‘It’s easier to put off estate planning than you’d think – even for people like celebrities or UHNWIs who have earned significant wealth. For example, it’s thought that the great Diego Maradona passed away without leaving a Will or other plans for his assets, despite recent years of ill health. There were already reports of a contested estate just weeks after his funeral. Michael Jackson, Prince, James Gandolfini and Philip Seymore Hoffmann all passed away with various issues with their estates, despite having amassed fortunes,’ says Sean Sheridan, Client Director, ZEDRA Isle of Man.
It’s not disorganisation or a lack of desire that stops people planning their estate. In fact, often the last thing people want is to leave family or loved ones having to deal with probate and complex legal affairs at an already difficult time. Many people simply put off estate planning, thinking they will have time later…whenever that is. Alternatively, they may not comprehend how challenging it can be to untangle a intricate estate, and what legal rules there are that surround how an estate will automatically be divided amongst heirs and spouses if forced heirship laws apply. Equally, many people may not know that some loved ones may not get any assets or be looked after if provisions aren’t made in advance.
For UHNWI a properly planned estate can also mean more privacy for family at a challenging time. Many HNWI will choose – along with advisors – a structure that will allow for maximum confidentiality and will keep the details of the estate and any beneficiaries private.
Information about beneficiaries of an estate becoming public can also make them a target for press or other unwanted attention. As structures which allow for both discretion and succession planning, trusts can be very popular for this reason.
Trusts also allow for settlors to stipulate the conditions under which beneficiaries may have access to or be given money from a trust.
‘Trusts allow the settlor the ability to lay out one or more conditions. For example, a settlor could put aside assets in trust to support beneficiaries but not make all the assets available to them at once. This might be to support good governance or simply to protect beneficiaries from some of the hazards associated with wealth, as perceived by the settlor,’ says Sean.
Practically, this means a settlor and their advisors might look at different conditions for a trust’s assets. For example, beneficiaries might only receive a lump sum every 10 years. Alternatively, they might get a monthly pay-out, similar to a salary. The settlor might wish that funds are paid out to beneficiaries for the sole purpose of paying for their college education or to purchase a property.
‘Corporate trustees like ZEDRA ensure that the settlor’s wishes are met, and the assets of the trusts are used in the way the settlor would like and as laid out in the trust deed.
Planning ahead with advisors is vital – especially for anyone with a complex assets and interests that span various geographies may be complex in terms of nature, like IP rights.
‘Expert advice that’s tailored around an individual’s personal situation is a must, so thinking ahead is crucial. It’s never too early to make sure you’re planning your estate and making sure loved ones or important causes will be looked after when you’re gone,’ says Sean.