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Estate Planning - what does your accountant have to do with it?

May 5, 2015

Plenty – that’s what!

When most people think of estate planning they think of a trip to their solicitor. However, there is so much more to estate planning than simply writing a Will. The fact that you need a Will in the first place is all about your money and assets and how you wish to share them among your beneficiaries and how to preserve them in terms of tax that might be payable.

It therefore stands to reason your accountant should be closely involved along with a number of other professionals including your solicitor, financial planner, personal insurer and bank to ensure your estate plan not only reflects your wishes but it seamlessly integrates every facet of your affairs – personal, financial and legal…

Cornerstone contact

The solution is to appoint your accountant as your ‘cornerstone contact’, a coordinator who provides oversight so that your affairs are addressed in terms of the big picture. An uncoordinated approach could mean that each professional working in isolation inadvertently creates conflicts which can be difficult to resolve at the time of your death. Matters that could have otherwise have been resolved when viewed in context of other factors.

Complexities of estate planning

It’s true that a Will is an essential part of estate planning. But Wills can miss important details such as appointment of power of attorney or guardianship and arrangements for assets in structures. And this can have serious consequences for how your estate is handled when you die, especially where the input of different professionals is not coordinated.

Powers of attorney / guardianship

Powers of attorney or guardianship are legal documents that define who makes your financial, legal or medical decisions if you cannot make them for yourself. Many people believe that their decision-making automatically passes to their spouse, but this is not the case. Having a power of attorney/guardianship protects your interests because you select the person you want to make the decisions on your behalf.

Assets in structures

Estate planning is particularly important if you hold assets in structures, such as companies, family trusts or SMSFs. Step one is to confirm that you do actually control such assets; and step two, is to ensure that control is passed to the beneficiaries of your choosing when you die. If your explicit wishes for assets in structures are not legally specified, their control may be left to the discretion of trustees and directors.

Check that your estate planning strategy includes appointing your accountant as your cornerstone contact. Capable of effective and high-level communication with a range of professionals, your accountant will coordinate and oversee all input, resulting in your peace of mind both now and into the future. 


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