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How to Help Clients Manage Their Critical Documents

By Thomas Coyle August 15, 2017

Digital storage for clients’ important documents has been a background element of wealth management practice since the early 2000s. But it’s coming to the fore now, as advisors link such repositories to service models geared to help busy clients rationalize their financial lives.

In fact, online document storage “is the first thing we talk about with clients,” says Kristine Boelte, a financial planner in Clarksville, Va.

With most of her customers in their mid to late sixties, Boelte’s client relationships tend to be for keeps. “The reality of my work is that I take people I dearly love to the grave,” she says.

With death a big part of the equation, Boelte says her clients like to know their family members — spouses and children especially — will “know where everything is” and “in a time of deep trauma, have the time they need to grieve” instead of racing around looking for paperwork “to keep bills paid and the lights on.”

Boelte, who runs Kristine A. Boelte and Associates, a standalone RIA and affiliated brokerage practice, gives her clients access to Everplans’ online storage technology to secure everything from wills, account numbers and property titles to social media logins and old family recipes.

Without such storage Boelte, who charges clients hourly or on a per-plan basis, says it’s “incredible how often meaningful assets never turn up” after the owner dies — frequently, for not having told anyone where they’re tucked away.

Boelte says clients are extremely – and often vocally – grateful to her for instilling peace of mind around personal information storage.

By making transparency and security around financial and estate information a cornerstone of wealth management, Boelte says she’s able to “deepen relationships in ways I can’t put into words.”

However ephemeral it may get, it’s never a marketing gimmick, says Boelte — and she cautions advisors against trying to make it one.

“The approach has to be authentic,” Boelte says. “Clients are smart, and if they get a whiff of insincerity, they’re gone.”

In a reference to Everplans, Boelte adds: “Even if I don’t get the business, I’ll tell prospects, ‘Here, use this anyway.’ That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Eric Roberge

Everplans started out as a consumer education resource for end-of-life planning. Its website still features updated information on — and, initially as an offshoot, online storage for — wills, funeral information, healthcare directives and the like.

But soon, without losing its educational roots, Everplans became more of a direct-to-consumer document storage business. This in turn spawned an institutional business that caters to financial advisors and other professionals, mainly as a pass-on to their clients.

Everplans’ individual-user version costs $75 a year. Its institutional version is “typically $3,500 a year, with these users free to bring on as many of their clients as they like,” says company’s co-founder and co-CEO Abby Schneiderman.

Five-year-old Everplans, a privately owned company based in New York, won’t say how many storage users it has in all. But it has “hundreds and hundreds” of advisor-linked users — which accounts for the “lion’s share of the business,” according to Schneiderman.

FA Eric Roberge of Beyond Your Hammock offers his clients digital storage through Fidelity Investments-owned eMoney – his financial planning application of choice.

Clients of Boston-based Beyond Your Hammock get access to eMoney’s Vault for virtual document storage as part of the personal website every client gets to help them keep track of their overall financial lives.

“It gives them peace of mind,” says Roberge. “The more organized we can make their physical finances the more organized their planning will be.”

But assembling the necessary strands of information for online storage isn’t pain-free for clients. Think of the work required to gather just your monthly bill-payment information.

“It definitely calls for some legwork because we can’t get to a lot of this information without their help,” says Roberge, who charges clients a monthly retainer. “But it’s always the case that the best clients are the ones that are motivated.”