After my father died, my brother and I inherited the family property company in equal shares.
It was agreed that I would run the company and take a salary for doing so, while my brother pursued other career interests.
When I originally approached Julie Lord for advice in 2008(?) I was concerned only about my pension and whether this would give me enough to live my desired lifestyle in the future.
It quickly became evident that I wasn’t asking the right questions and should have been thinking about other things too. Julie guided me and challenged me about who would run the company should either of us become ill and what would happen to the company shares should one or both of us die prematurely.
At the time we were very busy and didn’t do anything about a Shareholder Agreement or shareholder protection as Julie advised. I definitely regret this now!
A few years later I had a son and approached Julie with new concerns – I wanted to know how much life cover I needed to ensure my son would have a good education and be well looked after if I was no longer around. I also wanted to know how I could save for his future – to help him buy a house or go travelling etc.
Based on Julie’s advice and a cashflow forecast she made for me, I bought an inexpensive life policy and started a proper investment strategy. Julie also pointed out that I was at greater risk of having a serious illness that I was of dying, before my son was an adult, so she insisted I also set up a critical illness plan, which would give the family and the business some money and some breathing space in the event of something going wrong with my health.
Fast forward 5 years and sadly I was diagnosed with cancer – it was very traumatic for everyone, but fortunately the critical illness plan paid out enough to ensure there was no debt and that the school fees would be paid.
Julie helped me to update my Will, sorted out a Power of Attorney and organised various meetings with Trustees and Executors in preparation for the worst. She was sensitive to the situation, but also efficient and firm. But then great news! – after a horrible operation and 2 years of treatment, my cancer was gone.
I pulled my life back together, – running the company again at full speed, spending time with my son and our friends on our boat on the south coast and taking lovely holidays.
Tragically, a few months ago, I felt unwell again and had to make another call to Julie to say that my cancer was back and that the prognosis was poor – the doctors told me I might have a year. I was devastated.
I told her of my fears for my son, especially in relation to the amount of inheritance tax that will be payable on my estate, but also worrying about the complexities involved in him inheriting the family company shares and going into business with his Uncle.
With hindsight, we should have taken Julie’s advice years ago about the company shares. if we had, the company would now have sufficient cash to buy out one or other party, giving us all maximum flexibility.
As it is, I will have to protect my son’s interests by setting up complex and expensive Trust arrangements within my Will and my estate will almost certainly end up paying more inheritance tax than it should.
I am very grateful that I have been able to call on Julie over the years for straightforward, common sense advice and she has always been there to reassure me that she will sort everything out.
Unfortunately, this is a case study in poor planning and organisation, highlighting the complexities of running a family company and showing a reluctance to think about what could go wrong.
Simon wanted us to share his story in case it helps anyone else in a similar situation to see how taking a particular course of action (or in this case, no action) can have a dramatic impact of the future lives of many family members.
At the time of writing, Simon has just undergone some experimental treatment which has had some startling results. He is much more positive about his outlook than he was a few months ago and as we continue to devise solutions to his financial issues and create Trusts to protect his son, we wish him all the very best for his continued improvement towards good health.