The conversation you have with clients about estate planning can benefit your business, says Joe Marino, vice president and national director of specialized planning with BMO Harris Private Banking, a division of Bank of Montreal, in Toronto. Not only is it a chance to discuss your client’s legacy, but it also offers a glimpse into the emotions your client has toward finances.
“Seldom do financial advisors get a chance to speak candidly about a client’s attitudes and relationship toward their wealth,” Marino says. “But the conversation around doing an estate plan can be a good outline of how they value money.”
Understanding these values and attitudes, Marino says, gets you away from the pure mechanics of estate plans and helps you better align your thinking with your clients’ goals. This will help position you to grow your practice through estate-planning services.
Estate planning was rated as the second-largest “organic growth opportunity” for advisors in the “Economics of Loyalty,” the report from a recent study by Advisor Impact Inc. and the Investment Industry Association of Canada.
Marino offers the following advice on how you can use estate planning to grow your practice:
> Take the lead
Given the potentially morbid nature of the topic — you are discussing what will happen after the client’s death — you should take the lead in bringing up the topic of estate planning.
Once you have launched the discussion, you will probably find that your clients are responsive to the subject. Typically, Marino says, clients will want to make sure their assets are going to be distributed according to their wishes — and not go straight into the government coffers.
> Talk life, not death
While it might appear that, on the surface, talking about estate planning with your clients is all about death, Marino says, there is much more to it.
Steer the discussion away from death, Marino says, and toward more uplifting topics, such as your client’s legacy and how it can help his or her heirs reach their goals.
Take a straight approach, he says. For example, ask you client: “Do you believe you are leaving a memorable legacy?”
More often than not, clients will have many questions regarding issues such as guardianship of children, taxation and distribution of their assets, which, without careful planning, could precipitate family conflict. You can assure your clients that planning today can help prevent such conflicts.
“[Estate planning] is about planning for right now,” says Marino. “If you have a good plan, then the future takes care of itself.”
> Know no bounds
Abandon any preconceptions you or your clients might have that estate planning is only for older, high net-worth clients. Whether your client’s estate is worth $100,000 or $100 million, you and your client can benefit from the estate-planning discussion.
“Regardless of [your client’s] age or wealth,” Marino says, “there are things they should be considering right now.”
> Line up COIs
Before you begin talking about estate planning with your clients, make sure you have a tax specialist and a lawyer who specializes in family law in your network of centres of influence (COI). Cultivate relationships with these professionals.
You will encounter issues related to taxes and wills in your estate-planning business. So, the ability to refer clients to reliable specialists will ensure you can provide comprehensive services to your clients.
Next: Offering trust services.