Inheritance Tax 

How should advisers tackle end of life planning with clients?

This article is part of
Guide to end of life planning

How should advisers tackle end of life planning with clients?

As a well-known quote from the American author Mark Twain goes: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

It could also be said that those who consult their financial adviser about what to do with their assets after they have died is “fully prepared to die at any time”.

For so many people, confronting the prospect of one’s own death is not only hard to do but can be quite distressing.

However, it is a conversation that advisers will need to have with all of their clients at some stage during their financial relationship.

If the client does not bring up the conversation themselves about end of life planning, then it will be up to an adviser to broach it with them.

Tim Bennett, head of education at Killik & Co, says: “End of life planning is not something most people want to have to think about, for fairly obvious reasons. 

“As a result, many families bury their heads in the sand and try to ignore it.”

But he points out: “The problem is that this merely defers difficult but important decisions that need to be made, ranging from the provision of the best form of long-term care, to how someone’s assets will be distributed on death.”

Adviser wisdom

This is where the adviser comes in.

As Mr Bennett acknowledges, they “can help in a number of ways, whether rationalising and consolidating what may be quite complex, messy, or even forgotten accounts, to helping with key documents, such as powers of attorney”. 

He also notes that having a single point of contact when dealing with financial matters such as this, can be useful. 

“Being unbiased, they [advisers] may also reduce the emotional burden that can be created when key decisions are either ignored, or left to family members who may feel daunted by the responsibility, or may not be in agreement, or even regular contact, with each other,” he suggests.

Henny Dovland, business development manager at Time Investments, agrees the subject of death and leaving a legacy, is “sensitive”.

“Nobody likes to admit they’re going to die,” she observes.

“It is definitely one of the areas where the earlier advisers can start having conversations with clients about inheritance tax and strategies, the better, simply because the earlier people start making proactive steps to arrange their estate in a sensible, tax efficient manner, the smaller the individual decisions are, and the more different options are available.”

Wider family

For some clients, it may take them a while to want to address the issue of what happens to their estate and finances when they pass away.

She concedes: “It may take years before clients actually do something. But it’s planting those seeds and addressing it at regular reviews and then also thinking of your client as part of a wider family.”