Estate Planning Tips for CPAs

Challenge: Shifting From Estate Tax Planning to Estate Planning

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) has changed the complexion of estate planning for CPAs and how they provide services in this area. So how do CPAs offer clients value in estate planning if it’s not tax planning related?

Solution: Start with your client’s tax returns.

When I meet with a client for the first time, the most important documents I examine are their last two years of tax returns. As I review them, I mentally go through The Checklist for Using the Tax Return to Identify Personal Financial Planning Opportunities. I am then able to identify and analyze the key financial and estate planning issues. Imagine, using a tax return to help clients in the areas that matter most to them—financial and estate planning!

Next, I’ll refer to The CPA’s Guide to Financial and Estate Planning to review the opportunities available for the identified issues and to find any additional resources for the subject area. The Guide is an excellent book, which provides valuable, relevant information, tools, planning opportunities and additional resources on each of the estate planning topics. It also includes the Checklist I mentioned above.

Result: An Updated Roadmap for Estate Planning

The Guide, written by Sidney Kess and Steven Siegel, two well-noted experts in this field, is a complete compilation of financial and estate planning concepts and strategies for the CPA. Volumes 1 and 2 of the 2013 edition have just been released and updated for the ATRA provisions. The Guide and its additional resources provide me with the confidence of knowing I am serving my clients with excellence and have considered all the estate planning opportunities available.

Editor’s Note: Susan Tillery, CPA, PFS, CFP, is president and co-founder of Paraklete® Financial, Inc. She has over 28 years of experience in tax, philanthropy, and financial planning, as well as in the administrative and compliance areas encountered by affluent individuals and families. This article was originally published by The American Institute for CPAs. To learn more about her company, please go to

 This issue of Financial Planning Tips for CPAs is the second in a series from the AICPA designed to help members provide relevant, timely financial planning strategies to their clients through the use of free resources available from the AICPA.

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