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Clients keen to engage on estate planning

Estate planning is becoming more of a front-of-mind issue during client meetings, particularly with SMSFs, and it can be used as a powerful value-add by advisers, a superannuation executive has said.

“The conversations we have with clients in that space are occurring more and more,” Crowe Horwath superannuation and SMSF principal Kathy Evans told selfmanagedsuper.

“As accountants, we have an obligation to table those things with our clients, but if the client chooses not to talk about it and say they’ll deal with it later, that’s fine, but at least you’ve raised it.

“From a discussion point of view, estate planning is pretty much something that I bring up with our clients if it hasn’t been raised before, so it’s definitely on the agenda.

“Or I have consistent discussions where they will come back to it a bit later, so it’s definitely become a front-of-mind conversation piece.

“And I think clients are looking for that because it’s a value-add piece – raising the difficult discussions and key issues that are going to cause pain is the difference between being just a compliance person and an adviser.”

Further, Evans said clients were now more willing to engage on estate planning issues across the board.

“I don’t think I’ve had negative pushback from a client around it – they think it’s great and want to have that conversation and work together between the solicitor, the super fund accountant and maybe their tax accountant as well, and financial planner,” she said.

“Personally, I’ve learnt along the way that because you don’t know when someone is going to pass away, you realise it’s a harder conversation to have with [the surviving party] after the death of the person – it’s an emotional time and it’s difficult at the best of times.

“Whereas if you have a conversation upfront and talk about it while the husband and wife are both here and both of sound mind, they’re aware of the decisions that they’re making and we can put documentation in place that expresses what their wishes are, and making them as firm as we can depending on the type of documents that are used. Clients are very appreciative of that.”

She said it was also vital to ensure each client’s individual circumstances were considered for estate planning, as a one-size-fits-all approach was the wrong approach.

“Some people can have a very simple structure, so a simple will and estate planning will suffice, whereas others have companies and trusts and second marriages and bankruptcy issues – whatever it might be,” she said.

“The key thing is to treat each client differently and to sit down and have the conversation with them to understand what it is they want, what their circumstances are and then how can you help them to get the best outcome they can achieve and also give them peace of mind.

“I think they want to deal with [estate planning], but they just need someone to push them.”

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