For many, the holidays are a time spent with family, when everyone gathers around the table for great food and warm company. For financial advisors, this year’s holiday season should mean something else as well: talking to clients about the legacy they hope to leave.
That’s because a recent study from Edward Jones, in partnership with Age Wave and The Harris Poll, found that for many Americans, the pandemic triggered conversations with close family members about their end-of-life plans and preferences. In fact, the survey found that a third of U.S. adults had such conversations since the start of the pandemic, and for 44.5 million Americans, it was the first time they had talked to family members about topics like finances, health and legal plans. What’s more, two-thirds of Americans said the pandemic has caused them to think more about the kind of legacy they want to leave to their families.
“At Edward Jones, we consider counseling clients about leaving a lasting impact to be a fulfillment of our purpose: to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. ”
-Ken Cella, Principal, Client Strategies Group
At the same time, while the pandemic has driven many people to have conversations about legacy planning, there’s a gap between Americans’ intentions and actions on the subject. For example, more than 70 percent of Americans 50 and over believe a will is the most important document to have in place before someone dies, but only 49 percent of this group actually has one. And only 19 percent have completed all three essential end-of-life documents – a will, health care directive or living will, and designated power of attorney.
With legacy planning top-of-mind for many Americans, combined with this intention-action gap, now is a time when financial advisors can be of great help to their clients. And while the holidays may seem like an unusual time to think about legacy planning, there are decisions to be made that typically require conversations with family members. Considering many families celebrated the holidays virtually last year, this may be the first time some families are gathering in two years.
Obviously, discussions around legacy planning, while very important to have, can make many people uncomfortable. In fact, our research found that three in five U.S. adults say there are barriers to overcome when they attempt to have family discussions around important financial topics like this. The most common of these roadblocks are wanting to avoid family conflicts (22%) and burdening family members with their finances (20%) and being too uncomfortable to discuss these topics (18%). While legacy planning may not be an ideal topic of conversation at the holiday dinner table, family gatherings can offer a rare opportunity for family members to discuss it in person. (We recommend waiting until after dessert.)
With all this in mind, it’s a good time for financial advisors to proactively check in with their clients and learn which of them may be looking for help with these discussions in the weeks ahead. Offer guidance to clients around the best ways to engage family members in these sensitive conversations; it may help to offer to host them in your office, so you can act as a facilitator and resource for all involved.
Legacy planning documents are too important to be overlooked, and your clients can enjoy a tremendous peace of mind once they have them completed with an estate-planning attorney. At Edward Jones, we consider counseling clients about leaving a lasting impact to be a fulfillment of our purpose: to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. The circumstances are right for engaging clients in a conversation about it, and it’s an opportunity to show clients your value as a financial advisor. Be sure not to let it pass by.
Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.