Why accountants should be at the center of the estate planning process
As an accountant, you help your clients set up corporations, trusts and self-directed super funds. You make sure they don’t pay more tax than they legally need to – and you know their business and personal finances inside out. Yet when it comes to estate planning and asset protection, you’re likely entrusting it to a lawyer who might understand far less about tax, pensions, and other critical considerations.
Some accountants do this automatically thinking they have no choice. This is not the case. And that means you have a significant opportunity to grow your business by supporting your customers with a service that you are well qualified to provide.
Your clients need to know why estate planning is so important
Many people believe that a will and estate planning are the same thing. It is true that the will is the main part of the plan, but estate planning goes further by ensuring that your clients’ estate will be distributed as they wish without being burdened with unnecessary costs and taxes.
The will determines the distribution of what are called patrimonial assets. These include property, money and stocks as well as personal items such as jewelry. Non-estate assets such as pensions, insurance payments, and business assets can be included in the will, but must be stipulated. Different corporate structures also affect how assets should be treated. It’s easy to see how this complexity could make your contribution invaluable.
An estate plan also includes a continuing power of attorney. This gives someone chosen by a client the right to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf. Then there is asset protection. This is the most likely element to be overlooked. Without it, unforeseen events or third-party claims could reduce or even destroy your client’s accumulated wealth.
Specify how much is at stake
Anyone with assets to distribute should have an estate plan.
Some of your customers may not think they are wealthy enough to justify the cost. However, many people are richer than they think.
Take, for example, a couple with $500,000 of equity in their home. If they both have $1 million in life insurance and $100,000 in super, which isn’t unusual, their assets would total nearly $3 million.
Rising land values are also making many more people wealthy through inheritance. Research suggests that the children of baby boomers will receive a massive $3.5 trillion over the next 15 years. The fact that so much money changes hands should give you more incentive to include estate planning in the range of services you offer.
Of course, estate planning is just as important for accountants and their families. If you don’t have a plan in place yet, going through the process will not only give you and your family peace of mind, but you’ll also have a better understanding when discussing the matter with your clients.
Collaborate with a lawyer to provide a complete service
Many lawyers agree that accountants are better equipped to handle much of the estate management process. However, as you are not authorized to provide legal advice, you will need the advice of a lawyer. Collaboration can work well for both parties, leaving lawyers free to focus on their areas of expertise while strengthening your value proposition. Adding a second expert to your team will underscore your professionalism and commitment to client service, and your clients will also appreciate the convenience of having you handle the entire process on their behalf.
Make estate planning a natural part of the conversation
Some accountants find that a discussion of estate planning flows smoothly and logically from advice on fundamentals such as investments, pensions and insurance. Others have found that their customers are more engaged when they use the topic to open the conversation. Either way, it’s worth reminding your clients how hard they work to amass wealth and assets. You can then show how, without a solid plan, these could easily end up in the wrong hands.
The fees you charge for estate planning may seem steep at first, but once your clients see for themselves how much they’re worth and how much is at stake, they’ll also see the value of the service you can provide.
How to get started with estate planning in your business
To learn more about how to get started with estate planning in your business, download your guide, Boost estate planning in your practice.
With ChangeGPS’s estate planning resources, you’ll be able to provide these services to your clients with confidence. To learn more about our marketing materials, training resources and systems to help you get started in your business, book in consultation with our team.