One discouraging thing about our industry is the lack of good, readable books, either for advisors or their clients. How many can you remember that made an impact on you or your clients? Maybe one or two? I’d be surprised if there are more than that. It’s strange because advisors have a fascinating job full of people and complex situations, so you would think there would be a whole shelf of them.
Well, I’ve got one for you. “In Case You Get Hit by a Bus,” written by Abby Schneiderman, Adam Seifer and Gene Newman, also known as Team Everplans. You may know the firm Everplans, which has been in a specialized niche of digital estate planning for several years.
Their premise is that all of us should have a digital place where we put our vital information, so that in the event of our death, our family can quickly access not only our financial accounts, but also other needed details about our life.
This team has written a book which is aimed at, well, everyone. Everyone is going to die sometime and the book explains what you need to put in place. It is well laid out, very readable, and chockablock full of actionable advice. You will find some surprising chapters, with topics rarely covered in other writings on the subject.
I chatted with Abby Schneiderman, one of the authors of the book and the co-CEO and co-founder of the company. These next few paragraphs reflect our discussion.
Why write a book about planning for the end of life?
The original Everplans strategy included creating a lot of content about issues surrounding the end of life and how to deal with it. The firm evolved into a technical company that housed all this information for clients. But the firm continued to create content on the topic. It was almost a no-brainer to leverage all that content and put it into a book.
Finding the right publisher
The publisher was an important part of the process. They were lucky to find Workman Publishing. They are the publishers behind “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and the other “What to Expect” books. As any family who has had a baby knows, this book is an essential rite of passage. Workman became excited when they realized that this book was the same concept only for the end of life. They were extremely knowledgeable about editing this type of book and even helped with the memorable title.
Readers relate to preparing for family needs
The authors are currently on a virtual book tour. This is new territory for them and Abby said it has been great to see how the public has reacted to the book. Most of the people on the tour have been women. They are not exactly sure why. But all sorts of different needs have emerged. Spouses who were in the early stages of dementia. Children with parents who had just died and had left a tangled mess of loose ends. Parents who were getting their act together for their children. And children who were worried that they did not know what their parents wanted. As you can see the book is interesting to people in many different situations.
The pandemic was an unintended background for the book launch. COVID-19 has been especially heartbreaking in terminal cases, as families have been kept away from their loved ones during the final days. It has made a lot of people aware of their own and their family’s mortality and has made the book especially relevant.
I asked what topics had hit a chord with the most people. A favorite is passwords. Just think how many passwords you have. They keep safe everything from your phone, to your online finances, to your photo libraries and even to your passwords. If you literally are hit by a bus, it is often very difficult for the family to get access and even to know that accounts exist. In the old days, there were tragic stories of family photographs being stuck on a Facebook account that could not be opened. Today most social media sites have ways of giving the family access.
Another one is funerals. Do you know how your loved ones want their ceremonies to go? Or even if they want a burial or cremation? It’s not a topic that comes up in breezy family conversation and even it if it does often does not finish with a decision.
This one really struck me, following the recent funeral of Prince Philip. He was someone who had arranged his own funeral to the last second, even down to details such as the custom built Land Rover carrying the coffin and a photographer hidden in a fake pillar so that he could get close ups of the people attending. But Prince Philip is the rare case. My family has no idea what my funeral wishes are. Heck, I don’t either. But I know I have many years left. I just have to avoid that bus.
Light bulb moment
The concept of creating a digital space for our loved one made the light bulb go on for me. Twenty years ago my wife, Pat, and I interviewed and videotaped our four parents. All of them were in their prime and it was a lot of fun. In the intervening years two fathers have passed away and one mother has dementia.
Unbelievably I lost the videos, thanks to house moves and house clean-ups. We searched high and low for them for years. In the pandemic, as a project, we threw away every single piece of junk that filled our basement. It needed two trucks to take it all away! In the furthest corner in a box that I was about to arbitrarily throw out were the DVDs of our parents’ interviews. The videos are now online for extended family viewing and are some of our most valued memories.
I cannot over-recommend doing this with your family. It is a fun event as you do it, and the memories are forever.
For an advisor, the book is a fairly unique opportunity. It’s been written for everyone and is easy to use either as a reference or as a quick read. It touches on all of the normal advisor topics such as financial accounts, beneficiaries and estate planning. But it goes broader into topics that clearly can deepen the client relationship. It is good to get everything the family will need in one place, such as password managers, the aforementioned videos and funeral arrangements and all the medical powers of attorney.
It makes a nice client appreciation gift for your clients, and it will instigate broad conversations. We know some advisors who are building specific meetings or phone calls with their clients around the book.
Advanced advisor usage
If you think about the topics of the book, it is perfect for multi-generational conversations. Parents and children will read it and hone in on different topics. Some of these topics are sensitive and difficult for families to discuss. For your multi-generational clients, it is a great way to instigate these conversations and help the family in some of the inevitable work that will follow.
As you can tell, I feel that this is a book that can effectively help enrich your client experience.
As you can tell, I feel that this is a book you can use effectively with your clients. It is also selling well, in general. The pandemic has certainly heightened people’s awareness on this topic. In other words it is hot right now. Therefore we have worked with Everplans on ways that you can use the book with your clients. If you are interested please either call your sales director or contact any of us associated with the Practically Speaking blog.
Certain opinions and views expressed herein are by Abby Schneiderman. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy. Abby Schneiderman and Everplans are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.
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