In Focus: When Clients' Plans Change  

How to advise the modern, multi-jurisdictional family

  • To be able to advise clients in different family situations.
  • To understand what clients are saying they need help with.
  • To know how to advise cross-jurisdictional families.
How to advise the modern, multi-jurisdictional family
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How can we resolve the complexities of modern, multi-jurisdictional families?

As advisers know, modern families can often be complicated families.

They can be challenging, diverse, intricate, and all over the map – often literally – and their needs are equally complex. Identifying and navigating their needs requires expertise and collaboration across borders, cultures and professions.

The Society of Trust and Estate Professionals recently surveyed its global members to gather insight about the families they advise and their wealth and succession planning needs.

The survey focused on exploring the issues around the modern family across multiple jurisdictions to identify the key complexities currently facing families and their advisers.

It addressed current queries such as what today’s family looks like and what the main trends and impacts are for practitioners advising the modern family.

The main objective was to identify any issues and subsequently help estate practitioners navigate the risks and restrictions in relation to these and advising the modern family.

This survey provides a benchmark of practitioner experiences assisting and advising a broad range of families and circumstances across the world.

There were more 600 responses from a range of practitioners across the estate and wealth planning sectors.

The results were used to inform our latest report, Meeting the Needs of Modern Families, which provides insight into the experiences of practitioners and the makeup of the families they advise across multiple jurisdictions.

It is clear from the survey results that families are evolving fast, no longer constrained by creed or culture, gender or geography. Advisers may well recognise the key findings, which are that families are changing, with ‘blended families’ on the rise.

Over the past 10 years, respondents have seen dramatic changes to families. Significant numbers of respondents have seen an increase in:

  • Multi-jurisdictional families (78 per cent)
  • Cohabiting families (73 per cent)
  • Mixed-ethnicity families (61 per cent)
  • Same-sex relationships (54 per cent)
  • Non-biological children (51 per cent)

‘Blended families’ are now commonplace, with 96 per cent of respondents now advising this type of family and three-quarters seeing an increase in the number of blended families they work with over the past 10 years.

Although a smaller number, it is perhaps also significant that 10 per cent of respondents have seen an increase in transgender relationships.

Complexity is often leading to conflict. Respondents are increasingly seeing disagreement, breakdown in family relationships and litigation as a result of the complexity of modern families.

There are several reasons for this: 

  • Generational and cultural conflict within the family.
  • Cross-border legal and tax conflicts resulting from differences across jurisdictions.
  • Antiquated legislation and out-of-date language in wills and trust deeds.
  • The difficulty of accommodating everyone’s needs: competing/differing interests and views between generations and/or as a result of different cultural perspectives.
  • Distrust and difficult relationships between prior and current members of the family. As one respondent put it, there is ‘less “glue” to keep the family together’. 

Three quarters of respondents identified that cross-border or tax conflicts resulting from differences across jurisdictions are proving contentious and leading to litigation.

Some 69 per cent highlighted generational issues and 65 per cent of respondents identified out-of-date language used in wills, trusts and deeds. 

Conflict can be particularly damaging for family businesses, and three quarters of respondents are seeing a greater trend towards generational conflict within the family and disagreement in relation to family business succession.

Philosophical differences

The same number are seeing a trend towards next-gen philosophy. These differing objectives from the younger generations are an important cause of tension. Another key trend noted is capacity issues – with 64 per cent of respondents highlighting this as an issue for families.