Teamwork Ensures Effective Estate Planning
21st June 2017
Effective estate planning for individuals, families and business owners is all about teamwork. In a game of rubgy, the players have to communicate and work together but so do the coaches. Similarly, in estate planning, the advisers - or coaches - are there to help the players – individuals, families and business owners - achieve their objectives. WJM Partner Ian Macdonald highlights the key elements of successful estate planning- and the role of advisers in ensuring a good result.
Defence coach - basic safeguards
Good plans - like good teams - are built on strong foundations. Make sure you have effective safeguards in place so if things go wrong you have something to fall back on. The key elements here are:
Power of Attorney – these allow each person to nominate relatives, friends or advisers to look after their financial affairs and make welfare decisions if they become unable to do so through illness or accident. We hope this won’t happen, but if it does and you don’t have an existing Power of Attorney in place, the legal processes which will then follow are cumbersome and expensive.
Wills - don't leave the management and distribution of your valuable assets after your death to chance - or to the law - to decide. Make a valid Will, appoint executors and identify your chosen beneficiaries. Wills can also be a starting point for strategic tax and estate planning.
Life insurance - what would happen if your family, business or household lost a key member through illness or worse? Life insurance cover can provide financial support at difficult times - if they are identified and planned for far enough in advance.
Attack coach - actively planning for family wealth
The attack coaches and the estate planning adviser are looking for more active steps to achieve a positive result - in estate planning this is often a measured and successful transfer of wealth between generations paying as little tax as possible.
Investments - putting large sums in a bank these days is like leaving your best player on the bench or in the stand - you won't get very much in return and in the long term you risk getting left behind. Proper financial advice can identify the types and structures of investments that are right for you and your family now and in the future.
Trusts - if you are thinking of transferring assets to your family but you aren't sure that they will be able to deal with them just yet, a trust could be the answer. Using a trust you can retain some control over the assets and protect them from different types of risk and claims.
Other structures - trusts have many uses but they can have some restrictions, especially for larger sums, so you may also want to consider other specialist vehicles like partnerships, investment companies and offshore bonds.
Estate planning's offside line - the fundamental principle which holds the key to the rules of the game - is all about tax. Good advisers will know how different taxes could affect you and your assets and can help identify strategies to save tax while keeping you on the right side of the line.
Tax returns - a basic annual requirement but not just a chore to be dealt with at the last minute. Gathering all your financial details together for your tax return is an opportunity to take an overall view of your situation and take prompt steps which could improve this for you and your family.
Capital taxes - while annual tax returns are mostly about income, a far larger bill could come later in the form of inheritance tax (IHT) on your death. A frank assessment of your assets, their values and your plans for the future might suggest a very substantial IHT liability. Having all your information to hand is the first step towards starting that all important estate plan.
Head Coach - your Trusted Adviser
You may have specialist advisers in all these areas and many others but it is equally important to have someone at the centre of your network of advisers who really understands you and your family and what you want to do longer term. Your trusted adviser will have experience across a range of different clients and estate plans, and will be able to bring in the right expert at each stage and co-ordinate the individual steps required to ensure the best possible result.
Ian Macdonald is a Private Client Partner at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP. To discuss your requirements give us a call.
The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at June 2017. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.