Financial Planners Have More to Learn About Serving People With Chronic Illness

Wealth advisors could be doing a better job of helping clients with disabilities plan for the future, writes Enterprising Investing blogger Lauren Foster. See “Five Ways Financial Advisors Can Better Serve Clients With Chronic Illness,” http://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2012/08/14/five-tips-to-help-you-better-serve-clients-with-chronic-illness/.

Foster interviewed New Jersey lawyer and financial planner Martin Shenkman, who told her that in 96 percent of cases the symptoms of chronic illness are invisible. Financial advisors who don’t ask their clients about health challenges are not serving their clients well. Shenkman should know, as his wife suffers from multiple sclerosis, and he is attempting to educate the financial planning community that not just the elderly have health issues that may require specialized planning.

For example, Shenkman tells Foster, when most people are diagnosed with a disease like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or MS, they assume there is no insurance planning to do. “This is dangerously wrong. If a client was just diagnosed with MS or [Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease] and has a disability policy, immediately review the policy to see if there are any requirements, such as notification of the carrier,” Shenkman said. Failing to address policy requirements could jeopardize the recovery.

Another issue is long-term care insurance. Even though it is too late for a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease to purchase LTC coverage, caregivers should include it as part of their planning. The stress of caring for a person with a chronic illness often causes health problems for spouse or partner caregivers. They should always have LTC insurance to as part of their planning.

We agree that Shenkman has an important message for financial planners as well as any professional who serves people with disabilities. Understanding what can happen 10 to 20 down the road affects today’s choices. Like Shenkman, we spend time talking to estate and financial planners about best practices when disability and long-term care insurers use policyholders’ misunderstandings to delay or deny benefits.

Few things are more frustrating than paying policy premiums for years and then learning the insurer won’t pay benefits. Planners who take the time to educate themselves now about future difficulties will become more knowledgeable advisors to their clients, and that will impact their bottom lines.

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