Financial advisors work to make sure clients don’t run out of money in this lifetime, but how about when this lifetime is running out of life? The end-of-life period is an emotionally—and sometimes financially—painful period for families in the process of losing a loved one.
As a health-care consultant with 30 years’ experience, Kerry Shannon time and again saw situations in hospitals where individuals faced end-of-life issues and their families didn’t know the person’s final wishes or argued over how to handle the situation. Seeking a solution to that problem, she and her husband, Steve Byrne, created Final Roadmap, a web-based guide and tool kit focused on end-of-life issues. It’s a product they hope makes inroads with financial planners.
“Some financial planners and estate attorneys are using it,” Byrne says. “I’m trying to get them to understand how much a service like this can benefit them.”
The Chicago-based company describes Final Roadmap as a secure, virtual vault containing numerous forms covering six sections: medical care; legal and financial; physical death; visitation and services; messages for loved ones after death; and notifications. All materials are encrypted and stored on the physical servers at americaneagle.com, a website design and hosting company the couple used to help create their online service.
Final Roadmap customers buy the product once and can change information as much as they want for as long as the documents are needed. Existing end-of-life documents such as a will, trust or powers of attorney can be added to the system, and the site contains resources and links for people who don’t have such documents but want to create them.
“It’s a tool that helps them [financial planners and estate attorneys] enhance their relationship with clients by giving them another opportunity to engage with them,” Byrne says. “It can be a final piece of an estate plan. It can help clients save money in funeral expenses and end-of-life health-care costs by avoiding very expensive ‘futile care’ expenses.”
Byrne, who has 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur, including work running a restaurant for many years, handles the business development, technology and marketing side. His wife earned a master’s degree in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University in Chicago specifically with Final Roadmap in mind. Together, they co-founded the site along with a friend who’s an estate attorney.
Final Roadmap launched in June 2013 after three years in development, and to date most customers are individuals who heard about it via word-of-mouth advertising or from Byrne as he made the rounds. But cracking the financial advisor market has been slow going so far.
“It’s almost like a dartboard in that I’m a one-man band,” Byrne says. He notes he’s contemplating setting up a booth at various industry conferences to reach out to advisors.
“The importance of financial advisors for this product is they’re dealing with smart people who want to plan for their future and for the time when they won’t be there anymore,” he says. “For the advisor, it’s another way to show clients that they care about their welfare.”