The news was not good: Greg Plechner, a CFP in New Jersey, learned from an accountant earlier this year that a mutual client had only three months to live. Before this revelation, Plechner had known that the client, a doctor, had inoperable cancer, but he was unaware of the gravity of his situation because the client and his spouse had been guarded about the details.

Many financial planners routinely tell their clients to prepare to live into their nineties, but clients diagnosed with a fatal illness represent a whole other extreme. Getting full disclosure about fatal medical conditions is often difficult, according to Plechner and other planners who have faced such circumstances.

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