As you begin the work of estate planning, some of your biggest resources will be a team of qualified professionals. While this should certainly include an attorney, it should also include a certified public accountant (CPA). What can an accountant do for you during each stage of your estate planning process? Here are a few key things.
Before Estate Planning
Before you actually draft a plan for your assets, you'll need to do some preparatory work. You may, for instance, need to identify all your financial assets and debts, some of which you may not even remember or know how to access. It may also be smart to simplify your finances to make the estate plan cleaner and the executor's job easier.
Some people may also need help valuing some assets. If you own a closely-held business or intangible assets (like a copyright), obtaining an accurate valuation of this asset can be done using several methods. Your CPA will help you choose a method, find a valuation expert, and prepare the business.
During Estate Planning
Accountants can help in two primary areas during planning. First, they understand the tax implications of a variety of moves with your assets and obligations. For instance, if you leave retirement accounts to heirs, they may have to withdraw these and pay taxes within a decade. In addition, the personal tax rates of each heir may be different, resulting in a different net amount actually received by each.
Second, a CPA can help you ensure that your asset distribution meets your goals. They may provide future projections of the appreciation on assets like stock market portfolios or real estate. Your estate, over time, may look much different than it does today, and you need to know what your heirs can expect in 5, 10, 20 years or more.
After Estate Planning
Your accountant can even help after your plan is completed. They may be a good resource for your chosen executor. When you work with an accountant during the planning process, they already know what your estate entails, specific challenges that will be faced by heirs, and what are your intentions or goals for the estate. They can advise the executor and help them manage it.
You may also want to name the accountant as your executor. Accountants provide professional executor services and are more familiar with the estate management process. They also serve as an impartial party who isn't subject to family drama or the emotions of having lost a loved one.
Where to Start
Want to know more about how a public accountant can help you throughout the estate planning process? Start by meeting with an experienced CPA in your state today.