As luck would have it in a recent court case (Thomas Lane Keller, et al. v. United States, Case No. 10-41311 (5th Cir. Sept. 25, 2012)). coming out of Texas (not ours) the tax payer was victorious even though there were holes in the planning documents. Victorious was an understatement to the tune of $115,375.59. Now that was some refund!
I can only imagine the feeling the trustee had when he opened the letter from IRS demanding of $147 million in estate tax, chest tightening and stomach churning. How about the look on the advisory team’s faces when they received the news, pale and stunned? Did they warn the client and the trustees about a potential audit? Maybe and maybe not. Were they aware of the possible enormous malpractice claims that could come as result of potential negligence? Who knows.
Not to long ago we left it up to the advisory teams to schedule the annual estate and tax planning review meeting for clients that we created design plans for. That was until we started getting calls from advisors saying that their clients were being audited. It did not take long to realize that the plans we created, which the teams implemented, had no annual oversight.
Two years ago we made a change. We started by telling every new client and their advisory team that there would be a maintenance phase to the plan design and that it would be facilitated annually for a fee. This put us on a path towards much happier clients and very pleased advisory teams.
Clients today need to be prepared for the good, bad and the ugly. They also must know that they have a competent team to support them, one that is diligent about annual meetings, oversight and cares more about their clients than the fee they receive.