True estate planning story: A new client facing death, without an estate plan

For Mariner Wealth Advisors paraplanner Gillian Cassidy and team, estate planning is always part of the conversation with a new client. In their onboarding process, the Mariner Wealth Advisors team inquires about existing estate plans and any life changes that may have happened since their estate documents were drawn up. They upload existing docs into Vanilla and walk through where it stands as well as potential opportunities to improve the strategy with the client. 

So, when a new couple came to Gillian and team, they naturally asked about their current estate plan. What they found surprised and saddened them. 

Gillian explains, “I had a couple come on board with my team late last year. The husband was very sick and both knew he didn’t have much time left. As soon as we got them onboarded, the first thing we asked about was their estate planning strategy. They didn’t have any documents in place! We were shocked, but with our help we introduced them to an estate attorney that we have a close relationship with (no commissions are given to us for referrals, we have just had really great experiences with them).” 

Visualizing the estate plan with Vanilla

“That attorney expedited their drafts,” said Gillian, sent them to us and we uploaded them to Vanilla so we could show them in ‘plain english’ what the documents said and how their assets were going to be distributed. They were so thankful for the reports because it made them comfortable knowing exactly how everything was set up, and we got their documents established only a few months before the husband unfortunately passed.”

Gillian points out that the couple was not initially coming to them for estate planning. So, had they not actively enquired about it, the situation could have gone very differently. It’s a good reminder that estate planning needs to be considered a pillar of holistic financial planning rather than an afterthought. She emphasizes that in terms of walking clients through the complexities of estate planning, “Vanilla was a game changer. With the charts and graphs, it’s easier to see how things are set up.”

Tell us your estate planning story

Help us learn from your experience. Tell us your notable estate story – and what you learned. Email daniel.brockley (at)

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