Are we going to be queuing for an EU passport?

Last week I was invited to Cyprus to visit some clients and catch up with some professionals on the island.

One of my clients, who I will call Ivan, owns a substantial Russian company which specialises in precious stones. He has long taken advantage of the beneficial tax treaty between Russia and Cyprus to extract profits from Russia and then to send them on to the BVI.

Sadly for him both Russia and the BVI were closing in on him and he was concerned. As from January this year, Russia expects every company owned by a Cyprus company to have an office in Cyprus. Ivan has therefore taken space in Limassol, an attractive city on the sea and has mapped out a schedule of visits to coincide with board meeting and annual reports. His company had an apartment in Larnaca, but it was too small for his family.

He was also concerned about the sudden change of direction in the BVI. As a British dependent territory the BVI has to keep a register of wealth owners, their interests and details under the common reporting standard (CRS) which it is under pressure from Britain to make available to the public. It would be bad enough to know that his interests in the BVI would be known to Russia, but for it to be made public was a real worry for him.

Ivan invited me to his office to discuss his options. He confided in me that he had recently remarried and had two daughters under five, but was not seeing them as much as he would like. He was also fearful for their safety. A friend of his who I will call Sasha, had his bank account in Liechtenstein hacked and as a result he and his family were blackmailed; the blackmailer knew all his account details, the names of his family and where his daughters went to school. It was unacceptable to him that his daughters could be at risk from crooks for whom the CRS is a license to print money.

We explored a number of options some of which were very attractive. He was eager to pursue the transfer immediately so that he could sleep at night. 

We then turned to his desire of wanting to spend more time in Cyprus. I suggested that he buy a really nice holiday home in the luxury resort of Paphos which was only 40 minutes from Limassol by car. He could then bring his family with him when he needed to work for the holding company, and spend with them some quality time together.

Cyprus is a destination of choice for 2.5 million tourists every year, who come to enjoy its clear blue waters, ideal climate and sandy beaches. Ivan and I visited some fabulous new residential homes on the seafront which were designed for luxury family life. Ivan was clearly excited.

I pointed out that with a quality home came the added advantage of an EU passport.

This was clearly of interest. As a frequent flyer to European destinations, Ivan was fed up with queuing for immigration and had frequently been caught short by an out of date visa. Cyprus is not only a member of the EU where there is freedom of movement, but has an extensive list of countries which entitle the passport holders visa free travel. Passports would also be available for his wife and two daughters.

The other advantage was that if ever he felt it necessary to leave Russia in a hurry, he had a safe place to which he could retreat where his daughters could enjoy quality education and health care.

As a Citizen of Europe he and his family would also be entitled to a European Health Insurance Card which provides insurance for emergency medical treatment insurance when visiting other participating countries. The look on Ivan’s face said it all, it was just too good to be true.

I said that I could make all the necessary arrangements for him; relocate his wealth and trust from the BVI, introduce him to people for priority property purchases and obtain for him and his family Cyprus passports.

Last week was the first time I had been to Cyprus, but what struck me, in particular, were the people. They were keen to innovate for the benefit of their clients, eager to work with a sense of urgency and exuded a pride in their ability to provide a quality service.

Cyprus was the perfect location for Ivan and his family, and I suspect it could be the perfect location for many others as the world becomes an ever more hostile place for the UHNW families to live.

If you would like to book a meeting with Caroline or one of her colleagues, for estate planning, privacy planning, dispute resolution, matrimonial concerns, offshore trust review or investment strategy, please contact or call 020 3740 7423.

Celebrity death ‘spike’

Allegedly there has been a celebrity death spike; Ronnie Corbett, Prince and Bowie to name but three. After the unexpected death of a celebrity there is a period of mourning; a sense of remorse that the deceased, with whom they have become so familiar, will never be seen again.

As someone who has been in the death and taxes business for most of my working career, it never ceases to surprise me how little attention is paid to the inevitability of death. My mother lived through the war in Holland surrounded by death and starvation; I asked her what it was like. Her response was ‘one never sees people die, they disappear quietly into their own homes and are just not seen again’.

We have a strange attitude towards death in our Western world. As a child I was sometimes persuaded to engage in a game of cowboys and Indians which I did not enjoy ‘bang, bang your dead’ and you were then expected to die in a realistic manner, as seen on TV. Things have not much changed. We are all immune to death. It is on the news every day, bombing and natural disasters and we enjoy it as part of our entertainment, whether fictional or documentaries. We are so exposed to it we are not aware of it. And then little Ronnie dies and we are shocked. He is supposed to laugh and pop up again – but we know he won’t.

