Stuffed folders (Photo: Thinkstock) (Photo: Thinkstock)

People buy life insurance to make sure there’s money in the bank to pay the mortgage and to feed and clothe the children in case something happens to them. This assurance is the same reason people create wills and trusts.

They seek that legally binding promise that their assets will end up in their families’ pockets and won’t be held up in court while strangers determine rightful heirs or settle family disputes.

The bottom line is that your clients want to know that their loved ones will be taken care of if they’re not around. And these estate-planning tools are a great start to offering them that peace of mind.

(Related: Yes, Millennials DO Need Estate Planning)

But here’s a way to add even more value to your clients’ lives: Offer them a means to organize and store it all.

Once you’ve helped them create a plan for the disbursement of their assets, you can take it a step further by providing them with a solution to create a roadmap to all of their accounts and personal belongings.

Encourage them to create a list of where all of their financial and personal assets reside and how to access them. Company names and websites, login credentials, a description of the assets in that account — these are invaluable keys when it comes time for the family to unlock these accounts. Without the proper information, they could be indefinitely shut out with little recourse for gaining entry. Encourage your clients to store this information in a secure place  —  perhaps a legacy platform that can house all the details and share it with the right people at the right time.

A Plan Isn’t Enough?

It was difficult to put the pieces of an estate together when families had to dig through file folders and open shoeboxes to find the account information they needed. Now that most everyone lives a digital life, it’s nearly impossible to ensure everything is accounted for without applying some sort of organizational protocol.

In digital land, it’s easy to lose what you own because it’s not physically in front of you. Your client’s 401k from her first job or a Roth IRA he set up many years ago might otherwise get lost without knowing about its existence or how to access the accounts.

And what about virtual sentimental belongings like a family photo album in Shutterfly or family recipes stored in a Google Drive. These items are considered priceless to the family that’s left behind; they’re memories of their loved one and represent the family traditions that live on through them.

Because personal property holds a lot of emotional value, these are often the items that cause the most family fights. This is true of Robin Williams’ estate. In 2015, his wife of less than three years and his three children fought over his acting memorabilia and even whether or not his watch collection was part of the “jewelry” category. Robin created more of a plan than most (certainly most celebrities), and dissension still befell his family. Imagine how much worse it would be if the legacy wasn’t so detailed and organized or if there was no plan at all.

The point here is that everyone has a legacy. After you help your clients create a plan, ask them to capture their stories and family traditions, and encourage them to create a roadmap to everything they own. Then, offer them a way to keep their legacy intact. It’s our job as financial professionals to give people the solutions they need to preserve their legacy.

— Read 3 Lessons Prince Left Agents and Advisorson ThinkAdvisor.


Michael Babikian (Photo: LegacyShield)Michael Babikian is the chief executive officer of LegacyShield, a financial services exchange built around a family information management system.