
Learn about the actual cost of care and how to help your clients with long term care planning in Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Best Practices. Click here to download your copy today.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., Elder Law Attorney & Dr. Mikol Davis