GGFL's new Associate Partner and the personal side of accounting
GGFL is delighted to announce that Jean McDonell is our newest Associate Partner.
Jean, who joined the firm on January 6, 1997, is an expert in trust and estate planning and a member of our ever-expanding tax team.
“When I arrived in 1997,” she says, “there were just five of us on the tax team. Today, there are 15. The work kept coming and our team keeps growing to meet the demand.”
Jean is also chair of the Ottawa branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and a member of its national board.
“Developing trusts and estates for businesses and families is a deeply personal aspect of accounting,” she says, “and not well understood.”
For example, many who agree to become executors often don’t realize what a thankless task it can be.
“You’re doing a good thing for someone by agreeing to look after their affairs,” she says, “without realizing that it can be a long road and not fully understanding the responsibilities.”
Those responsibilities can be roughly divided into two areas: money and emotion.
“Executors are on the hook for everything,” adds Jean. “If a debt is not paid to CRA and there is no clearance certificate from them, the executor could be forced to pay. And then there are the family’s emotional issues to deal with which might not have anything to do with money.”
“We look at the numbers and take the emotion out of it,” she says. “My role is to say, ‘this is what the rules state and these are the wishes of the deceased person.’ ”
Jean has this advice: Be clear in your will and speak to your family about your wishes so there are no surprises.
“Most people don’t want to do that,” she says, “but explaining your reasons when you’re alive is a lot better than having everyone guessing when you’ve passed.”
“Trusts present other challenges, but despite becoming increasingly complicated, are still useful for individuals,” adds Jean.
“For example, if you have a spendthrift child but want to provide for their future, you can put money in trust for them,” she says. “Some people leave trusts in their estate. So, if you have concerns that a spendthrift child will recklessly spend money, it allows you to control how the money is dispersed and divided. It can be very narrow or very broad.”
“The tax rules have changed, and the uses of trusts have changed, but it does allow for funds to be safeguarded, and allows trustees to decide where money is going to go.”
Discussions over trusts and estates are inevitably as personal as they are complex, but that’s what Jean says she enjoys about the work.
“It’s rewarding when you can help someone out, and guide them through these complex processes,” she says. “It takes a lot of stress off the executors when they know they can go to a professional and seek help.”