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Just Deal With It !!

02/17/2021

Financial planners are trained to help their clients in retirement planning, tax planning, education planning, and estate planning, but it is not enough to simply teach clients.  Sometimes, a planner should push a client to make a decision.  Funeral planning is a prime example.  It is hard enough to get a client to visit an estate planning attorney, but it is a real struggle to get them into a funeral home.  After all, who wants to think about being dead?

I was helping a widow deal with the death of her husband a few years ago.  Fortunately, we had worked with a good estate planning attorney to get a Will, a trust agreement, and other assorted documents.  After the documents were signed, I worked with him to transfer assets from his name into the name of the trust.  However, despite my reminders, he never determined his funeral wishes and left his wife with those painful decisions at a very bad time for her.  Seeing her in all that duress and under all that duress, I felt like I had failed both of them.  I should have driven them to a funeral home and introduced them to a funeral director.  I treated them with respect as adults, but that was not good enough.  I should have pushed more!

In a perfect world, each person would discuss his funeral wishes with their loved ones before committing to anything.  However, discussing death with a loved one is sometimes the biggest obstacle to planning.  In a less-than-perfect world, it is better to make your own plans and then commit to those plans in writing.  Your loved ones may not like your plans at your death, but at least they will be free from those stressful decisions.

I recommend AARP’s suggested funeral planning tips, which can be found here:  Funeral Planning Tips to Help You Make Smart Decisions (aarp.org)  One of the tips is don’t prepay for funeral services, which I disagree with.  Without prepayment, survivors have more difficult decisions.

Recently, a client wanted to discuss cremation as an alternative to in-ground burial.  While I was reluctant to get involved, I realized the client just needed to hear himself talk about it.  While I listened, he talked and made his decision.  Sometimes, we can help by just listening.  I had pushed him into thinking about it and then just needed to listen.

For planners, every funeral home will give you pamphlets to share with your clients.  Every annual review with a client should deal with the subject.

Can we really expect clients to deal with funeral planning . . . if we don’t?

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