Just as nothing prepares us for being a parent, nothing prepares us for death. Religion is of little practical help. Hell and brimstone would appear to be a human ploy to fill our churches and pay for the clergy, but it does little to inform us how to live our everyday lives, how to bring up our children or how to prepare for death

What is death even? Seemingly our body becomes ‘lifeless’, like a musical instrument which has been discarded by the musician and not required in the orchestra. We fictionalise death just as we would prefer to caricature it so that we can ignore it – until someone we know dies – such as a celebrity, friend or family relative and then we are shocked and saddened – until we can forget about it again.

Beneath the everyday veneer of an acceptance of death, in reality we are scared of it; we put off making plans superstitious that the grim reaper will come once we are ‘ready for him’. So rather than make arrangements should death pop up sooner than expected most of us prefer to put our head in the sand hoping it will go away.

Succession is an art and planning a skill. It cannot be learned from a book and must be taken very seriously. Succession is the distribution of the fruits of a lifetime to nearest and dearest, at a time when you are not there to ensure things are done properly. Your estate planner should therefore be the best money can buy; it is not something to do on the cheap.

Last week John showed me a draft of his Will. He and his wife Janet had taken local advice, but he was not convinced it was what he wanted, but could not put his finger on why.

Under the drafts prepared for them each left their estate to the survivor in trust as executor and trustee to distribute as they considered best. This is a very commendable plan for a married couple who have not been married before and do not have children by a former partner. In the case of John and Janet however, they had both been married before and both had children from former relationships. If they had executed these Wills and John had died first, Janet his wife would be able to benefit her children to the exclusion of his children from John’s estate. He was furious, that was certainly not what he wanted.

Estate planning should also take care to minimize family disputes. Josh also came to see me last week; he has a trust in Guernsey which holds many millions of pounds. Under the trust deed all three of his children were mentioned, but he was adamant that he wanted only two of his three children to benefit. However there was not power in the trust deed to remove his third child, Ben, as a beneficiary. He was fearful that following his death Ben would litigate against the trustees for a share. After some considerable discussion Josh decided that he could minimize the risk of a claim from Ben at the same time as save tax if he terminated the trust, brought the assets onshore and under his control.

Josh was so pleased. ‘The last thing I thought I would do was to terminate the trust. It had been engrained into me that it was a good for tax reasons, but as soon as I realized I could plan in other ways and be certain that Ben would not benefit I was much happier,’ he said.

If you would like to meet with me or any one of our team, whether for tax or estate planning, dispute resolution, matrimonial or investment strategy simply email or call 0203 740 7423 to book an appointment.

What is going on?


Last week I met with an elderly residential property expert, James. He has spent a lifetime watching property buying trends and the current market conditions were not a surprise to him.

Just before Christmas James had paid a visit to Asia, and a colleague of his is currently in the Middle East. From their meetings they remained convinced that the appetite for residential property in the UK remained strong. The UK is safe, it remained buzzing and is still the place UHNW families wanted to be.

He pointed out that this contention was supported by the unusually strong market for lettings and for commercial property. The only area where the market is weak is the residential agency sector, and this he said was skewing the other sectors. Whereas clients who usually come to London at this time of year would be looking for good residential property for their portfolio, they were now hunting down good commercial property because the stamp duty was 4% not 12%.

Buying a home however is very different from buying a commercial property, he went on. It is more akin to an investment of passion; it can be personalised to the tastes of the family, it can create status and deepen relationships. Inviting a business prospect in to your home is much more personal than meeting in a hotel lobby or restaurant.

The current increase in buyers for residential homes in January he said was due to the announcement of an increase in SDLT for second homes as from 1st April from 12% to 15%. However this blip would soon evaporate after 1st April as the market adjusts to the new rate of tax.

What, I asked, was the cause, not so much for the weakness in the market, but which is due to the hike in stamp duty, but the length of time it is taking before it is absorbed into the price? In his opinion the continued lack of confidence was due to confusion as to how structure the acquisition – if an offshore company provided little or no benefit how should the investment now be structured.

