Aiding clients in aged care means helping at a critical time

Accountants trained in aged-care advice see it as exciting and interesting, says Louise Biti.

While old age conjures up thoughts of comfy slippers and a nice rest, there are still tough financial decisions to be made, and accountants play a crucial role.

Many older people and their families are discovering this fact as they try to navigate the complex financial and personal issues surrounding the decision to enter an aged-care facility.

Surprisingly, technical experts have largely ignored the area until recently, but Louise Biti, a director at specialist firm Aged Care Steps, believes accountants are perfectly positioned to offer clients advice and assistance.

As a leading expert in the field, Biti finds this advisory work brings many rewards, and not just financially. “It’s a great opportunity to help guide the client through a very difficult time,” Biti says.

“You can’t hide from this area, as everyone has clients, or clients with parents, who are moving into aged care or who know someone who is,” Biti says.

There is also interest due to the rising cost of accommodation bonds, increasingly complex financial decisions and social security implications.

Although Biti recognises this area is not for everyone, she believes it can be a good fit for some firms, with basic advice fairly easy to introduce. “At a minimum, you need an awareness of the structures and where you can refer people for information. Also, consider establishing a relationship with experts in the area.”

The next level is for practitioners who are seeking to proactively identify opportunities within their client base. “For those with a real interest and aptitude for this area there are also opportunities to develop an in-depth understanding of the system, including client assessments and care facilities,” she says.

The key services are helping clients understand the financial implications of moving into care, such as the costs, assisting with setting up a fund to pay the ongoing care fees and handle personal cash-flow management.

“Clients need to understand the reality of what is offered, the tax implications of care and how they may need to restructure their investments,” Biti explains. “A lot of pre-planning and preparation needs to be done.”

Modelling scenarios and providing options can help clients achieve better outcomes and work through tax implications of selling or keeping their home. “Even for someone already in aged care, a restructure can help,” Biti notes.

She believes there is a ready customer base for these services. “Just ask clients about the issue and you will find a positive response,” she suggests. “There is growing awareness, so accountants shouldn’t ignore it.”

Although there is no specific knowledge or industry qualification required, Biti believes quality advice requires thorough training in the details of the aged-care system and related financial issues.

“Aged care is part of general planning, but personally I believe you can’t be talking about it [without] that knowledge. It’s about understanding intricacies of the system and what happens when someone moves into it,” she explains.

Unless you have an Australian Financial Services Licence, it is also important to provide only information and not discuss specific products.

Biti says accountants trained in aged-care advice see it as exciting and interesting. “You’re talking to people and helping them solve problems, so you can see you are adding value,” she says. “Also, the short timeframes mean you see an impact from discussions and get immediate gratification.”

 

Getting them to look ahead

“I have a real passion for it.” That’s how CPA and former financial planner John Monotti explains his interest in aged-care advice.

As a consultant with Geelong accounting firm West Carr & Harvey, Monotti is developing an aged-care advice business for the firm.

He has been interested in aged care for the past 20 years and is keen to get clients and their families to think about it well before decisions need to be made.

“People don’t address the issues until they are ready to go into accommodation,” Monotti says. “Then they have two big issues: the emotional aspect of going from independent care to dependent care and the financial aspect of how to pay for it.

“People need to understand the interaction between three key things: their health situation, accommodation and financial situation.”

Monotti focuses on education and assistance, rather than personal product advice, which requires an Australian Financial Services Licence. “My fee-for-advice service concentrates on the broad view to help people get their heads around the issues.”

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Many older people and their families are discovering this fact as they try to navigate the complex financial and personal issues surrounding the decision to enter an aged-care facility.

Surprisingly, technical experts have largely ignored the area until recently, but Louise Biti, a director at specialist firm Aged Care Steps, believes accountants are perfectly positioned to offer clients advice and assistance.

As a leading expert in the field, Biti finds this advisory work brings many rewards, and not just financially. “It’s a great opportunity to help guide the client through a very difficult time,” Biti says.

“You can’t hide from this area, as everyone has clients, or clients with parents, who are moving into aged care or who know someone who is,” Biti says.

There is also interest due to the rising cost of accommodation bonds, increasingly complex financial decisions and social security implications.

Although Biti recognises this area is not for everyone, she believes it can be a good fit for some firms, with basic advice fairly easy to introduce.

“At a minimum, you need an awareness of the structures and where you can refer people for information. Also, consider establishing a relationship with experts in the area.”

The next level is for practitioners who are seeking to proactively identify opportunities within their client base.

“For those with a real interest and aptitude for this area there are also opportunities to develop an in-depth understanding of the system, including client assessments and care facilities,” she says.

The key services are helping clients understand the financial implications of moving into care, such as the costs, assisting with setting up a fund to pay the ongoing care fees and handle personal cash-flow management.

“Clients need to understand the reality of what is offered, the tax implications of care and how they may need to restructure their investments,” Biti explains. “A lot of pre-planning and preparation needs to be done.”

Modelling scenarios and providing options can help clients achieve better outcomes and work through tax implications of selling or keeping their home. “Even for someone already in aged care, a restructure can help,” Biti notes.

She believes there is a ready customer base for these services. “Just ask clients about the issue and you will find a positive response,” she suggests. “There is growing awareness, so accountants shouldn’t ignore it.”

Although there is no specific knowledge or industry qualification required, Biti believes quality advice requires thorough training in the details of the aged-care system and related financial issues.

“Aged care is part of general planning, but personally I believe you can’t be talking about it [without] that knowledge. It’s about understanding intricacies of the system and what happens when someone moves into it,” she explains.

Unless you have an Australian Financial Services Licence, it is also important to provide only information and not discuss specific products.

Biti says accountants trained in aged-care advice see it as exciting and interesting. “You’re talking to people and helping them solve problems, so you can see you are adding value,” she says. “Also, the short timeframes mean you see an impact from discussions and get immediate gratification.”

 

Getting them to look ahead

“I have a real passion for it.” That’s how CPA and former financial planner John Monotti explains his interest in aged-care advice.

As a consultant with Geelong accounting firm West Carr & Harvey, Monotti is developing an aged-care advice business for the firm.

He has been interested in aged care for the past 20 years and is keen to get clients and their families to think about it well before decisions need to be made.

“People don’t address the issues until they are ready to go into accommodation,” Monotti says. “Then they have two big issues: the emotional aspect of going from independent care to dependent care and the financial aspect of how to pay for it.

“People need to understand the interaction between three key things: their health situation, accommodation and financial situation.”

Monotti focuses on education and assistance, rather than personal product advice, which requires an Australian Financial Services Licence. “My fee-for-advice service concentrates on the broad view to help people get their heads around the issues.”

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