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A study by wealth management firm Quilter Cheviot found that less than two-fifths of affluent individuals are comfortable discussing basic money matters such as mortgages, power of attorney, inheritance and debt with family and friends. Roughly twice as many surveyed were happier talking about death (49 per cent) and relationships (50 per cent) than they were about debt (22 per cent) with family members. Although 62% would discuss their physical health with family members, discussing financial health was not on the agenda.

Real risks from reticence

Reticence about money matters is far from a solely British trait, but it clearly is a common one – and one that can carry serious risks.

For example, it is thought that up to 70% of people do not have an up-to-date will in place, wealthy individuals with more complicated financial affairs included. When families are reluctant to talk even among themselves about inheritance, powers of attorney or debt, important decisions are stalled at any level of wealth. Under these circumstances, not only is wealth not working as hard as it might be, it may also be subject to far higher taxation than is necessary too.

Tackling taboos is part of a broad UK industry effort to improve financial literacy nationwide. It is hoped that with candid conversations about money made easier, families can get more proactive about managing wealth.

Research suggests that the younger generations might be relying on the prospect of future inheritances too much. As we explain in our recent feature, Great Expectations: Is your family heading for an inheritance fall?, it is vital that realistic expectations are set.

Even more urgent is the need for couples to communicate better about money. It is common to find partners varying significantly in their risk appetite or for one to wish the entrepreneurial partner would pause for breath. Money is, unsurprisingly, one of the primary drivers of break-ups.

It should also be noted that mismanaged financial affairs – in particular debt – is inextricably linked with mental health problems. Only one in six people in debt difficulties seeks advice, making this a silent scourge affecting some 8 million people in the UK.

Opening up to opportunities, closing down risks

Couples need to make sure their wealth management strategy is optimised for them as a unit; both partners’ ISAs should probably be managed in alignment.

Opening up as a family across the generations to discuss wealth management issues could bring numerous optimisation opportunities to light (estate planning details can certainly be kept on a need-to-know basis if required, however).

Any of the following might be relevant points to discuss with a professional adviser alongside your family:

  • You can now bequeath pensions to the younger generation so that both income and inheritance tax can be minimised.
  • Why you could benefit from a Family Investment Company explains how families using these structures can maximise tax breaks, grant control over succession and even protect assets from divorce.
  • Today’s fluid family set-ups give rise to complexities around same-sex partnership recognition, visas, adoption and surrogacy. Specialist domiciliation and succession advice is definitely warranted for LBGT clients.
  • Life insurance can be a very useful wealth transfer tool, with compelling tax benefits and great investment control too.
  • There are numerous investments like Enterprise Investment Schemes which make use of Business Property Relief to deliver Income, Capital Gains and Inheritance Tax (IHT) savings.
  • Gifting can be a useful IHT mitigation strategy, but needs to be commenced in good time to be fully efficacious.

It’s good to talk

All too often, families will wish they had tackled tricky topics in advance of issues coming to a head. It is common that care home fees come as a shock or there is huge confusion over assets and probate at already difficult times. We would therefore urge everyone to tackle these key questions everyone should ask their aging parents about their wealth.

Whatever your family set-up, and whatever your age, it is never too early or too late to put robust wealth management plans in place. The gains are significant, perhaps most of all as regards peace of mind.

An experienced professional adviser will be adept at drawing out all the details that matter to your financial plan, charting a clear course towards all your objectives. They can also be invaluable in steering the frank discussions families need to have. Start the process of meeting the right wealth managers for your unique needs here.

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