Advisers and accountants, the hidden gems

14 Apr 2021

Meg Heffron

Managing Director

It seems adviser-bashing remains a popular pastime for politicians, regulators, other professions and sometimes even advisers themselves.

Yep – there are advisers who are dishonest or incompetent or both. There are also accountants who should not be doing SMSF work and auditors who should have seen the writing on the wall years ago and run for the hills.

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But the vast majority of professionals I see do a great job and are indispensable to their clients.

I recently watched first hand how one of the great advisers I know helped a young(ish) client unexpectedly widowed.

First the obvious – there was some excellent advice. Start a death benefit pension but wait until 1 July to get the value of indexation of the transfer balance cap. Maximise non-concessional contributions because that opportunity will go away once death benefit pensions (including life insurance payouts) become part of her total superannuation balance. Adjust the investment mix to allow for the fact that the SMSF will need to make pension payments in the future. Take some important steps now with final leave balance payouts from work to maximise the opportunities created by the testamentary trust. Take advantage of some unexpected sources of capital – the salary continuance policy includes a small death benefit, 5 years working for a Big 4 accounting firm in the UK over 30 years ago results in both a widow’s pension and a death benefit.

But the less obvious help was also fascinating to see. If you’ve ever helped a client through this situation you will know that a lot of administration comes with death. It’s difficult to quantify the value of turning up to meet an adviser and being greeted by a 20cm high stack of paperwork that has already been completed. Think about that for a moment. Not having to write the deceased’s name, date of birth, address, date of death on dozens of forms. Not having to navigate websites to find the right form. Not even having to scan and email or post. To the adviser, this is just filling in another form – something you do every day of the week. To the widow it’s something much more – way too many instructions to read, unfamiliar terms and it’s also very final.

And then there’s the practical help like knowing that while probate is technically not required, it might be necessary to set up accounts in the name of the estate or convince some authorities to transfer assets to the right place. Or knowing there are such things as “foreign currency accounts” that can receive UK deposits without changing them to Australian dollars – invaluable if the children plan to spend a lot of time (and probably mum’s money) in the UK as soon as Covid restrictions ease. Even reminders about changing the directors of entities such as corporate trustees of family trusts and SMSFs all help to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Advisers and accountants – you should celebrate this. 

It’s a huge benefit you provide to your clients. You probably undervalue it because it’s second nature to you. To your clients not part of your world it can be sanity-saving. And I bet it’s the “norm”. Many of the advisers and accountants we work with help clients through all manner of challenging life events. While it’s often easy to see the great advice that comes at these times, the simple things can also be incredibly powerful. Don’t hide your great work – use case studies like these to make sure potential clients really understand how much you’re there for them.

My one tip having watched this run its course now: when she gets teary, provide water not tissues.

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