It's not necessarily an easy conversation to have, but talking about issues related to ensuring that everything is in order post-death is one of the many responsibilities that financial planners owe to their clients.
Aside from the fact that it is a naturally emotional process, there is so much to consider — wills, insurance and personal documents. Advisers and clients can find it overwhelming.
Enter digital-archive websites that advisers can suggest clients take advantage of.
With a few clicks and drags of the mouse, clients are able to upload the things that matter most to them, as well as the paperwork their family members will need if they were to pass away. Advisers can sit tight on the other side of the screen, monitoring what they share and what services they can provide for each step of the way.
Take Everplans, for example. The one-year-old website just launched an institutional product enabling advisers to personalize the web pages and share tips with their clients, give a referral to an attorney they work with or ask clients to give them a call when they're done uploading.
The website is organized into numerous categories: home, medical, digital estate such as passwords and social media accounts, funeral preferences, vehicle information, financial adviser information, what to do with pets and even recipes. Clients choose who they want to view their "everplan" upon their death, and those appointees will be able to work with their adviser and other professionals they have identified to attend to the necessary tasks.
"This is a tool that will enable them to have more detailed conversations than they have ever had," said Abby Schneiderman, co-founder of Everplans. "Technology is going to be the killer tool to help bridge the gap here, to make sure people can get as organized as possible."
It does look as if technology has finally found its way onto the screens of financial planners. For decades, advisers have had to have these important talks with clients, but now they have websites that offer to assist in this specific type of planning. They go beyond a regular document vault that an adviser could find on his or her routine programs, too.
Ayelet Hirshfeld, co-founder of digital-archive website Capsoole, said having an online account that encapsulates a client's important documents and other details allows advisers and family members to address their responsibilities in real time.
"Our lives are increasingly in the cloud," Ms. Hirshfeld said. "It allows them to be with you exactly at these times.
“As we rely more and more on technology, these services will become more popular," she said.
These websites can also help fill in the holes of knowledge and information after a client's death, and help advisers to avoid disasters.
Although this is true, Lucy Selby, an adviser with RelyOn Wealth Management in Allen, Texas, said that like many other things, there needs to be a balance between the online and human components to advice.
"I believe online helps, but I don't think it can be totally done online," she said. “It's just a tool.”
Ms. Selby suggests advisers start off the process by having a face-to-face conversation. Clients can then upload documents and important notes and files online, and continue to touch base with their advisers thereafter over the phone and via a website.
"When you think about your own death, you have a lot of emotions," Ms. Selby said. "Software can guide you through the process and think rationally, and that will be very good for your financial situation."