What is Wealth Planning?
Wealth planning is the art of structuring your wealth while building it, preserving it, and in order to transfer it to the next generation tax-optimised. Wealth planning is a mix of tax planning, wealth protection, estate planning and business succession planning and relates to your total worldwide wealth. A good family office in Switzerland will support you with solid wealth planning services.
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Substantial wealth is always under threat
Sophisticated wealth planning services are becoming ever more important in this rapidly changing world. Wealthy families have internationalised over the last decades. Often children or other family members live, study or marry in different jurisdictions. There is a growing number of divorces and second or even third marriages and the following generations often have an entirely different view on the wealth generated by the previous generation. In most countries privacy is also becoming more and more seldom, and an increasing number of governments are implementing austerity measures and scrutinizing the wealthy.
In brief, there are numerous situations in which your wealth, or part of it, may be jeopardized and, in the case of larger families, threats may even arise in different jurisdictions simultaneously. Unless you structure your family's assets properly, they will increase less, can disappear over time or be jeopardised by a wide variety of factors.
However, by putting suitable and regulation-compliant wealth planning structures in place most threats can be neutralised. Structuring wealth is therefore one of the core activities of a multi-family office (and a single-family office) and one of the most important reasons why an affluent family should use the services of a family office.
Three generations and your wealth has vanished
Wealth is often generated by only one generation. Research shows that without planning that wealth properly, it completely disappears over the next three generations on average. A transfer to the next generation due to an inheritance often entails that the wealth gets divided over several persons, which automatically results in less assets owned per person.
Taxes such as wealth tax, estate and inheritance tax and income tax can, for example, take quite a big bite out of your family's wealth. There are also regulatory and legal challenges and in certain countries increased political, religious and economic risks and instability to be taken into account. A good family office in Switzerland can assist you in minimising these risks and help you safeguard your assets for the next generation.
Potential threats to your wealth
Other potential threats to your family's wealth are, for example, assets being frozen on death, matrimonial disputes or disputes over the devolution of your estate. Among the non-financial reasons to implement wealth planning solutions are avoiding disputes over the control of the family business (see also Family governance), protecting your privacy, protecting your reputation or ensuring your family's safety. All issues which wealthy families should better consider sooner than later, but our practical experience shows that unfortunately these types of wealth planning issues are often addressed too late.
Wealth planning structures
All these potential threats stress the need for your assets to be structured (as tax-efficiently as possible and at the right time) if you are a wealthy (international) family. The average wealth planning structure may consist of:
- An International business company acting as a (foreign) holding company for the family business.
- A Trust to safekeep and transfer assets to the next generation.
- A Foundation to be active in philanthropy.
- Life insurance solutions to set aside wealth for specific family members.
- A Professional investor fund to invest in a controlled and optimized manner.
- Wills & prenuptial agreements to safeguard assets from family by marriage
Bespoke wealth planning
A multi-family office (or single-family office) will not necessarily implement these wealth planning structures separately, but often in a complex combination. Some of the structures might be more suitable to support with wealth creation and others might function better for intergenerational wealth transfer. Structuring via a jurisdiction which has negotiated an investment protection agreement with the country where the assets are invested could also bring additional benefits to the family.
In our experience quite a number of wealth planning solutions were advised and implemented in the past by asset managers or trustees without prior consultation of experts such as (tax) lawyers. In the past this may not have caused many problems, but in the current environment it will. As regulatory pressure mounts and governments home in on undeclared assets and affluent families, it is extremely important that your assets are structured in a tax- and regulation-compliant manner. Should this be neglected, a considerable part of your family's wealth could get jeopardized and your non-compliant wealth planning structure could even become a threat in itself to your wealth.
Does every family office offer wealth planning services?
It is important in our view that the multi-family office in Switzerland that serves you has in-house expertise in wealth planning services or works with highly qualified external experts. A family office will often claim expertise in this field, which however not necessarily implies that the family office will actually possess the right skills and qualifications, as implementing high-quality and solid wealth planning solutions is becoming more challenging every year.
If you are not interested in wealth planning services, it might be better to use a multi-family office in Switzerland without in-house wealth planning experts, as these services are normally quite expensive.
How we support you
FOSS Family Office Services Switzerland is part of the wealth planning department of Union Bancaire Privée, UBP SA. We look forward to assist you in finding a family office solution that offers exactly the services you are looking for. As experienced wealth planners ourselves we of course also look forward to discussing your specific wealth planning needs, challenges and opportunities in case you wish so. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Author: Jan van Bueren, LLM, TEP