Private client lawyers such as Steven Appleton at Brabners find some interesting outcomes result from challenging the norms of succession planning which have turned client expectations on their head.
He recently met with a business owner client to talk about their Wills. It was a conversation they’d been putting off for years but they finally realised that their existing Wills (drafted over a decade ago) no longer did the job they were supposed to do.
The client had recently sold their business, which had afforded them a comfortable lifestyle and now found themselves with more cash than they ever really anticipated spending. They arrived talking a lot about saving tax and trying to make sure as much as possible went to their three children aged between 12 and 19.
It was clear they wanted to look after their children, but were concerned about the impact that a significant inheritance could have on them. Steven spent time talking with them about trusts, but there was clearly something more to be teased out. The clients had grown up in a relatively poor part of Salford in the 70s and 80s, and had worked hard to build their fortune. They didn’t want to rob their own children of their ambition or create generations of “trust fund babies”. When pushed, they had a clear idea of what they thought each child should have: the best education they could provide, a contribution towards a starter home, and some money to help them through life’s bumps – they would then have the tools needed to achieve in their own right.
But what to do with the rest? The client had enjoyed a series of lovely holidays but were clearly a little rudderless and needed a new challenge (although didn’t want to lose their lives again to business). When asked whether they supported any charities it was clear they were very charitably minded although hadn’t had the time previously to do any more than write the odd cheque. Steven talked about spending some time to gather their thoughts about how they might utilise not only their money but also their business skills to support charitable causes which were close to their heart. They loved the idea of getting the kids involved in this, in an attempt to instil philanthropic values in them. It would also give their lives a little more structure and purpose, which they both felt was lacking at the moment.
They’re still talking about exactly how this will all work, but the objective is clear – at least 80% of their estate will ultimately go to charitable causes.
This certainly won’t be the solution for every client and indeed probably not for the vast majority. This client, however, excited about their retirement and the difference they could make to people’s lives whereas at the start of the meeting, they expected a long dull slide into retirement.
Steven Appleton is a solicitor and the Head of Private Client at Brabners LLP in Manchester. He specialises in advising business owners on their succession planning and has a thriving practice in advising clients about philanthropy (strategic charitable giving).