Jan 02 2024 / Round the Table Magazine
A widow’s trust and a husband’s legacy
I had been in the profession less than two years when my office inherited a book of business, and that’s when Mr. B became my client. We had never met in person, but we conversed on the phone often enough to build a rapport, and that enabled me to understand the conversations he would want me to have with his wife if the time ever came.
He was a former science teacher who left the profession to operate a retail store with Mrs. B. They had met in Nepal while he was serving in the Peace Corps. They married, moved to the U.S. and had a daughter, who was 14 years old at the time. I learned a lot about him in two short years, like how he would dress up as Captain America and visit children as part of his volunteer work with a charity that provides counseling to kids who have lost a parent.
This healthy 48-year-old with no known preexisting medical conditions contracted what seemed to be a mild illness. But he was soon admitted to the hospital and passed away in a couple of days. The funeral was the first time I saw Mrs. B. We arranged to meet three weeks later at her store for the purpose of introducing myself and to work on beneficiary paperwork. Mr. B had a $50,000 whole life insurance policy and money in a retirement account. Meeting with a woman grieving her husband’s death is already awkward enough. I also had to collect a $2,000 premium from her to renew a home insurance policy that lapsed just days before Mr. B died.
The policy was arranged with Mr. B a week before he died, so the coverage was in force, but the premium had not been paid. I had to tell Mrs. B rather directly during a phone conversation before our in-person meeting that we were under a time crunch. I needed to collect the $2,000 premium before I could give her the death benefit. My more-important mission, however, was to learn more about her relationship with her husband, her business and what her priorities were moving forward. She had never purchased any kind of insurance before, and now she was the one who would be making the decisions for her household’s finances, her business and its dozen or so employees, and her daughter’s future. I understood that a certain amount of education was required from me to connect with her. The way I saw it, she needed things taken off her plate rather than having more emotional decisions added to it.
I prepared everything beforehand and allowed plenty of time for our next meeting. As a former physics teacher, one transferable skill that helped me as an advisor was my ability to break a complicated subject into digestible chunks. For the home insurance piece, it was as simple as saying, “You need home insurance. Let’s get this step done and move it off your plate.” She understood that she needed that protection.
We went over the revenue she and her husband brought in to make sure she would have enough of a benefit to replace that revenue for her employees and daughter. I asked her, with her husband gone, if something happened to her, what would happen to her daughter? She understood the need, and we settled on a $1 million, 20-year term life insurance policy. But her family members, still in town for the funeral, were advising her to be wary. They worried I may be preying on her. Her brother-in-law even attended one of our meetings to get a read on me, and I told him what I was recommending and why. Her family was not unpleasant; they were just being protective, and I could understand their concern. They thought I was pushing her to a decision while she was vulnerable, but for her sake, my role was to not wait a year or more until she’s not vulnerable. She needed this coverage now.
Mrs. B told me later that the reason she moved forward, despite her family’s advice, was because she trusted me. She felt that I was looking out for her best interests. We issued her life insurance policy two months after her husband passed and a year later sorted out her auto insurance and her husband’s retirement account investments. Today, her business is thriving. She became a U.S. citizen, and her daughter is in college. I see Mrs. B a couple of times a year at her store where she hosts events to celebrate her husband’s legacy. Last year, she and her daughter went to England to attend a Genesis concert, Mr. B’s favorite band. I consider her a friend now, and she thanks me for helping her get through that time by taking a lot of things that were unknown and stressful off her plate so she could have room to grieve and focus on her store.
Mr. B’s charitable legacy also has allowed me to make an impact on the people and organizations that were important to him. Shortly after he died, my company introduced a new rider for all our insurance policies at no extra charge that adds an extra 1% to the death benefit for charitable giving. When I talk to clients about that rider, I’m able to refer them to the charity Mr. B was active in and other local organizations.
Alex Smith is a three-year MDRT member from East Greenwich, Rhode Island, USA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.