The Importance of Having a Current Wealth and Estate Plan
As trusted advisors to our clients we provide more than just compliance based services. Often this includes ensuring that they have put in place appropriately structured succession plans, be they operational or estate plans. As with anything in life, these plans are revisited from time to time to ensure they continue to meet the objectives of the client, their business and also the needs of their family.
Take for example a typically structured client who would generally conduct business through a company or unit trust, hold investments in a family discretionary trust, build further wealth within a self managed superannuation fund and have other assets in their own or spouse’s name (primarily the family home and various lifestyle assets).
A carefully considered succession / estate plan may touch on:
1) The commercial succession of the operating businesses to protect the income stream and ultimate asset value. This not only includes addressing the every day management and business performance, but can also extend to the maximisation of capital value of the business with a view to an ultimate disposal / exit;
2) The establishment of a testamentary trust to mitigate risk and provide several commercial advantages. The benefits of such a trust (or trusts of which there are more than one primary beneficiary) include asset protection in the event of litigation, mental or other incapacity involving the beneficiary, reduced taxation of income or capital where a beneficiary is a minor or under some other incapacity, flexibility and longevity of the relevant family asset pool;
3) The use of a corporate appointor and tailored company constitutions to ensure that effective management and control of all the entities remain within a family group. Appropriate consideration of these issues is important so that operating businesses and other investment assets are not adversely impacted or inaccessible / frozen should an event occur;
4) The review of superannuation strategies to ensure various tax and commercial issues are dealt with. This may include the reduction of any income tax on death benefits or life insurance proceeds, the continuation of pensions (if appropriate) and the management and control of the fund via its trustee; and
5) The personal assets of the client and their wishes as to the most appropriate basis for dealing with same in the event of incapacity or death. Often clients will want to make specific bequests, grant life tenancies over property, or otherwise direct a precise investment strategy with respect to the family asset pool that they have built during their lifetime.
ESV works closely with our alliance partner law firms or our clients’ own legal advisors to develop a bespoke plan, with the best solutions and outcomes to meet our clients’ needs. In our experience the peace of mind that a well thought out succession strategy brings to our clients is well worth the difficult discussions and processes required upfront.
Should you need assistance in relation to this matter, please call your relevant ESV engagement partner on 02 9283 1666.Article by Kurt Baker