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Clients' fear of discussing death hampers financial planning

Clients' fear of discussing death hampers financial planning

A reticence to talk about death is contributing to a huge shortfall in over-55s talking to their adviser about end-of-life finances, according to new research.

The study from life-curation website wishLockr has revealed that among people over-55 in the UK, just 6 per cent have sought independent financial advice to help with estate planning. 

Among those who have not, 30 per cent admit they are uncomfortable talking about death. This means around 5.5m people are potentially foregoing adviser help because it involves an awkward conversation.

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Iain Nicholson, who has been a financial planner for 30 years and set up wishLockr with his wife Karen, said: "The wishLockr concept was born out of our own family experience, when my dad was reluctant to discuss his financial arrangements, let alone his end-of-life wishes.

"Grieving is hard enough without the drawn-out process of locating all assets and liabilities; we just thought there had to be a better way make it a bit easier for people to deal with the sensitive area of estate planning. We hope that wishLockr will be good news for the British public and for financial advisers."

WishLockr’s study also revealed many over-55s were ill-prepared for their death, with exactly half of the 2,025 UK adults quizzed in April 2018 admitting they have not yet made a will. This rises to 76 per cent for those aged between 45 to 54.

Even more worryingly, 57 per cent of people over-55 have not had ‘final finance’ conversations with their loved ones, where they share details of all accounts, insurances, investments and personal possessions. 

WishLockr allows users to document everything from financial assets to funeral preferences, and then share the information electronically with up to three close family members or friends. 

The platform also enables users to engage a financial adviser – through Unbiased.

Richard Dunbabin, who founded financial advice firm Ascot Lloyd, said: "If you work in the independent advice business, you get to understand and appreciate that money is a topic many people find it difficult to talk about.

"Particularly hard is the subject of end-of-life finance, when people not only have to acknowledge their own mortality but also make some important decisions about what happens to their estate once they die.

"If potential IFA clients are avoiding working with an adviser because of these sensitivities, that’s a shame because of the valuable advice and guidance they’ll miss out on as a result. If wishLockr can make it easy for people to confront topics such as end-of-life financial planning – and procure the services of an IFA in the process – that’s good news for everyone working in the sector."

aamina.zafar@ft.com