Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Checklist After a Client Dies

MoneyFinancial advisors might want to consider making a checklist, so that they do not make a mistake in the days proceeding a client's death. This is not only to the advantage of the client but the advisor too. According to The Trust Advisor, "[a]dvisors who manage money have an 8 out of 10 chance of getting fired if they do the wrong things when a client dies." Therefore, a financial advisor might want to consider do the following:

  • An advisor might want to offer his or her condolences to the family and take the necessary first steps a few days after the death of the client. The advisor should get the death certificate and locate the likely heir to the family's wealth. In addition, the advisor will probably need to inform the compliance officer at his or her particular firm and follow the necessary procedures that begin when the client dies. 
  • This whole process would likely be made easier by the existence of a trust and a trustee. Because trustees have a duty to remain in contact with the client, the trustee will likely know when the grantor of the trust has passed away. Furthermore, the trustee will know what to do when the client passes away and will often continue to manage the trust in the absence of the grantor. If a trust is involved, an advisor might want to ensure that he or she is listed "as the advisor in any successor or transfer [instrument]."
  • Before the client passes away, the advisor might want to learn about the client's estate plan and get in contact with his or her estate planning attorney, insurance agent, or any other person that might have helped the individual plan for the future. The advisor does need to get the client's permission before moving forward on this. 
  • If the person is an elderly client without a family or relatives, the advisor might want to take note of the location of all of the important documents that a person owns, a person's funeral arrangements, and any important medical documents that the person might own, such as an advance directive and health care proxy. If the client does not have one, then the advisor might want to have the client create an advance directive and health care proxy. 

See Roland McMillan, What To Do When a Client Dies, The Trust Advisor, Sept. 16, 2012.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


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Thank you for posting. I found this to be very useful and plan on sharing it with clients.

Posted by: Brian J. Cohan | Sep 19, 2012 5:40:12 AM

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