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“Yeah, I Know I Need to Work On My Estate Plan, But……”

As CPAs, we assist our clients with many aspects of their financial life, such as tax matters, acquiring and disposing of assets, how their investments are structured, and more. Therefore, we often assist clients with their estate planning, from the initial planning, to periodic updates, and the implementation of the plan, as well as assisting executors and trustees when needed.

We sometimes find clients are reluctant to deal with their plans because they don’t want to think about their ultimate demise. I’m reminded of the client I worked closely with for many years who, when I mentioned estate planning, said “You don’t think I’m going to die, do you?” That worked for him for a number of years, but ultimately caught up to him. Fortunately, he did have a plan in place when he passed.

We often hear, “Yeah, I know I need to work on my estate plan…..but I have no idea who to name as my executor/trustee…..” While this is an important decision, do not let this decision stall the process.

Determining whom to appoint as an executor or trustee can be one of the most difficult decisions our clients have to make as they work with their estate plan. It is often easy to decide who is to benefit, but deciding who is going to administer an estate or trust presents a problem.

Many clients are under the impression that their executor or trustee has to be an individual or institution who frequently serves in that role, such as an attorney, a bank trust department, a CPA, or some other businessperson who is familiar with the role of serving as a fiduciary. While this can be the case, it is not a requirement. Many clients have close relatives or a close friend with whom they’d have great comfort asking them to serve in a fiduciary capacity, except the person they have in mind has never served in that capacity before. Because of that, they automatically dismiss the thought of that person serving as a fiduciary. But, do not discount a potential individual only because they’ve never served in this role before.

A case where someone has a close relative or friend who could serve as their fiduciary, but who doesn’t have the expertise, is where your professional advisors can step in and assist. The trusted family member or friend does not have to have the knowledge; they just have to know where to turn for assistance. The key is to surround your fiduciary with a team of advisors to guide them through the process.

We have had many, many cases through the years where we’ve worked with a client during their lifetime and then, after they’ve passed, we’ve continued to work with their named fiduciary to assist in administering an estate or trust. We’ll often work alongside the client’s attorney, investment advisor, and other advisors in administering the estate or trust. It’s often the same team of advisors assisting the fiduciary, which assisted the client who passed away or established the trust.

As you work with establishing or updating your estate plan, please remember that the members of YHB’s Family Legacy Services Team have significant experience in assisting both clients and their fiduciaries with their tax and accounting needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like more information or want to discuss this further.


About the Author

Gregory Crawford, CPA, CVA, has been delivering accounting and advisory services that exceed client expectations for more than 30 years. He joined Yount, Hyde & Barbour in 1986 and has had significant experience in business valuation, litigation support, and tax and estate planning, with a focus on family business owners. Greg currently oversees YHB’s Tax Quality Control Committee as well as the Business Valuation Team.