THIS IS THE SECOND ARTICLE IN A TWO-PART SERIES FOR WOMEN | WEALTH | WELLNESS
Our first article discussed the importance of estate planning and ways to mitigate unnecessary financial stress and complications during an already difficult time.
Whether it’s the sudden shock of an accident or the agonizing goodbye of a terminal illness, the pain of losing a spouse is unbearable.
At Argent, we understand the confusion and fear that accompanies such loss. Many of us have also buried spouses or other loved ones. And in our work, we frequently walk with clients through their grief as they learn to live life differently.
Here’s what we’ve learned from that experience: Though nothing can erase the heartache of a loved one’s passing, there are at least two practical things you can do to make such a tragedy less stressful. One is to have a wise plan in place. The other is to create an expert team that will walk with you through the complicated maze of grief. You don’t need financial and estate headaches when you’re reeling emotionally.
Recently, we invited three Argent leaders who have faced deep grief to talk about their experiences and to share how they help other women prepare for grief—and navigate it when it comes. We shared part of that conversation in a previous post. Here’s the rest of that conversation:
What would you advise the person who wants to be prepared for the worst but is married to someone resistant to end-of-life planning?
Linda Baker: Sometimes all you can do is try to advise the interested spouse.
We can provide tools that aid the spouse in identifying their assets and how they are titled. Many times, this sparks estate planning conversations between the couple.
What about new clients who do want to be proactive? They’re not in grief, but they want to be prepared when that time comes. What steps do you walk them through?
Linda Baker: I begin with an in-depth conversation. What do they want to accomplish? One of my first questions is, do you have an attorney? If not, we assist them in finding an attorney to help them get a will or trust in place, along with end-of-life directives and details.
If they already have an estate plan, I’ll ask how long it has been since they have reviewed their plan. Generally, I recommend they check their estate plan at least every three to five years or when there is a significant life event.
Since tragedy can strike at any time, it’s important to get ones affairs in order to give their family protection and peace of mind. Planning is always preferable. If you wait, it may be too late.
How, practically speaking, do you and the Argent team help someone who has just experienced a loss?
Linda Baker: We know the individual is going through a terrible time. They’re scrambling. They need someone to be a resource…to guide them, help them get organized, and hold their hand if needed. Our goal is to be there for them, to serve as a trusted resource.
Jodi Penn Rives: Yes. There’s the personal side of being compassionate and serving the family. And also, there’s the technical side of helping them understand complicated legal issues and unfamiliar financial terms.
Kathy Christoffel: I see Argent as their coat of armor. We’re their protector. At all costs, we will ensure that no one takes advantage of them.
I ask questions like: “Are you safe at home? Where are your kids?” Often, an older child will come in with the surviving spouse. If they can’t, we’ll Zoom them in.
I remind them: “You don’t have to do anything immediately, and you don’t have to do any of this alone. At least let us pay your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and health insurance premiums. Anything else we can fix very easily. But it’s a little trickier if your property taxes get in arrears or you lose insurance coverage.
Sometimes I’ll get on the phone with them to help communicate with a financial advisor, insurance company, or title company.
I help them break things down into simple checklists: “Here are your next three steps.”
We can take care of a lot—depending on the account or relationship we have with an individual. We have some trust clients for whom we pay utility bills, credit card bills, etc. That’s a huge part of some of what we do.
Jodi Penn Rives: I’d summarize how we help this way: We show compassion. We answer questions. We help people understand what their options are. We help them develop a plan.
Kathy Christoffel: Here’s a story that illustrates it well.
I met with a couple last summer, but the husband wasn’t ready to do any of the things we’ve just talked about. Then, at Christmas time, out of the blue, I got a call. The wife asked, “Do you have time to see us?”
They came in and the husband had lost at least 50 pounds. It turned out he’d been diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer.
He told me, “I’m listening to you now. How quickly can we get all this done?”
Luckily, I still had my notes from our Zoom call, so we reviewed some things. Quite a bit had changed.
He had recently sold his business, meaning they had a large amount of money just sitting in a basic savings account. They still hadn’t done anything about their wills. Meanwhile, medical facilities told them their medical power of attorney document was terrible.
So, their attorney came over that afternoon. Their CPA got involved. We all decided to make this a priority.
Within two or three weeks, we had all their documents done. When we left the attorney’s office, the man hugged me. With tears in his eyes, he said, “I’m an idiot for not listening to you before.”
I told him, ‘We all have lapses in judgment. But now everything is working out beautifully.”
He’s on hospice now. But he’s at peace because he knows his wife will be okay.
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At Argent Financial, we know nothing can ever take away the pain of a loved one’s passing. But there are specific proactive and practical steps we can take to make the aftermath of such a tragedy a bit less complicated and stressful.
Call today at 800.375.4646 to speak to one of our professionals. We would love to help you create a wise plan and build an expert team for navigating loss.
Linda Baker has over 37 years of experience in the financial services industry and joined Argent Trust Company in 2018. She serves as Market President in our Dallas, TX office. She buried her stepson in 1995 and has since lost several family members.
Kathy Christoffel lives and works in Fort Worth, TX, where she serves as Market President. She has over 30 years of experience; Kathy lost several family members, including an adult daughter in 2020.
Jodi Penn Rives has served as a business development officer since joining Argent in 2019. Jodi was widowed in 2012 and leads Argent’s focus on
Women | Wealth | Wellness.