By John Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

Whether a CPA firm chooses to provide personal financial planning services or not, you can still help pursue the success of your clients’ financial futures. It can be as simple as paying closer attention to the details and going just a little beyond telling them what happened last year.

A progressive and caring CPA should always take the opportunity to make sure that their clients are well-served across the financial spectrum. For years, many CPAs have told or alerted their clients about gaps in their personal financial lives — yet the same issues emerge year after year, with a fix still needed. This has helped me to conclude that the incidental advice given to clients about related financial matters is a waste of time unless the CPA closes the gap by delivering the service themselves or making a specific introduction to the appropriate subject matter expert.


Starting with those who choose not to provide wealth management services, pay close attention to the signals that a tax preparation engagement can send you. Some simple items such as noting that a client’s 1099s from bank or brokerage accounts are held in joint names is a clear signal that there may not be an estate plan in place or that the plan in place is not complete or fully implemented. Most clients with significant assets should consider using trusts to hold title to their financial assets. If you notice the joint title and ask a question or two about their estate plan, you’ll quickly see whether they are in need of help.

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