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Caring For Generations

Estate Planning Attorney Advises What and What Not to Say to Grievers

by | Dec 14, 2022 | advisors, estate and tax planning, Estate Planning

“Saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ just doesn’t cut it,” Jacqueline Sergeant advises financial planners when they are trying to offer comfort to a grieving client. The important thing to do is bring your “E-game”, namely empathy, she says. However, what that does not mean, Sergeant says, is “putting yourself in other people’s shoes”. – those simply don’t fit you. Connecting with the emotion, not the situation, is the secret, she says.

DO NOT SAY statements, according to Sergeant, begin with “at least” (“At least he’s no longer suffering”….), and “You should…” (“You should really get back out there…”).

Good model statements, Sergeant suggests, might be on the line of “Your husband John will be missed by all of us. I always admired his commitment to his children.”

Andrea Howe of the Get Real Project adds some “don’ts” to the list:

DON’T say nothing. If you can’t think of anything to say, it’s OK to admit “I’m at a loss for what to say”.
DON’T ask “How are you?” (How do you think they are?)

“Dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one can be overwhelming, to say the least. Not only do we have to mentally process the loss of someone close to us, but many times while we are still mourning, we need to figure out how to take over the management of their financial affairs,” Bala Law Group reminds us.

At Geyer Law, we know only too well how challenging it can be for heirs to cope with their own grief and, at the same time, take on the responsibility of settling a departed loved one’s affairs. In the midst of coping with unimaginable grief, heirs responsible for estate administration must take on the tasks of gathering property, distributing the deceased’s assets and paying any remaining debts.

For that very reason, the big DON’T rule at our law firm is “DON’T say nothing”. Although, even at an estate planning consultation, clients do not like contemplating either their own deaths or that of family members, we DO say something, because our goal is to help our clients avoid mistakes and make settling a loved one’s estate as smooth and efficient as possible.

– by Rebecca W. Geyer