Want to help your clients with estate planning but not sure how? Here are 3 things to note

| 05 Oct 2018

The two-day Rockwills Estate Planning Forum: Professional Series with the theme "Professionals at the Crossroads" featured a strong cast of specialist speakers to help professional advisers and executives who advise High Net Worth (HNW) clients on estate planning and business succession.

There were plenty of case studies and in-depth presentations by many of the speakers. But if you’ve always wanted to move into the HNW segment or to help your clients with estate planning but you’re not sure how, here are three takeaways from the forum to get you started on the journey.

1. Leave a legacy, not problems

Successful and wealthy people want to leave a legacy when they are gone, not problems.

Dr Doreen Tan, Founder and Co-Chairman, Best World International, started her business with her co-founder with an investment of S$100,000 each. The listed premium skincare, personal care, nutritional and wellness company now has a market cap of over $800 million.

As a successful business owner, her wish is for her children to preserve and grow the wealth.

“To have money is good. But it depends on how you plan for it. Otherwise, when you are not around, it could create some problems for future generations,” she said.

“I’m fortunate that the children are very close. But you won’t know what will happen in the future. So we need to set up the necessary structures with rules and SOP. I don’t want it to be like what you read in the newspapers – fights, court cases – over inheritance,” she added.   


2. How do you raise the topic with your clients or prospects?

Cross-border Tax Specialist Wong Mun Kit, Managing Director of Fiduciary Asia, said a useful question to raise with your clients is “What keeps you up at night?”

The question will elicit a lot of reactions. There will be reactions with respect to his active business and there will also be reactions in terms of emotions.

He might express some fears, some hopes, and some aspirations. So from there, you can get pointers to a roadmap to help him put in place a family business succession plan to achieve what he wants, she said.    

But she said, “You can only have a meaningful conversation if you have, over time, inspired confidence that you are the best person to guide him through the important task of dealing with family business succession structuring.”

In her experience, clients who approach her or who want to delve deeply into business succession, are the ones she has been servicing over many years as an accountant helping them with structuring their business and dealing with cross-border taxes.  


3. A conductor for the orchestra

Nicholas Jacob, Partner, Private Client, Forsters LLP, said there will likely be a few advisers and specialists needed to put in place estate and business succession planning, but there needs to be a “conductor of the orchestra”.

Somebody needs to be in control, making sure that the family is comfortable with the way things are going and the family needs to trust that person who will be able to coordinate everything, said the specialist in family governance and tax & estate planning for wealthy families, trusts and companies.  

And one of the key traits needed is to understand psychology, to understand how families tick.

He gave the example of how a patriarch announced that he is going to distribute the shares in his company equally to his three children, although only one of them is working in the company. Just based on body language, because the one who is working in the company and growing the company significantly “went white”, Nicholas could tell that it is going to be an issue if it was not addressed. So he had to bring it up subtly to the patriarch who decided to reconsider.  

(Pic: Rockwills Singapore CEO Lee Chiwi)

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, the good news is that Rockwills Singapore CEO Lee Chiwi had said that advisers need not feel overwhelmed because you do not have to worry about execution.

The adviser’s role is to identify and deal with the macro issues in succession and estate planning that their clients face. Advisers can work with professionals like Rockwills to work out the solutions, he said.

Rockwills is equipped to provide the necessary support services in the areas of succession and set up the structures for distribution and management of wealth.

Asia Advisers Network is the official media partner of the forum.

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