Inheritance Tax  

'We hold death rehearsals with our clients'

'We hold death rehearsals with our clients'
Photo: Colin Lawson, Equilibrium. [Photo Credit: Duncan Elliott]

Helping clients understand the value of intergenerational wealth planning often needs good conversation openers, and for one adviser, pretending the client has died is a good way to get the conversation started.

Speaking in a panel session on NextGen wealth: how to attract and retain the next generation of clients, Colin Lawson, founder of Equilibrium, said: "We hold death rehearsals with clients.

"I get them in a room and I say 'Shut up Anthony, you're dead' - and he isn't allowed to speak. This way you get to find out all sorts of things - that wills haven't been signed or his dependents don't know where the wills are or what Anthony's passwords are."

Lawson, who also creates a spreadsheet of projected client deaths based on Office for National Statistics mortality estimates and adjusted to reflect higher socio-economic factors, also told delegates at the FTAdviser Financial Advice Forum 2022 that he "tells clients when we think they will die".

This opens up the conversation with the client far beyond the "boring, technical solutions" associated with inheritance tax planning and into the "emotional, hard and complicated" world of intergenerational wealth planning. "It's about making sure the right people get the right money and the right time", he said.

Also on the panel session, which was sponsored by Octopus, was Nick Bird, head of strategic growth for Octopus. He told host Melanie Tringham, features editor for FTAdviser, that the main starting point of such conversations is "empathetically understanding" what the client's intended outcomes of wealth transfers are. 

He described one adviser who draws family trees with the client so the generational giving or skipping can be more clearly defined, starting with questions such as "Who do you love? What is most important to you?"

Bird added: "It's about clients understanding their money and talking about it with their families and advisers. It's also clear that younger generations do want to talk to someone."

This was a point well-made by Yvonne Sonsino, global co-leader, next stage, for consultancy Mercer. 

She said younger generations were clearly wanting to talk to people about their future wealth and inheritances - especially women, who are often left "longer alone with nobody to care for them and nobody to support them" in later life. 

Sonsino told delegates: "We need to find different ways to appeal to younger generations. We need to look at ways to meet them where they are, whether that is through automation or using apps. 

"For example, we are looking at TikTok - many young people are using this medium. If younger generations cannot find you where they are looking, someone else will" - and that someone may not provide the optimal financial outcome, she warned.

Following questions from the floor about how to reach younger audiences and broach difficult conversations with clients, Bird summed up: "Don't see the threat: see the opportunity", which reflected the sentiment around the room.