Need to connect the planning dots about education savings options when you’re in front of clients? Use this priority list for setting up beneficiary meetings and education sessions

Ensure beneficiary designations on insurance policies and registered plans are accurate for all your clients.

But for some, the need is more immediate. So be proactive with these priority segments of your book.

  1. Clients who have lost a spouse in the past year (In most cases, a spouse is the primary named beneficiary. Provided the named secondary beneficiaries are surviving, most policies and registered plans are okay in the short term. But clients may want the opportunity to name new secondary beneficiaries, or name someone entirely different as the primary beneficiary).
  2. Clients who have recently separated or divorced (Acrimonious or not, a divorced person is unlikely to want his or her demise to result in a large sum going to the ex. Further, they likely want that money in the hands of children or other family members. So it falls to you to facilitate this change. Ensure the client works with his or her lawyer to see to it any alterations don’t violate terms of the divorce settlement).
  3. Clients who have lost a parent in the last year (Losing a parent is a life-changing event. The surviving parent may require additional care, which places pressure on family finances. That can lead to a need for changes in who benefits from existing policies and registered plans. Refer clients to their lawyers to ensure the surviving parent’s will is in order, along with POAs).
  4. Clients over age 60 (While life spans are getting longer, 60 remains the age after which more medical issues manifest. And members of this group likely made their initial beneficiary designations up to 30 years prior, so they’re overdue for a review. It’s also a good time to review wills, since those documents also tend to be dated by the time a client turns 60).
  5. Clients who’ve recently assumed power of attorney (This is both a burden, for which the person who takes it on needs to be compensated, or a point of contention between siblings, which may require beneficiary changes to mollify any concerns. It also may require legal review and opens a door for you to meet with the client’s counsel).
  6. Clients in blended families with children from former marriages (When clients remarry, they often bring legacy policies and registered investment plans with them. It’s important to ensure former spouses aren’t still named as beneficiaries, unless that’s the client’s wish; and that children from each half of the couple are properly provided for. This event is an excellent time to provide referral to an estate planning specialist, either within your firm or from among your centres of influence).
  7. Clients with children who do not get along (Insurance or shares of registered plans can be useful to deal with black sheep children. Provided the inherited sums are fair, they can go miles to limit post-estate litigation. But beneficiary naming has to be airtight, so referral to an estate lawyer is prudent).
  8. Clients with assets in other provinces or countries (Plans to leave these assets to different heirs may require adjustment to legacy beneficiary designations to ensure fairness within an estate. These clients always appreciate a referral to an overseas tax specialist).
  9. Clients whose children live in different parts of the world (In some cases, children living overseas are subject to heavy taxation of Canadian assets. It may make sense to change beneficiary designations and leave those assets to children residing in Canada, while finding other legacies for kids living offshore. Again, referral to an overseas tax specialist is a great value-add).