Accompany a client during a separation

“Often, we see that this is where there are hitches during separations. People have a poor understanding of the law and how assets should be separated,” says Nadine Bernier.

She also recommends that de facto spouses establish a cohabitation contract to set the guidelines when everything is going well, in order to help everything go just as well during a possible separation. “We don’t want to plan a separation, but it’s important to do so. It’s like when you make your will, that’s not what makes you die. Setting up a cohabitation contract when you are not married, it will not make you separate! »


A second important thing, according to the RBC expert, is not to let the situation drag on to prevent the emotional side from setting in and taking over the discussions. “You have to try to remain really very Cartesian when you take such a step if you don’t want it to go wrong in all directions,” recommends Ms. Bernier.

“Separations of property often get out of hand because emotions come to influence decisions,” she adds.

She even suggests asking for the help of a mediator, someone who could help the client to manage the separation, especially if he is very affected.


If Nadine Bernier affirms that it is better to react quickly to settle the details of the separation, she recommends the opposite when it comes to making big financial decisions. “Following a separation, maybe it would be good to let some time pass, to let things settle. It is not good to rush to buy a property or to invest too quickly”, she assures.


If after a separation the clients have certain points to check on their side, the advisers also have several checks and calculations to do or redo.

The first thing is to understand in turn the union contract that united his two clients. This determines the division of property, but also of investments such as the RRSP.

Next, ask clients to set new financial and life goals. “Inevitably, a separation will come to change our perception of life or our goals. It will be very important to redo your life goals and financial goals. It is important to think about it before even doing the calculations,” warns Nadine Bernier.

The latter compares it to a trip. Before planning it, it is important to know where you are starting from and where you want to go, so life goals are essential. “That’s true not just in the event of separation, but all the time,” recalls the expert.

When these objectives are clear, it’s time to redo the budget. “A separation will entail additional expenses, so we will have to make short and long-term adjustments,” underlines Ms. Bernier.

Then, you have to review the balance sheet. Once separated, does our client still have a home? A mortgage? How many placements does he have left?

After that comes the revision of the legal documents, in particular the will and the possible mandate of incapacity. It must be ensured that the beneficiaries and liquidators named on these documents are still the right people. If the ex-spouse was one of the latter, perhaps the client will want to change these documents.

In the same vein, it is important to review insurance, especially life insurance. Who was the designated beneficiary of these? The amounts of protection would eventually need to be reviewed.

“Once all of this is done, we are ready to redo a financial plan aligned with the new life goals, the new reality and the client’s new balance sheet,” says Nadine Bernier.


Ms. Bernier made a point of stressing the importance of not becoming the go-to person for settling the separation. “You have to support the client, align him, but be careful not to become the person who becomes the mediator. It is not our role as advisors,” she recalls.

As an advisor, she can advise changing the beneficiary on the insurance policy, but it is important to stay within the legal barriers of her profession. “For some aspects, I can really give specific advice, but for the whole file, you have to go gently,” she tempers.


If many clients leave their adviser after a separation, this does not seem to be the case for Nadine Bernier. “I have rarely had problems keeping both clients. It does not create an issue, ”she assures.

She believes that this should always be the case. She thus compares the work of a counselor to that of a doctor. “What happens in my office is confidential. So when I had them as a couple, I had confidential information. When they separate, they become two independent clients, so confidentiality splits in two, ”she summarizes.

According to her, the clients who leave their adviser after their separation are those who were not involved from the beginning of the relationship with the adviser. “Some couples manage everything separately, so here we will manage the two separately, but if the couple manages it together, we have a great concern in our team to include both members of the couple well”, she underlines.

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