November 4, 2015

Earlier this year I suggested that your accountant is well-positioned to play the role of ‘cornerstone contact’ or central coordinator in your estate planning.

The high level of interest from our readers has been the catalyst for me to create a five-part series of articles on estate planning that explore matters including: superannuation, CGT, mitigating liabilities, asset protection and testamentary trusts.

Here, in the first article of the series I outline the first, and often most difficult step in the estate planning process – obtaining family alignment.

As discussions go, estate planning is amongst the most avoided. For many people, the thought of talking about someone close to them passing away is untenable. It is a highly emotive matter that is accentuated by a fear of causing offence or family discontent. Nevertheless, this is an essential discussion for every family that involves understanding that the plan extends further than just ‘who gets what’ from the will. The repercussions of death and incapacity need to be understood and a clear direction for control and decision making needs to be agreed upon.

On completion of their estate plan, our clients express feelings of relief and a deep sense of comfort. Knowing that loose ends are tied, obligations will be met and those they care about have been well considered and accounted for, is important. Our clients’ families, in turn, are grateful that plans have been put in place that will alleviate the burden of handling complicated legal and financial matters during a time of grief. Further, all parties are reassured by the involvement of an independent party whom they can turn to when the plan requires review, explanation or execution.

Without planning, the wealth and financial security you have developed over a lifetime can be put at risk. While well-intentioned, without a clear plan, those who must manage your estate on your behalf will be pulled in different directions.

From the outset of any discussion, family members need to know that estate planning will be approached sensitively, openly and thoroughly. This is where your accountant is invaluable as a professional and a confidante who has developed a personal relationship with you over many years. Empathetic, considered and impartial, your accountant is therefore well-placed to guide your estate planning decision-making and to inform you and your family of the options at every stage.

In our experience, even for the most complex of circumstances, the first step is to begin a discussion that starts with just two considerations:

  1. what you have – your assets and liabilities etc.
  2. what you want – your intentions around control, decision making, and asset allocation

Once these two fundamentals are established, we can develop a fully-integrated and carefully considered estate plan that will bridge the two.

The next article in the series considers the role of your superannuation in estate planning.

To find out more about how BrentnallsNSW can advise and help with all aspects of your estate planning, please contact us.