Gregg George, J.D., LL.M., managing director and senior client advisor at Crescent Grove Advisors, works closely with C-suite executives, entrepreneurs and other first-generation wealth stewards to coordinate all aspects of their financial lives.

Russ Alan Prince: Crescent Grove Advisors holds an annual internal firm-wide training session on how to approach end-of-life scenarios with clients. Why do you feel this is necessary?

Gregg George: Although it may sound dark, our annual internal end-of-life training session is a necessary part of our practice and has a big impact on how we approach and help our aging clients and their families. While all of our clients primarily seek our guidance on investments and retirement planning, many look for thoughtful end-of-life planning. In these cases, we sometimes initiate discussions on these sensitive topics that need to be addressed. On occasion, this may include informing family members when we observe signs of mental or physical decline in their loved ones.

As clients age, we engage in conversations with them and their families about end-of-life care, estate planning and transfer of assets to heirs. In instances of cognitive decline among elderly clients, we often play a role in making financial decisions on their behalf and ensuring their best interests are being served.  

Our training sessions help our advisors understand the high level of sensitivity and empathy required to navigate end-of-life issues and death with clients and their families. We walk our advisors through everything that needs to be done to handle these delicate conversations with utmost care and compassion. Pre-death planning—including estate planning, healthcare directives, and beneficiary designations—often involves very complex legal and regulatory considerations, and we want each of our advisors to possess the necessary understanding of relevant laws and regulations while maintaining a pragmatic approach.

We also ensure that our advisors know the steps to take when a client dies, so there is no question about what they must do to ensure the client’s final wishes are carried out and the family feels supported.

Prince: What are the top concerns and challenges that aging clients face?

George: As our clients age, we are seeing them become more proactive in preparing for end-of-life scenarios, driven by their desire to ensure that their passing doesn’t burden their children. In response, we prioritize the creation of comprehensive estate plans that not only address asset distribution but also minimize tax implications, safeguarding our clients’ legacies and honoring their wishes. As part of this, we also recognize the importance of navigating complex family dynamics, such as blended families or dependents with special needs, and plan accordingly for those potential scenarios.

Furthermore, we understand that each client’s concerns are unique, necessitating tailored solutions. For example, some may have familial Alzheimer’s concerns, prompting preparations for potential cognitive decline, while others facing health challenges like a cancer diagnosis are focused on managing treatment and associated costs.

As advisors, we remain steadfast in our commitment to providing personalized guidance and support that empower our clients and their families to navigate this life transition with confidence and peace of mind.

Prince: What role does the advisor have to play in supporting clients who are aging?

George: At Crescent Grove Advisors, our commitment to our clients goes beyond just financial transactions. We are a source of consistent support, wisdom and advocacy for our clients, and that remains a constant regardless of their present phase of life. Importantly, in our unique position, we do have a duty to alert clients’ spouses or children if we observe signs of declining cognitive or physical ability. While these loved ones might already be aware, family members often fail to fully understand just how serious the situation is, given how close they are to the person. Once this conversation happens, it sets in motion certain actions that need to be taken to ensure the physical and financial welfare of the client.

Advisors who have formed a trusting relationship with clients over many years are not only providing a safe setting where clients feel comfortable discussing their concerns about getting older but are also creating that level of trust where clients know that their wishes are followed. Additionally, due to our longstanding relationships with our clients and their families, we sometimes have become a neutral intermediary for communicating with—and bringing together—family members.

Prince: What does the role of the advisor become when a client passes away?

George: Initially, our role upon a client's passing is to offer support to their spouse and broader family. Appropriately, we want to allow them space for the grieving process to unfold naturally. Subsequently, at an appropriate time, we step in to ensure the extensive amount of complex wealth issues created by death are addressed properly.

Apart from addressing financial matters, we also serve as a comprehensive resource for the family, guiding them through various essential tasks they might overlook. We remain transparent with beneficiaries throughout the entire process.

Russ Alan Prince is a strategist for family offices and the ultra-wealthy. He has co-authored 70 books in the field, including Making Smart Decisions: How Ultra-Wealthy Families Get Superior Wealth Planning Results.