What is a ‘cornerstone contact’ and why do you need one?
March 17, 2015

In last month’s newsletter, we suggested that you consider your accountant as the cornerstone contact for your estate planning. This was surprising for some, as estate planning is a service that is almost universally considered the exclusive domain of your solicitor.

While your solicitor certainly has an important role to play, estate planning is complex as it often involves a broad cross section of financial matters involving a number of different professionals, and the risk of getting it wrong at the end of someone’s life is simply not on.

Uncoordinated input from bankers, financial advisers, risk advisors and solicitors can unknowingly create inconsistencies that can be difficult, and sometimes, impossible to resolve once your estate is being executed. It makes sense for your accountant to be closely involved to ensure your wishes for your estate and your beneficiaries are accurately documented and any financial and tax ramifications identified and addressed.

There are many important reasons why business owners, professionals and individual with high income and high net worth should choose to involve a cornerstone contact to coordinate their estate planning including:

  • You don’t have time to manage your own personal insurances, finance, asset protection or taxation structures
  • Underlying concepts are complex and require a deep understanding that is responsive to continual changes in the legislative and economic climate
  • You need to have a comfortable understanding of often specialised and isolated disciplines of law, asset protection structures, banking, financial planning and superannuation. And, most importantly, the ability to reconcile all these viewpoints
  • Legal practitioners often work on “instruction” meaning they will produce documents based on what you tell then rather than guiding you through your needs to meet your desired outcome
  • Oversight for the tax implications, which are often only visible when your overall financial position is viewed as a whole
  • Your ongoing relationship with your accountant means that when your circumstances change, they are well placed to consider the impact on the estate plan immediately and co-ordinate changes to reflect the changes

Your cornerstone contact should be an experienced and highly qualified professional whose advice you trust; someone who intimately understands your financial position and understands your values; and who has a sound appreciation and understanding of your short, medium and long-term financial goals for the legacy you leave behind. Naturally, your ideal cornerstone contact has a proven ability for integrating comprehensive financial matters by coordinating input across various professional disciplines.

The appointment of a cornerstone contact, for a broad range of projects not just estate planning, does not restrict your choice of specific professionals. The cornerstone contact works with those professionals you respect and trust however co-ordinates the process to ensure they are all working to achieve your goals.

Due to the nature of our work, as your accountant, we have strong insights into various professional disciplines, and we are familiar with seamlessly reconciling differences that focus on solutions that have your best interests at heart. And of course, we alone, have a deep understanding of taxation, to best represent you and coordinate on your behalf with your solicitor, risk adviser, banker and others, to implement a truly integrated and seamless estate plan.