As an advisor, what do you wish for your clients? Do you want them to be focused on the distribution of their assets when they die? Or would you rather see them live joyful, rich lives now? If you want to dig into that latter concept, you are in the right place! Conversations with clients can be so much more fulfilling—for them and for you—when you develop a legacy plan that includes them and their descendants.
By helping your clients plan for their legacy, not merely for their estate, you can invite them into what will hopefully grow into an inclusive, harmonious journey with their children and grandchildren. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you and your clients invest in a deeper experience of working together.
Legacy Estate Planning
First of all, as the advisor, do you know the difference between estate planning and legacy planning—and are you able to communicate that difference to your prospective or current clients?
Estate planning involves complex documents regarding distribution of wealth at death. It is a necessary part of the process, but it should not be the end of the story. Legacy planning, on the other hand, is about how your clients live with intentionality today and tomorrow, based on their values and beliefs. It starts with focusing on the who and why (the people and the stories) before moving to the what and how of the mechanics of estate planning.
Why does this matter? Because when clients focus solely on the what and how of estate planning, they miss out on a beautiful opportunity to steward their own wealth while they are still alive, and to invest in the next generations of stewards—their children and grandchildren. By encouraging your clients to involve their family in the process, you have the opportunity to facilitate and witness deepening relationships.
Secondly, remember the importance of open-ended, values-conscious questions.
Your clients have beliefs that inform who they are and what they care about. Your job is, in part, to start the conversation by asking questions that draw the answers out from inside of your clients. For example, “What are you grateful for?” Don’t be content with making statements as “the expert”. Get to know your clients and their family members as individual people.
Identity and Opportunity
Lastly, as a follow up to the previous point, which is more important to you as an advisor? Knowing how much your clients are worth on paper? Or having an understanding of who your clients are apart from tax, legal, or financial terms?
Do you know what drives them? What gives them energy and joy? Invite them into legacy conversations by asking them, “If you died today, how would people remember you?” and “How do you want to be remembered?” If there is an incongruity in those answers, that is something they can go to work on changing now, before they pass away.
When my own parents were going through this journey 20 years ago, my dad wisely said to me, “Beware of the destructive nature of secrecy.” Clients whose inclination is to make plans at their family, without involving them, are often motivated by fear. But you have the opportunity to assist your clients in making plans with their family members, thereby inviting the whole family into intergenerational conversation.
To learn more about developing these questions with your clients, please do not hesitate to contact The Signatry. We can provide you with resources to guide you into legacy conversations with your clients.