If you have, or are involved with, an international trust, it is important to anticipate issues that may arise and understand how to address them, to prevent potential issues arising in the future. In this video, Dawn Goodman and Steven Kempster in our trust, estate and inheritance disputes team explain how 'stress-testing' your international trust can help protect your family wealth.
Note: We have provided a transcript of the video if you are unable to listen to the audio. This transcript is generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors.
Dawn Goodman (00:08): The last thing most families want is publicity about their personal issues and the wealth of the family. But this can happen if family members fall out amongst themselves, or they're in disagreement with their trustees and the matter goes to court. Even if a matter is resolved privately, it will cost a great deal of energy and resource to try to deal with it.
Steven Kempster (00:36): These sorts of disputes can be devastating for family relations and every time we see a situation where the family is at war with each other or with their trustees, you can always identify a point in time in the past when things could have been done differently to prevent that happening. Once that's happened, you can't wind back the clock, but what you can do is take steps now to prevent the dispute occurring in the future.
Dawn Goodman (00:59): People often turn to us when a problem has arisen, but we can try to help before it gets to that stage. For example, we can plan with the family for the wealth for the future and we can look at existing structures often created a considerable time ago when circumstances will have changed to see if there are any 'fault lines' or anticipate issues which could arise. These could be potential for disputes within the family business, or a divorce, or a succession dispute, or indeed political risk which Steven will refer to later, and then we try to see if we can put those issues in a better context to take the structure forward. We call this 'stress testing'.
Steven Kempster (01:56): Typically what we do is we assume an attack on a structure, either the way it's been set up or the way it's been run, and using our experience in how these disputes play out, we can help the family to identify any potential problems and future flash points. What we can then do is advise on the way in which some of the documents or the decisions that have been made can be improved to prevent this happening in the future.
Dawn Goodman (02:21): If there is some uncertainty with the structure or with the documentation for it, it's important to address that before it gives rise to difficulty and someone may seek to exploit it. That may mean that it is important to record and to utilise the collective memory of those involved with setting up the structure before it is too late.
Steven Kempster (02:48): Also, global issues can impact on the trust assets and on the beneficiaries. We can advise on where there may be some potential problems for the structure. For example, the risk of state organisations launching attacks on the trust assets or on the beneficiaries who have a connection to that jurisdiction. We can consider some of the practical and legal steps that can be taken to try and prevent these problems occurring in the future to ensure the assets of the trust are safe guarded.
Dawn Goodman (03:19): Planning ahead and reviewing existing structures as there are changes in circumstances is vital to try to preserve the wealth and family unity for the future. Also, this helps to give the family members confidence that the structure that they have is fit for purpose, to take them forward in their family life.