The multifaceted problem of wealth transfer – The Property Chronicle
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The multifaceted problem of wealth transfer

The Fund Manager

Politics, emigration and the modern family are only a few of the challenges of wealth and succession planning today

There is no lack of data on the vast, and growing, amounts of wealth set to be passed from generation to generation in the coming decades. In 2019, the global number of dollar millionaires passes 20m while, over the next five years, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (those with over US$30m) is expected to rise by 22% (Wealth Report 2019, Knight Frank). For clients considering how to ensure their wealth survives generational transfer, and is subsequently put to best use, the uncertain world in which we now live can seem distracting and hostile. Unsurprisingly, there is plenty to worry about.     

In the UK, while we enjoy a moment of respite from daily Brexit headlines, the immediate panic around the UK’s future relationship with the EU has given way to discussions over the next leader of the Conservatives, as local election results confirm a widespread disenchantment with the main political parties. Were Labour to come to power, some of the suggested reforms don’t bode especially well for wealth and succession planning; tax at 45% on income of £80,000 or more and at 50% on income of at least £123,000; an excess levy on salaries above £330,000; and an increase corporation tax to 26% are among the changes floated since the 2017 party manifesto. However, there can be no certainty that the existing tax regime would remain stable even under Conservative leadership. Meanwhile, in Europe, the rise of populism seems to threaten the integrity of the European Union, and global market confidence isn’t helped by the US’ international agenda or expectations of a cyclical slow down over the next couple of years.

But uncertainty isn’t a phase; rather, it is a fact of life.We now live in a society that is more globalised, technologically advanced and mobile than ever before. Global trade openness is around the highest it has been; data, capital and investments move freely; and individuals and their families are increasingly dispersed. More than a third of wealthy clients hold a second passport or nationality, 48% sendtheir children to universities abroad, and 26% are considering emigrating permanently (WealthReport2019). So why should clients expect anything but uncertainty? More importantly, why shouldn’t they insist on wealth planning solutions that will protect against that uncertainty and remain effective regardless of what the future holds?

Some of the difficulty lies in the fact that wealth advice, perhaps with the exception of larger multi-national advisory outfits, has grown from a domestic focus. While it is only natural that tax and other efficiencies at home be considered first, this should not be to the exclusion of foreign issues or at the expense of ultimately needing to wind down and replace planning structures on a change of residence. Similarly, wealth structures engrained in domestic law may not have been conceived to be effective abroad: an English law trust would historically not have needed to contend with a non-UK (or at least non-common law) country, such as Spain or Sweden, where, today, it is unlikely to deliver all of the objectives for which it was established.

Add to this the intricacies of modern family life, which is punctuated by the uncertain and unexpected – separations, divorces, marriages, births, deaths and remarriages, and the resulting extended families held together by formal or informalties–and consider that the nature of family relationships evolve, with individuals falling in and out of favour with each other over time. A long-term wealth and succession plan should remain relevant despite these changing circumstances.

The Fund Manager

About Simon Gorbutt

Simon Gorbutt

Simon Gorbutt is a solicitor, qualified in England and Wales, and Trust and Estate Practitioner. He is based in Luxembourg where he specialises in cross-border wealth planning for high net worth individuals. Simon is Director at Lombard International Assurance and heads an in-house team providing services to Northern European and US expatriate clients as part of the company’s Wealth Structuring Solutions capability. He is a frequent speaker on insurance-based wealth solutions, a contributor to ITPA and a member of the STEP Benelux Board.

Articles by Simon Gorbutt

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