Such complicated family relationships as those depicted on the television show Modern Family might be considered a financial advisor’s nightmare.
A gay couple with a child. An older man, who has grown children, married to a much younger woman with a young son from Colombia. A traditional couple with children. And they are all related.
But the show can also be used as the beginning of conversations between a financial advisor and her clients, says Meg Muldoon, assistant vice president of advanced sales at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. Best known for selling insurance, Penn Mutual also provides financial advice and works with advisors.
“An advisor should start with each client’s unique situation,” Muldoon says. “For instance, Modern Family’s Cam and Mitchell are gay men, who can now get married in any state in the United States. They have an adopted daughter, Lily.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal in all states, the planning process for gays and lesbians is simpler, Muldoon says. They have to take into consideration the same issues as heterosexual couples, such as inheritance and estate taxes and how they want to claim Social Security.
Advisors also should talk with gay and lesbian couples about the financial benefits that might be available if they get married, Muldoon says. Couples have a lot more flexibility for making financial decisions about pensions and 401(k) plans if they are married, she adds.
“A lot more advisors are asking me about foreign-born spouses, like Gloria and her son Manny of Modern Family. With our global world, more international couples exist now,” Muldoon says. “Advisors also are getting more questions today from single parents who want to leave money to a minor child. A minor cannot be a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, so the parent may want to set up a trust.”
Advisors need to stay abreast of these changes as nontraditional families become more common, Muldoon advises. “Fact-finding with new clients is important. The advisor will have to be comfortable asking uncomfortable questions in order to sort out the details of the modern family.”