Inheritance Tax  

Time to talk about estates

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

Estate planning is never the easiest topic to broach with a client; after all who really wants to think about their own mortality, or force a client to face it in a meeting?

The current situation may make most advisers even more squeamish about bringing the topic up, especially if the client has had relatives or friends who have been taken by Covid-19.

Many may think it is in bad taste for me to even talk about it at present. But I disagree.

In fact, when we are all faced with such a massive change to our lives as the result of the pandemic, it is possible to argue that now is the perfect time to discuss it.

Those people who have been very ill but have since recovered will undoubtedly appreciate how lucky they have been.

Whether someone has been ill or not, we all have a much greater appreciation of our own mortality with the number of deaths we have seen in the UK from Covid-19 alone.

However, even before the pandemic advisers had been reluctant to bring the topic up with their clients.

A relatively small survey – 207 advisers – by Co-operative Legal Services found that even though three quarters of the advisers who responded felt that providing advice on wills and other legal estate planning would improve their clients’ satisfaction, only one in 10 clients are encouraged to make a will by their adviser.

More than half said it would make it easier to retain clients and 67 per cent said it would increase the number of referrals.

Given that response, it begs the question as to why advisers do not discuss this with clients?

There is clearly a plus for both parties because there is no benefit to those left behind if someone dies intestate.

If the adviser is a part of the discussion with the family as the original client looks to make a will, then when they pass away, the family is more likely to come to the adviser for assistance in dealing with the assets left to them.

This succession planning means the adviser is less likely to lose the assets being managed, and may increase the number of clients as more than one person is usually named as a beneficiary.

Added to that, the better care an adviser takes of the family as a whole both before and after the original client departs, the more people there are who can sing his or her praises and potentially recommend other clients to come on board.

Now, there is, of course, the ethical element here of no one wanting to profit from another’s misfortune.

But when it comes to helping your clients pass on assets to their loved ones, no matter what their cause of death or when it happens, there is little question they would want you to make sure you take care of their beneficiaries as well as you took care of them.