New clients come to our Asset & Wealth Protection team at particular stages in their lives. Most of the time it is good news: the birth of a child or grandchild, a new property, starting up a business or taking capital out. Sometimes it will be less positive: the loss of a loved one, a bad experience with another estate or coming to terms with caring for a relative.
Whatever the trigger point, the way we respond as lawyers is often not what clients expect: we ask very broad questions such as ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ or ‘Where would you like your assets to be when you are gone?’
At least part of our role is to help our clients to see what we can do for them as ongoing, flexible or “living” advice. The tendency for others is to focus on what actual document they might produce, be that a Will, a family Trust or a Power of Attorney. We take the view that the answers to the overarching questions are key to ensuring that the actual documents have the right long term effect. As just one example, the advice we give about Wills is often dependent on knowing about our client’s assets which do not pass through their Wills at all. These could include a pension lump sum, the proceeds of a life policy or an employee’s Death in Service benefit, which are commonly outside the Will (and often free of Inheritance Tax). Clients with shares in their own company, say, will also need to know how their company provides for those shares to pass on their death.
Focusing on one individual aspect can obscure the big questions. A Will is unique: in it we can determine the transfer of all our tangible assets in one fell swoop, but it is really only one aspect of the wider process of protecting our family’s wealth and prosperity in the immediate and long term. The best way of achieving that protection will vary from client to client, but the advice we give will often have much in common since we do have to start with the big questions: what are you trying to do or where do you want to get to? If you are prepared for these questions, we will be able to help you get to where you want to be.