Providing professional training and accreditation for 20 years
According to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners
(STEP), changing tax laws and the growing complexity of estate planning are prompting more Canadians than ever to seek professional guidance.
This trend is not only impacting families navigating an era of historic wealth transfer, but also professionals who are looking to STEP to bolster their succession and inheritance qualifications.
“This area is always evolving; you really need to plan to have a smooth transition,” says Ruth March, director of estate planning for KPMG in Halifax, who is chair of STEP Canada. “Estate planning includes legal, tax, insurance and investment advisers. STEP Canada brings all those people together, it helps them learn from each other – and it helps them help their clients.”
STEP, a global organization headquartered in London with some 100 branches and chapters in 95 countries, has more than 20,000 members around the world. These include lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, financial planners, trust officers, banking and insurance professionals who specialize in inheritance and succession matters. The organization promotes high professional standards by providing education and networking opportunities in the specialized field.
STEP Canada is among STEPs largest groups, with more than 2,500 members in 11 branches and chapters that run a number of educational programs, from entry-level certificates to a full diploma. The Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) designation after members’ names is widely recognized in the trust and estate planning industry. It shows they are recognized experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience, and they act in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of clients. Members keep up-to-date with the latest legal, technical and regulatory developments.
“I look for people involved in STEP, both in Canada and internationally, who have the in-depth knowledge that’s needed in estate planning,” says Ms. March, a certified professional accountant who became a TEP in 2001 and has watched the organization grow, with the help of dedicated volunteers.
STEP Canada celebrates its 20th anniversary at its national conference in Toronto on May 28 and 29 with more than 700 delegates. The annual event focuses on areas such as recent changes in tax laws and their impact on clients, says Ms. March.
She calls STEP Canada’s multidisciplinary members “organic specialists,” who have developed skills “from the ground up,” by practising in the field and by attending STEP Canada’s many professional development courses and seminars.
“This is an area that you don’t just want to dabble in; you want to do it well,” Ms. March comments. “If people don’t understand the legal and tax implications of estate planning, it’s easy to make mistakes that will complicate their affairs.”
Demographics especially point to an ever-greater need for TEP capabilities “as the baby boomers pass on the wealth they have built up,” Ms. March says. “It’s called the trillion-dollar transfer. It won’t happen all at once, but it’s happening.”
Organizations are increasingly investing in TEP education to increase their human capital, she notes; for example, STEP Canada has developed courses and certificates for trust companies and other specialized practices. Law and accounting firms and others in the industry are major sponsors of local seminars and the national conference, Ms. March says. “These events wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of our generous sponsors.”
The organization, meanwhile, would like Canadians to become more aware of the importance of planning their estates and relying on TEPs for guidance in the process.
“We’ve got an aging population, and this issue is going to continue to grow as people pass their wealth to the next generation,” Ms. March adds. “We want to help them do it well.”
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