Wikipedia defines estate planning as the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person's life, for the management and disposal of that person's estate during the person's life and at and after death, while minimising gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and income tax.

Estate planning: a unique opportunity

Estate planning includes planning for incapacity as well as a process of reducing or eliminating uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximising the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. 

The harsh reality is that there is no person alive today who will not die at some point in the future. This means that having to deal with a person’s estate is not only a possible event, it is inevitable.

From an accountant’s perspective, this means they have a professional responsibility (legal, ethical and emotional) to ensure that their clients are prepared for this stage in life’s cycle.

Unfortunately, in most cases clients (even those with legal and current documents in place) and their advisers are not prepared for death.

As a technical area of advice, estate planning can be very complex and time consuming. In addition, it involves skills across a broad range of advisers. These issues alone mean that there is a lack of coordination, work is done inefficiently, different advisers are working with different silos of information and costs for doing the work become prohibitive.

Adding further complication is the fact that people are often uncomfortable addressing their mortality, they are deterred by the costs and constantly procrastinate rather than dealing with the issues.

The end result is that most clients don’t get the advice and direction they need, their affairs remain out of control and advice businesses fail to benefit from the legitimate commercial opportunity estate planning offers.

Estate planning is a unique area of advice that naturally intersects all relationships associated with a person. It therefore presents a high value opportunity for advice businesses to position themselves as the ‘Family & Business Manager’ for clients. This is the most valuable role that can be undertaken with a client and means the advice business is engaged with the client at the strategic/management level.

There are four key steps to achieving recurring client engagement in the estate planning process:

  1. Extract your client’s family tree with a few ‘hot button’ concerns. Your clients will normally care about their family more than anything else and building a quick family tree allows them to clearly see the bigger picture. You may find some raw emotions come out at this point, but this just reinforces the value of the conversation you are having. Ask simple, emotional and honest questions about the state of family relationships to extract key fears or concerns.

  2. Demonstrate the solution. Providing your client with examples of how a comprehensive estate plan can provide protection is generally all that is required to achieve engagement. Appeal to the client’s desire to be in control of their lives (both now and to have a back-up plan should something go wrong in the future).

  3. Develop an estate planning solution which includes all important information and decisions, as well as a clear crisis management checklist. Review this plan with your client’s immediate family.

  4. Review the plan annually and create a whole new estate planning business that drives high value and annualised revenue.

By following this process and utilising one of the best solutions I have seen, the MYP Estate Planning for Life App, your clients will engage with you on an emotional, practical and commercial level rather than feeling overwhelmed by technical information. Visit www.mypcorp.com for more information.

Finally, don’t forget to save the date for the Smithink Business Advisory Conference on 15 of February 2018 at the Sofitel Hotel Broadbeach. Next years event will partner with the MYP Conference on 16 February, 2018. Two great events under the one roof!

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Mark Holton Smithink