As COVID-19 continues to spread in several regions across Canada, financial advisors with clients who have had or are dealing with the disease say it can present unique financial and other challenges – as well as opportunities for the advisors to step in and help.
Laura Dear, president and financial planner at Cordis Financial Inc. in Edmonton, has had several calls from clients while they were sick with COVID-19. In one particular case, two of her elderly clients, a couple, and their caregiver daughter, also the holder of their power of attorney, fell sick all at the same time. They called because they weren’t sure what would happen to their estate plan if they all died – and wanted her advice to see if anything needed to change.
“The first thing I ask [clients with COVID-19] is where they’re staying and if someone is looking after them. If not, I would step up and offer to bring them the food and other things they need,” Ms. Dear says.
In this case, she walked her clients through what would happen in each scenario of one dying before the other, reassuring them that everything was in order.
“Luckily, their son, who did not get infected, was able to come to their aid, and they all recovered,” she says.
Ms. Dear had clients who died from the disease as well, with one presenting an unprecedented challenge with a death claim. That case involved a client couple in which the husband died and the wife was living in an assisted living facility. As the now widow and her deceased husband held accounts at the same financial institution, Ms. Dear took the steps necessary to transfer his assets to her account.
To do that, the institution would accept nothing less than the widow’s original, wet signature, with Ms. Dear as the witness. But that presented an impossible situation as Ms. Dear was prohibited from visiting her client in person. The institution wouldn’t accept her daughter’s power of attorney as signatory or witness because she was a named beneficiary on the account. Ultimately, the institution suggested leaving the funds in the deceased man’s account until Ms. Dear could obtain the client’s signature.
“Under normal circumstances, this would never be a problem, and I was frustrated that they just stuck to their rules no matter how I argued the situation,” Ms. Dear says.
John Davis, partner and certified financial planner at Blackburn Davis Financial Inc., also in Edmonton, says that as many “investment and insurance companies quickly started accepting electronic signatures [during the pandemic] to keep the business going,” fellow advisors who have yet to set up electronic signatures capabilities should do so right away in case they face a situation in which a client with COVID-19 wants to make changes. Furthermore, they should make a concerted effort to help older clients “who have a challenging time using [technology]” to get them signed up to e-signatures
Having twice self-isolated because of COVID-19, Mr. Davis understands what it’s like to be quarantined and how advisors can go above and beyond taking care of financial matters to help their clients who are sick.
“Most people have a core support group, but not everyone does, and regardless, if you’re like me, you feel bad going back to the same people all the time because you need something,” he says. “It’s great when someone else calls asking if you need anything for that very reason. So, call and ask how they are doing and if there’s anything you can do.”
One such call led Mr. Davis to someone with a dog that needed to be taken for walks, so he stepped in to do just that.
Ken Steele, insurance and financial advisor at Ken Steele Financial Solutions Ltd. in Calgary, says that as an advisor, “sometimes, all you have to do is just listen and read between the lines. That’s where you can offer solutions. What concerns me are all of these people who they call ‘long haulers’ – the ones who have symptoms and health conditions that exist far beyond [the average] illness.”
In that case, Mr. Steele says advisors should take the time to look into their insurance policies and see if they are eligible for any critical illness or disability benefits and if so, start the process.
“They may also be covered for expedited second opinions by the best medical specialists and diagnosticians in the field through services like Best Doctors Canada,” Mr. Steele says. “The past few months [of higher infection rates] has been very busy, with people reviewing what they are doing because someone close to them died of the disease.”