Where do you start? Ask the right questions. Before the conversation turns to finances, ask open-ended question that invite your clients to tell the story and give you a window into their lives and experiences in light of the loss. This is healing for your clients and also provides valuable information that helps you serve them better. This can be as simple as asking things like: “What kind of a day is it today? Is this an “up” day, a “down” day, or an all-over-the-place day?” “There is no way to prepare yourself for what it’s like when a loved one dies. What is harder than you expected? What is easier? What has surprised you? What do you wish people knew about what you’re experiencing?” “How do you wish people would act around you? Do you wish they’d talk about him/her, ignore it, bring you food or leave you alone?” Prepare and protect. A loved one’s death often highlights all the ways that the person failed to prepare ahead of time. For instance, is the family having trouble finding the birth and marriage certificates, car keys and titles, mortgage papers, passwords and other essential information? Did their loved one have sufficient life insurance, powers of attorney, advance directives and a will? Use this as an opportunity to help your clients and their families gather all that data, complete documents themselves and store it all in one place so it is easily accessible whenever needed. Consider offering a digital lock-box service, so the “one place” can be with you. Doing so helps you become the point person for the entire family’s information and documents.Educate yourself. You are already educated on the financial needs of grieving clients. Ensure that you become equally educated on grief support. Remember that there are hundreds of thousands of advisors who know what to do with the money. Your clients look for those that also provide skilled non-financial support and guidance. There are many informative books and resources available. Take advantage of them, for yourself and for your staff.
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