When a mortgage agent meets with a client, death isn’t typically the first topic discussed once the handshakes (or elbow bumps) are done. But with an alarming number of Canadians unsure about what happens to their properties when they die, a discussion around estate planning is one mortgage professionals should consider having with every client.
“To me, it’s not ‘Do they have to talk about estate planning?’” said Erin Bury, founder and CEO of online estate planning platform Willful. “It’s ‘Do they want to talk about it’ because their clients might be better educated or see added value from having that conversation.”
Demystifying the topic of death and making after-life planning easier for clients, Bury said, can go a long way to building the kinds of meaningful, lasting relationships agents and brokers can lean on for future business.
“Whether it’s during closing, or maybe six months or a year after, bringing up the topic of estate planning is something else for agents to bring to the table in terms of value,” she said. “It creates an affinity for the person who provided value beyond just helping you secure a mortgage.”
For agents who are uncomfortable about broaching the subject of death, Bury encourages them to focus on the benefits of proactive estate planning, like leaving a secure legacy for one’s family, and the risks that await homeowners who don’t specifically add provisions regarding the property they own in their wills.
“Talking about estate planning doesn’t have to be depressing or negative. It’s really one of the key pillars to a solid financial plan,” she said, adding that estate planning can be added to the checklist of new homeowner responsibilities most agents share with their successful clients.
“This is one thing to add to the list. It’s not that you’re going to spend an hour talking to your clients about it,” she said.
Agents willing to have those after-life conversations may still be at a loss when it comes to providing relevant information to their clients. That’s why Bury is getting the word out on Willful’s new program, Willful for Professionals.
She said the company has heard the same concern from various professionals – mortgage brokers, financial planners, insurance advisors – since it launched in 2017: They have the estate planning conversation with a client, only to find out during their next encounter that the client has made no progress with their will due to the cost, inconvenience, or complexity involved.
By signing up for Willful for Professionals, brokers can send their clients links to the company’s platform, where Bury said they should be able to close the loop on their estate planning “in 20 minutes.”
Brokers can opt for the referral program, where they share with clients customized marketing materials, educational resources, and a promo code they can redeem for a discount on Willful’s services. They can also take part in the volume pricing program, in which they can purchase multiple estate planning packages that can either be gifted to existing clients or used as incentives that entice new ones.
“It’s really low-touch for the broker,” Bury said.
Chris Karram, co-founder and chief strategy officer at SafeBridge Financial, said the program has been a strong value-add for his company’s clients.
“They may not all need a will or ask about one, but for those that do, this is the best possible solution, and allows us to help our clients solve yet another significant need in their lives,” Karram said, adding that Willful for Professionals has been particularly valuable for clients actively trying to grow, and protect, their wealth.
“In so many ways, they want make sure that what they are building stays in the hands of the people they are building it for,” he said.
November 2020 provides an excellent opening for agents to discuss with their clients the status of their wills. Not only is it Financial Literacy Month in Canada, but the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases already has most people in the country mulling their own mortality more frequently than before. It’s the perfect opportunity for agents who don’t typically talk with clients about death and what comes after to make such discussions a habit.
“It certainly wasn’t a conversation I’ve had in the past with my mortgage broker, and I would have thought it was really valuable if they highlighted it,” Bury said. “Me having to go back five years later to ask my real estate lawyer about how I own my home could have been avoided if I had just had that conversation up front.”