As CPAs, we are often called on to assist our clients in financial planning. Historically, some have misunderstood that term to mean investment management alone, but it actually involves a much broader spectrum of advice including tax, retirement, estate, risk management, and investment planning. Today’s incredibly busy, hyper-digitalized world requires that we provide guidance in multiple facets of our clients’ lives.
Luckily for us, tools are available. The AICPA PFP Section has developed a technology toolkit that is open to all AICPA members. This toolkit explains the categories of software available to CPA financial planners, helping you develop a broad understanding of how to strategically implement software in your firm that benefits your practice and your clients at the same time.
One option for financial planning software is Everplans. The service is a full platform arranged into six basic areas, all accessible from a dashboard. It is checklist-driven and not only provides a useful guide to planning, but also facilitates organization and storage of important documents in the following areas:
- My life: My family, employment, emergency contacts, homes and real estate, vehicles, digital world, and pets.
- Legal: Trusts, will, power of attorney, and attorneys.
- Health and medical: Health insurance, advance directive, doctors, and health information.
- Elder care: Long-term-care insurance, elder care living wishes, and care providers.
- Financial: Life insurance, financial advisers, financial accounts and assets, benefits and pensions, and disability insurance.
- After I’m gone: Burial, cremation, organ donation, letters to family and friends, my life and legacy, and funeral preferences.
The setup process has you complete a quick personal assessment (marital status, children, will, medical directives, etc.). The program provides ample direction and links to external sites for forms specific to your state. It even prompts you to write your own obituary and upload a photo for it. You also can add personal directives, detailing your wishes for keepsakes, etc.
Everplans’s design reflects a simple beauty. The site’s content is comprehensive, yet it’s arranged in a way that is not overwhelming. When you’ve started, but not completed, a section, the system will gently remind you of what remains to be done. This organization, combined with the document uploading, storage, and sharing capabilities, results in a compelling case for client adoption. But the platform goes further and adds what I consider to be its biggest value. Everplans uses a “designated deputies” concept with family members, friends, attorneys, financial advisers, etc., being assigned various responsibilities with specific written instructions. The deputies’ access is limited to specific areas and times. Some deputies’ sharing arrangements are immediate and encompass all or nearly all the data; others are limited to “only after death.” This feature is very flexible and, when configured appropriately, can significantly enhance CPA-client document sharing.
Everplans is priced at $75 per year per family, which I’m confident those trying to sort out their “digital life” would find to be a bargain. Firms can license Everplans for rates ranging from $196 per month per adviser for the basic plan to $292 per month per adviser for the premium plan. Both plans allow firms to give an unlimited number of clients access to the site. Firms can provide the service free or charge clients if they so choose, and each Everplans client account can be co-branded with the firm’s name and logo, with the premium plan offering more branding and marketing options.
Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4056.