It is with us all every single day, and in recent weeks – and in horrendous circumstances – it is there on our television screens daily too as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Death cannot be beaten or cheated, it is a racing certainty of life and yet the thought of it often turns our stomachs and for the vast majority ‘doesn’t bear thinking about’.
For advisers however it, at the very least, has to be addressed, and even more so for advisers with later life clients – not necessarily because they are more likely to die sooner but because the consequences of them doing so are perhaps more far-reaching than for others.
Take wills, for example. According to Canada Life, 31 million UK adults don’t have a will in place and while that number grows smaller the older people get, the thought of working with an older homeowner who doesn’t have their affairs in order should be an uncomfortable one for most advisers.
The feedback I get from later life advisers is that they will often raise such matters with clients although as one adviser recently told me, the client “will very rarely do anything about it. They see the sense but it’s difficult for them.”
Lasting Power of Attorney
In our product space, the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is another key area that needs to be addressed. And again, even though it is, those advisers who are writing such business is extremely low.
I’ve often thought that LPAs should be mandatory with equity release products, especially in a sector dominated by drawdown where if a customer isn’t able to make decisions for themselves – for whatever reason – but doesn’t have an LPA in place, it means they can’t access the money that is rightfully theirs.
In that sense, LPAs which ensure those instructed are able to make these important decisions seems like an obvious element to incorporate into the provision of advice, because while people clearly won’t think that anything untoward can happen to them, it does. It happens to people every single day.
Historically, there has been a slight reticence from some advisers to get involved in this aspect of the market. Which if you think about it is just another form of protection, albeit a legal one.
Perhaps they think they don’t have all the necessary detail, information or experience to be able to help a client here, or they are still not comfortable broaching these issues. Which I suspect is less of a concern for later life advisers, but you never know?
The issue of who to partner with on this can also be a tricky one, as is the price, which often differs greatly across regions, and it’s certainly the case that there are – shall we say – ‘less robust’ propositions out there which could end up causing more trouble than they are worth.
How advisers can help
What appears to be important though is having a national solution, one that can provide those services to clients in a trusted manner, whether that is face-to-face, via tech, or indeed on a self-serve basis. We’ve certainly been looking at options in this area for our adviser members and hope to be announcing a partnership which covers all these bases in the future.
The point however is really not to shy away from the conversation.
Of course, few people will want to talk about their own death, or potential catastrophic ill-health, and we clearly wish all our clients are a long way from either.
But you cannot get past the reality of life, and how it moves on and eventually ends.
It’s far better to have your clients in the best possible position to deal with all manner of life events, and death, and for you to help them through this process, rather than potentially leaving both them and their families in a terrible position should the worst happen sooner than expected.