What Will Happen to Your Clients When You Retire?

March 16, 2017 — 6:00 AM EDT

For some, retirement is the ultimate gift for a lifetime of hard work. A chance to relax, travel, pursue hobbies and interests, sleep in each morning. For others, not so much. Work is their passion and without it they worry about boredom or, perhaps worse, irrelevance.

For some industries retirement only really affects the individual employee and the organization for which they work. For professionals overseeing a roster of clients who’ve come to depend on their expertise - accountants, attorneys, doctors, financial advisors - retirement isn’t just about stepping away. It’s about making sure the people you’ve cared for all those years aren’t left in the lurch.

According to a story in The New York Times citing a Cerulli Associates study, 43% of advisors are over 55 (average age: 51). A different study from Oechsli Institute cited by The Times found that 23% were under 40, which they surmised created “a dearth of people who are working if you retire today who will still be working 30 years from now.”

Every adult is expected to have an estate plan in place to ensure continuity of life for their family and loved ones. Assets are transferred, bills are paid, services no longer required are eliminated.

Business Continuity Plans

Business continuity plans are second nature to professionals, making sure that in the event of a change - death, sale, retirement - there’s a plan in place to make sure customers and clients are properly handled. While this might be a no-brainer for you, do your clients have any idea what would happen? Would they be handed off to another associate with their primary professional overseeing the transition? Will they have a choice among who handles their account going forward? Will the clients be forced to fend for themselves and find someone new, cursing the day they ever trusted you with their money?

If a person is happy or comfortable in a relationship, they don’t want it to change. But life often gets in the way. The best way to handle these transitions is to make sure the people affected know well in advance. (For more, see: FAs Should Factor Clients into Succession Plans.)

The Conversation: Who Should Initiate It?

It’s natural for people to choose to avoid talking about things like death or medical wishes. It can be emotional and depressing. It reminds loved ones that there’s going to be a time when you won’t be around and is easy to brush off as “something we can talk about later.”

It can also be a major point of contention when a family is faced with a crisis and has no idea what to do:

Child: “We never had the conversation about any of this.”

Parent: “You never asked...”

Child: “I shouldn’t have to!”

Apologies for turning this article into a mini soap opera. But the same way it’s easy to avoid a conversation about death with parents or children, it’s easy to do the same when a client is worried about the end of a professional relationship. (For more, see: Tips for Advisors Who Retire & Sell Their Practice.)

This article originally appeared on Everplans.