Often we hear from clients when they receive good news such as inheriting money, getting a large bonus or earning a major job promotion. However, we also want to hear from clients when the news is not so good, such as when they suffer a job loss or a spouse has a health problem.
As difficult as it may be to think about bad news, not doing so—and not talking about it—can have unintended consequences. Studies conducted by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute revealed that not discussing your end-of-life wishes with your doctor was likely to lead to a more expensive death, a more painful death, and a more traumatic experience for your loved ones. The only thing that silence did not lead to was a longer life.
According to Dr. Anthony Back, an oncologist at the University of Washington who trains doctors in end-of-life conversations, it is wrong to assume that these conversations rob patients of hope. “People can live with hope and do practical planning at the same time,” he said. “As a family member, you can still be protective of the patient while also thinking ahead: ‘Of course we’re going to keep hoping, and let’s do this little planning, too.'”
At BWFA, we agree with Dr. Back. Although these discussions can be difficult, for you and for us, they are necessary and usually bring our clients comfort and peace of mind. When we meet to review your estate plan, we will discuss whether your estate plan is aligned with your current wishes. We will focus on elements of your plan such as these:
- Beneficiary designations — Whom do you want to receive your legacy? Do the beneficiary designations for your IRAs, life insurance policies, annuities and pensions match the intentions in your estate plan? Have you named both a primary and contingent beneficiary? Updating your beneficiary designation is usually an easy process, but often one that is not completed.
- Account and Asset Titles — Who owns each account and is it titled properly? If you have a revocable living trust, have you retitled your assets and account(s) in the name of your trust? Do you have enough liquidity to handle your immediate plans and estate settlement?
- Durable Power of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives and Living Will — Who will make decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself? Have these documents been signed within the last two years, and do they reflect your current wishes? We have several notary publics on our staff that can help you update your documents right in our office.
To further aid this process, our staff has confidential internal meetings twice a year in June and January, to identify all of our clients who have told us about significant health issues. The purpose of these meetings is to make sure that BWFA is doing everything that we can to help our clients and their families prepare for difficult times.
We want to be your advocate because we see this as part of our job. But remember…YOU are your best advocate. At BWFA, we want to hear about the good stuff (marriage, births, adoptions, job promotions, inheritances and your LIFE!) and we want to hear the bad stuff too. We can give you the best guidance when we know all the facts. If you don’t let us know about your life, we can’t give you advice or guidance on the actions you may want to take. If you have something you would like to talk to us about, please contact your advisor; otherwise, we will contact you during your annual review cycle.