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Soft skills key to broach sensitive issues

Marlene Outrim

Marlene Outrim

Apart from encouraging clients to talk about their health and wellbeing when we meet each year, we always put the sensitive issue of death and dying on the agenda.

One 80-year-old client recounted that he had recently met up with a student he had not seen for some years and was met with: “So you’re still on the right side of the grass then?” Fortunately, he saw the humour in this.

Nothing can be worse, apart from the loss of the loved one themselves, than having to sort out all their financial affairs, looking for a will – if there is one – and having to deal with all the institutions such as banks and insurance providers.

Certainly, with older clients we find it important to address the life-after-death issue (that is, for the family) and usually it is not a matter that people shy away from, provided it becomes part of their overall planning.

There is a sense of assurance and satisfaction that they are leaving their affairs in an orderly fashion, especially when it comes to the distribution of their estate.

While, as a company, we do not write wills (we leave that to the experts), as financial planners we are well-placed to take instructions, especially when we have known the clients for many years, understand their values, their attitudes to their family and also every detail of their finances.

Of course, we would not dream of taking instructions without having some kind of training, but soft skills are of the essence here in order to broach delicate areas and obtain agreement, particularly when there is a couple involved.

This goes as well for lasting powers of attorney, and over the years it is an area I have learnt a great deal about and one which I have found as important as discussing investments, risk profiles, capacity for loss, if not more so.

It is the feeling of ‘tidying up’ house and home, which then enables our clients to feel that one area of their life is done and dusted and they can get on with enjoying the rest of it.

Marlene Outrim is managing director of Uniq Family Wealth