family walking in the fall leaves

Your clients may be eager and excited to talk about investments – after all, investing can help them retire in comfort, travel around the world, send their kids to college or achieve any of their other desires. However, when it comes to estate planning, you may find the dialogue considerably more challenging.

As a financial professional, you know a great deal about people’s hopes and fears, so it’s probably no surprise to you that estate-related considerations and the tasks that accompany them, such as creating a Will or Living Trust, can be highly emotional for clients. Whether it’s discomfort around discussions about death, fear of upsetting the family, or uncertainty about what the future may hold from a health perspective, these feelings and circumstances often cause individuals to either delay or completely avoid important conversations and planning decisions. But it’s your job to help clients realize the true purpose of estate planning: to protect themselves, their loved ones and the legacy they will leave. And your first task might be to help them find the right executor.

Of course, as clients begin to think about choosing an executor, they will want to initially consider a spouse, child, other family member or close friend. This impulse is natural, as the decision to select an executor is based on trust – after all, the executor will be handling all the personal details of a client’s financial affairs and potentially getting involved in private family matters.

Nonetheless, you may want to encourage clients to think more broadly about selecting an executor. Here are some of the key areas to mention:

Fiscal management:

  • Experience with managing money and dealing with financial institutions may be beneficial to executors.

Available time:

  • The executor’s role does not require a full-time commitment, but the duties can still be time consuming – in fact, even a relatively simple estate may take months to administer. Clients should consider these time demands before asking a busy family member to take on the executor’s role.

Physical location:

  • The associated duties may be much easier to complete when the executor lives near the individual.

Interpersonal skills:

  • The executor will need to effectively communicate with family members and beneficiaries, so the choice should be someone who is neutral, unbiased and capable of handling matters in a professional manner.

Emotional challenges:

  • When a family member or loved one passes away, it’s highly emotional, and sometimes traumatic, for those close to the deceased. These factors may affect the person’s ability to carry out the work of an executor, or to think clearly about the many organizational tasks that need immediate attention.

Family Inventory is valuable tool for executors

RBC Advisor Services’ Family Inventory guidebook is designed to help clients gather a comprehensive list of all financial and estate-related information, such as personal data, names of professional advisors, bank accounts, investments, real estate holdings, digital assets, insurance, medical history, funeral wishes and information, if any, on a completed Will. Clients should update this document, which can be completed and stored electronically, whenever they experience significant changes in their personal or financial situations – i.e., marriage, divorce, remarriage, new child, etc.

Completing the Family Inventory guidebook should be your clients’ first step in developing their estate plans. And once the Inventory is complete, it will be an invaluable tool for the executor. (The Inventory also contains a glossary of estate-planning terms and contact information for those government organizations, such as Social Security and the IRS, involved in settling estates.)

Be sure to share the Family Inventory guidebook with your clients. It’s an easy-to-use, effective tool for listing assets and laying the groundwork for effective estate planning.

Help clients take first steps toward leaving a legacy they desire

By giving your clients the guidance they need to choose the right executor and connecting them to the Family Inventory guidebook, you will put them on the path toward the comprehensive estate planning they require. And by providing these types of “holistic” financial services, you will add to your value in your clients’ eyes. That’s a “win-win” outcome.