Estate planning is an inescapable fact of life but the right financial adviser will guide you through the process and ultimately structure your estate not only for your benefit, but also for that of your beneficiaries. Below are the considerations for estate planning, along with some very good reasons you shouldn’t leave it for a rainy day.
Seek expert estate planning help
An estate planning specialist will explain the processes upfront and guide you through the various steps. It’s important to know that a bank is not this kind of expert and won’t necessarily be able to optimally structure the estate to your specific needs, at least not in the way a qualified financial adviser can.
An adviser is familiar with the intricate details of estate planning, including domicile and tax residency factors, and will efficiently structure the estate accordingly. Ideally, your financial adviser operates independently to ensure that all decisions made are transparent and in the best interests of you and your family. The primary – and ultimate – goal of any good adviser is to grow, protect and preserve your wealth.
Estate planning is not a once-off affair but an ongoing process that needs updating continually as your personal and financial situation changes, and it’s important that your adviser is kept informed of any relevant changes in your life such as marriage, the birth of a child or an inheritance.
The loss of a breadwinner can have a severe impact on the emotional and financial health of a family, which is why it’s essential that your estate is in order at all times. This will ensure that your beneficiaries receive what’s due to them without the delay of unnecessary admin or judicial processes. Your adviser will also aim to ensure the liquidity of the estate so that family members aren’t left with any unforeseen bills from estate duties or other taxation liabilities.
Where there’s a will there’s a way
Every person, regardless of age, marital status or wealth must have a will in which they specify to whom their assets go when they pass away. If you don’t, the courts can decide, and it may be many years before your relatives receive so much as a cent of their inheritance. Unspecified assets also leave the door open to family rifts with the possibility of members vying for what they believe is their portion of the estate.
An adviser will start by calculating your net worth (assets and liabilities) and with your input draw up a legally compliant document. This is where professional experience is vital. There are specific processes involved when setting up a will for an individual with assets in numerous jurisdictions.
Say, for instance, you are a UK expat with assets in South Africa and the UK, among other countries, an international will that is recognised in the country where your assets are registered is essential. It all rests on the nature and jurisdiction of the assets, but it is safest to assume that a South African will won’t cover all of it.
Efficient tax structuring for estate planning
Careful estate planning around tax is one of the most important steps in the entire planning process, as there are various ways and means to protect heirs from big tax liabilities, especially when there are offshore assets at stake.
Different tax laws apply in different countries, which have bearing on income tax, capital gains tax, value-added tax, inheritance tax as in the UK, and unforeseen transfer duties.
For instance, for UK expats, domicile, and not residency, determines your liability for UK Inheritance Tax on assets worldwide. The basic rule is that an individual is domiciled in the country they have their permanent home, but even so, you can remain domiciled in the UK while living abroad for many years.
Other countries, including the UK, US and many jurisdictions in Europe, have their own versions of Inheritance Tax which you and your adviser should consider when planning your estate.
Here is the why
Estate planning is not the easiest of topics to broach. Apart from talking about mortality and taking stock of your assets, on the surface there seems to be a lot of administration and difficult, decisions involved. But finding the right financial adviser to take care of the intricate details while you decide on the important details goes a long way in easing the process. You owe it to yourself and your family.
If you would like to ensure your estate is structured to provide financial security for your beneficiaries, contact Samantha at email@example.com to arrange for a consultation.
Samantha Bowen is a director at Carrick Wealth with over ten years in the financial services industry specialising in Offshore Investment Structures and Tax Efficient Estate Planning.