Written by: Bill Schneider
One of the benefits of being a CPA is that we can often still function at a high level with disabilities that would greatly impact many other people in the world. Take away our legs and we are still fully functional in our chosen profession. Take away an arm and it might slow us down the typing a bit, but CPAs can still make it and be very productive. Take away our mind, well, even a CPA can’t overcome that. What am I talking about – taking away a mind? I’m talking about Alzheimer’s. This is a disease that we are seeing more of as the profession ages and something I am seeing first hand with my Father-in-Law.
My Father-in-Law was a great CPA (aren’t we all). He was managing partner of a small firm in a small town. His name was on the sign along with the founding partner. It was the kind of place where you went into the bank or a business and said you were related to him, and everyone new exactly who he was. He is now retired – forced out if you ask him – because he couldn’t do the work any more (not according to him of course).
And it’s not just the complicated things like taxes or pension accounting that are a challenge, it is the little things like playing a game of cards. Thankfully he has a wife that takes that “in sickness and in health” vow to heart and daughters (one a fellow CPA) that are making sure the financial affairs are kept in some sort of order.
Another very difficult role is played by his partner. Like many with Alzheimer’s, my Father-in-Law is in denial about his condition. He sees his partner as out to get him and doing things behind his back to avoid giving him his fair share. He even started bad-mouthing his partner to now former clients. That had to stop so my Father-in-law was no longer allowed to meet with clients. Of course this was just seen as another take away.
So what is the point of all this? Simply that all of my CPA friends in public practice – especially in small partnerships – need to create a mechanism to deal with the mental incapacity of a partner. Many firms have life insurance to buy out a deceased partner and some even have succession plans in place for retirement, but almost no firm has a plan on how to deal with a partner that is no longer mentally able to perform his job. In today’s world with longer life spans and delayed retirement, firms need to think about this possibility. Winging it doesn’t serve the firm, your clients, or the incapacitated partner well.