• What Happens When a Client Dies?

    by Syverson Strege Commentary | August 19, 2021

    Death…it’s something that no one wants, but everyone experiences, including our clients.

    The heartbreaking news is received. An email is delivered to each team member. One of our clients has died.

    In some cases, we knew this day was coming. In other cases, the sudden, unexpected news is a shock, leaving our team devastated and numb. After all, several of our team members have worked with these individuals, in some cases, for many years, even for decades.

    We’ve helped them with more than just financial planning. We’ve helped them discover their dreams, goals, and passions. We’ve been through the ups and downs of major life changes and we’ve walked them through financial planning to help them achieve their life goals.

    Many of our clients are nearing or in their retirement years. More clients leave our firm due to death than any other reason. In 2020, our client retention rate was 97%, including those clients who passed away.

    In Cofounder David Strege’s nearly 24 years at Syverson Strege and 40 years as a financial planner, he’s seen too many beloved souls pass away. He had 13 clients die within one calendar year. He claims that is one of the few downfalls of having worked in this profession for four decades. He says, “We all get older and more relationships end with a death.”

    When a client dies, a hush seems to come over the office when people begin to open the unwanted email or hear the sad news. In the silence of the moment, memories flood back into the minds of employees who were impacted by the one whose time on this earth has ended.

    After the news settles in and the technical “to-do” list is initiated, some team members huddle to lovingly talk about the client, his/her unique qualities, and their lasting impact on this world. Others chime in with a “reply all” email reminiscing about a special moment or story about the departed’s life. Later on, when the obituary is available, it is shared with the team…another moment to celebrate and remember a life well lived.

    An immediate thought that may go through the main financial planner’s mind is, “What can we do to help ease the pain of the remaining loved ones?” Other team members may feel the need to reach out by phone just to let them know we are here to help. One employee shared that she finds it difficult to work the rest of the day after hearing the news. She explained that it’s like losing a family member.

    With emotions in check, the important step-by-step procedural process begins. Certain things have to be done right away…other tasks can be done on the family’s own timetable. The checklist is initiated as the Syverson Strege team prepares to assist the family with the financial planning details of the client’s death.

    We make sure we initiate immediate follow up with the surviving spouse and/or the Executor. We take care of the technical aspects of a client’s financial affairs, such as distribution of accounts, capturing date of death values for taxable accounts, obtaining client balance sheets, and updating all necessary forms and accounts. In addition, flowers and a memorial gift are usually sent along with someone attending the funeral if possible. We make sure the details are managed and handled with compassionate and thoughtful care for the surviving family.

    When a client dies, we are as ready as we can be. When possible, we try to meet with the surviving client and/or their children. It’s important for the children to know who we are and how we can help. It’s at this meeting we relate how the client has planned for this moment of death and how that will affect the future of the survivors. We try to help all family members understand the plans and receive peace of mind that all necessary tasks will be handled effectively.

    With the help of Syverson Strege and their professional team, many clients have carefully planned for this moment. They have made provision for their finances, estate planning, and documents well ahead of time. They’ve often made the proper arrangements leaving their family well prepared to lead a fulfilling life, even though their earthly existence is over.

    Each Syverson Strege client who has passed on has impacted us in a special way and we celebrate the way he or she lived life and the contributions he or she left behind. Many lived a life that will inspire their family and others for years to come.

    The Syverson Strege team is honored and privileged to have been a part of a client’s life. In both life and death, we have learned a lot of fascinating things about our clients. And we cherish the opportunity to continue to serve the client’s family and carry out their final financial details.

    If you have questions or concerns about the future for your family, contact Syverson Strege at 515-225-6000 to set up a complimentary, no-obligation, confidential, consultation with one of our financial planners.


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