In these crazy times, we have lots to think about. With the Great Pandemic raging and unemployment soaring, some of us find ourselves thinking about mortality and about the fragility of good health.
Experts tell us that more families are doing estate planning, buying life insurance, and pre-paying for funerals.
As regular readers of this space may recall, I buried my father last summer and have several close friends struggle with health challenges recently. And this was before COVID-19. Challenging events happen all the time. But they’ve reminded me of my responsibility to provide for my clients in the event some unexpected event prevents me from working.
I love being a financial planner and I plan to do this work for another 20 years or more. However, these days it’s clear that none of us knows what the future holds. That’s why I have taken steps to assure that my clients will be well served whatever happens to me.
At my office, I recently named Trisha Qualy, CFP® as my professional backup. She will have all the access she needs to help clients if I am unexpectedly unable to come to work. And, maybe, in 20 years — when I retire — she will take over for me. Both Trisha and I hope that she never needs to take over at short notice, but I feel strongly that it’s in my clients’ best interest to have her formally designated as my professional backup.
If you are worried about “putting things in order” here are a few things to consider:
- Be sure you have the four basic estate documents in place. They are:
- Last will and testament including
- instructions about guardians for minor children; and
- instructions about financial custodians for minor children.
- Durable power of attorney
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Healthcare directive or living will
- Last will and testament including
- Make sure you have enough emergency money on hand
- Research what unemployment benefits you would have if you lost your job.
- Review your disability insurance coverage, usually through work. This would pay in the event you are sick or injured and cannot work.
- Finally, review your network of trusted advisors — financial planner, tax advisor, physician, business coach:
- Be sure you know how to reach them. Even if your main contact is not available.
- Be sure your power of attorney can find contact information in the event you are not around.
If you are putting things straight, it’s a great idea to discuss this topic with your trusted advisors. If you count on these professionals to assist you with important areas of your life, and you would miss them if they are gone, it’s a good idea to understand what will happen, just in case.
If your financial planner has done a good job, there is a plan in place in the event they can’t come to work anymore. The successor advisor already has authorization to access client files and will likely be contacting you – proactively — to explain the details of the new situation.
And if your financial advisor is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, or other fiduciary financial planner, you likely have a comprehensive financial plan on file that spells out where you stand and where you are going. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter what happened to your advisor, the plan should be working on its own most of the time. You expect your planner to review your situation at least once a year and make any minor adjustment necessary to keep your plan on track toward your goals.
If you don’t know about your advisor’s emergency succession plan. It might be a good time to talk it over.
And while you are at it, you can confirm that your advisor:
- Always acts as your advocate in every situation – a full-time fiduciary.
- Is clear and transparent about all they ways she gets paid. My clients only pay me via advisory or planning fees, with very few exceptions.
These two points help assure that you are working with a professional who is committed to your best interest at all times. It seems sort of obvious to me that a professional would work in this way, but it’s not automatic. A fiduciary, fee-only, CFP® professional can help you make great retirement income choices and develop a comprehensive financial plan that is driven by your goals and priorities and addresses all aspects of your financial life. With a big-picture approach, you will be better prepared to understand your options at every step along the way.
Yes, I am a CFP® professional. I’m always a fiduciary and I only work on a fee basis. And yes, I’m still taking on a few great families to be part of my financial planning practice.
If this article has you thinking about your own circumstances, contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their retirement plans. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.