Did your partner or spouse leave you with an estate puzzle after passing away, or suffering a decline in cognitive function?
Whatever the reason, it may fall to you to inventory a possible multitude of unfamiliar documents formerly handled by your partner or spouse dealing with bill payments, disposition of assets, maintaining trust and legal accounting matters and more. And that could only be a fraction of the total.
Or consider a situation where the executor of a will lives thousands of miles away and can’t attend to matters. What then? Who will undertake the formidable task of organization, paying bills, dealing with creditors and other similar duties?
As Jill Chambers, co-owner of Calgary-based Financial Concierge Inc. puts it, in situations such as those the survivor “could feel like a deer caught in the headlights.”
The company, which opened its doors in January, is the only one of its kind in Canada. Similar firms are commonplace in the United States and are often part of the American Association of Daily Money Managers.
“We do not sell insurance or manage investments,” explains Chambers. “What we do is go in and appraise the situation and give the client an estimate of the project's scope and the time involved.”
Service offerings include organization of personal and financial documents, ongoing bill payment and statement reconciliation, acting as the enduring power of attorney and assisting with estate administration.
A request for document organization is often the first point of contact. Here there may be numerous investment and bank accounts. Are they all active? Could they be simplified or combined?
With insurance policies, are they still in force? Are these still the desired beneficiaries?
A key activity is determining if there is a valid will, enduring power of attorney and a personal directive. Who are the individuals named and how can they be contacted? Who are the other trusted advisors – lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, investment advisor? What are the final wishes? Who will be responsible for the pets? The questions go on and on.
Copies of other important documents are collected such as driver's licence, healthcare card, passport, and social insurance number, death or divorce certificates.
And lastly, what is the client’s online profile? If no one has access via your login and password, you will be circulating in cyberspace forever. There is nothing eerier than receiving a Facebook friend request from a deceased person.
Once all of the pertinent documents are collected a “Family Playbook” is created in both a hard copy and computer formats.
Chambers’ background includes extensive experience as a nurse in healthcare working with seniors and vulnerable individuals for 30 years. She is also certified financial planning professional, a chartered financial divorce specialist, and has her certified investment manager designation.
“Trust is huge for both the senior and their family” says Chambers. “Our goal is to provide peace of mind around management of financial affairs”.
Financial Concierge Inc. as might be expected carries professional liability insurance. Staff are vetted for working with vulnerable persons through Calgary Police Services and also must have a good credit rating. Financial Concierge Inc. recently was accredited by the Better Business Bureau.