A CPA is uniquely suited to participate in estate planning and administration. CPA services can be extremely valuable in minimizing the wealth transfer tax burden and wealth administration tasks of future generations. Your CPA is often in touch with you at many times of the year, while an attorney may only be hired on a short term project basis. It is important to discuss your legacy plans with your CPA in order to provide security for your family. Here are ways we can help:
Your accountant, who often prepares accountings and tax returns for the trust, has the long-term relationship with you and your family, as well as a strong business and quantitative background, and is often the logical choice to serve as Trustee of such a trust.
Life Insurance Needs
Your accountant is aware of your lifestyle and savings practices, and may be uniquely suited to understand your life insurance. We consider (1) the cash flow drop which a death will bring as a result of lost income of a deceased spouse, and (2) the liquidity needs to pay estate tax. Often a business can only survive the death of a major shareholder/employee with careful advance planning. The accountant, who regularly observes and advises the principals of a family business, can evaluate the client’s needs for buy-sell or redemption arrangements (another instance where life insurance may be appropriate) and participate in the creation of business continuation contingency plans.
The estate tax returns of a decedent require significant information about the decedent’s assets, and it is most likely that the decedent’s CPA has the majority of this information in his files. Estate tax returns require the reporting of fair market value information for all of the decedent’s assets, and often the accountant is the best source of information which an independent appraiser will require to make his evaluations. Further, many estate plans require allocation of assets among several trusts which have different distribution schemes and different future estate tax characteristics, and the CPA’s understanding of the client’s asset mix, as well as the appreciation potential of particular assets, can be invaluable in this allocation/selection process. In many states, the probate process, if unavoidable, may be an involved proceeding, often requiring court-approved accountings for estates, and sometimes trusts, and the obvious choice for the preparation of such accountings is the family CPA.