James was clearly plugged in to the mood of the market so I asked him about the market response to ATED. Why were so many homes of non UK residents still owned through offshore companies despite the exponential rise of ATED? The tax costs on homes above £2million are now considerable, even for those rich enough to pay them as I set out below.

Property Value     ATED         Inheritance Tax (exc nil rate)

£2m-£5m            £23,350       £800k-£2m

£5-£10m             £54,450       £2m-£4m

£10-£20m           £109,050     £4m-£8m

£20m+                £218,200     £8m+

James explained that the reason why the higher residential market is depressed could be in part the same reason why people were slow to de-envelope - a lack of confidence as to how to structure the investment.  Confidence would return as soon as buyers and home owners knew what the options were under the new regime.

In my opinion, what is needed is old fashioned tax planning, knowing how the taxes work, what reliefs are available and putting them together well.

Six top planning tips

  1. Be clear as to the long term intentions with regard to the property you own or are planning to buy
  2. If you are concerned as to your privacy own the property through a company as a nominee
  3. Be sure that the right person owns the property - multiple ownerships are not usually a good ide
  4. Make sure you know who is to inherit the property and plan accordingly
  5. If the investment is for life – think about CGT
  6. Plan to avoid inheritance tax – it need not be paid in full if at all, multiple ownership is often NOT the best solution.

James was excited; he wanted me to come to his office and explain my planning tips to his sales team. Once they were clear as to what could be done he was sure confidence would return and buying and restructuring would pick up.

If you would like to know more about my six top planning tips, please contact for a further discussion.

Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch

Jerry Hall 59, and Rupert Murdoch 84, have announced their engagement after a four month whirlwind romance.

The couple got engaged in Los Angeles where they were attending the Golden Globe awards. If their history of long marriages continues, Ms Hall is likely to be the last Mrs Murdoch. The empire and his colourful life have all the ‘hall’ marks of a drama waiting to happen.

Ms Hall the former supermodel has four children with her former partner Sir Mick Jaggar and Mr Murdoch has six.

For Mr Murdoch this is his fourth marriage. His first marriage was to Australian Patricia Booker with whom he had one daughter Prudence who is now 57. Their marriage lasted for eleven years and ended in divorce in 1967. She walked away with a settlement of $1.2 billion.

He then married Glasgow-born journalist Anna Tory with whom he had three children, Elisabeth 47, Lachlan 44 and James 43. Lachlan was reinstated into the business empire after ten years and is now co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox.  His brother is CEO of 21st Century Fox. He was Chairman of the group’s holding company News Group Newspapers when the news of the phone hacking scandal broke. All three children have the business acumen of their father, but only James and Lachlan work in his empire, News Corporation which owns The Sun, the Wall Street Journal and Fox Entertainment Group. He was married to Ms Tory for 32 years who walked away with a settlement worth $1.7 billion when the couple divorced in 1999. Elisabeth and James are not close following her public criticism of her brother about the phone hacking scandal.

His third wife Wendi Deng, a Chinese business woman, was divorced by Mr Murdoch after a fourteen year relationship amid rumours of her infatuation with the former Prime Minister Tony Blair. They have two children Grace 14 and Chloe 12. They were included with the other children as beneficiaries to the stock pool to which his other children are entitled.

Ms Deng was given a settlement to include a $44million apartment in New York a $20 million apartment in Beijing in addition to the assets under their pre-nuptial agreement.

Each of the six children of Mr Murdoch share in a stock pool which was valued in 2006 at $2billion – so are likely to inherit at least $300 million.

For Ms Hall this will be her first proper wedding. Her marriage to Jagger was declared invalid when the pair split after their 23 year relationship ended in 1999.

Mr Murdoch is rumoured to have a net worth of $18 billion so there is plenty left for Ms Hall. If the couple follow the example of his third marriage they will most likely have a pre-nuptial which will no doubt be reflected in any settlement the couple decide on his death.

Although all six children benefit from the stock pool, only two work in the business so their influence will be the greatest. Although we know of the disagreement between Elisabeth and her brother James, other family disharmony will only come to light on the death of their father and then for the sake of his empire I hope he has given more than a cursory thought on how to avoid family disputes turning to full scale litigation through effective Family Governance checks and balances.

With an empire the size of Mr Murdoch’s and with each child being independently wealthy there is plenty of scope for conflict and litigation – and now a further complication has been added in the form of a new and beautiful wife Ms Hall.

Get real

In this new era of data collection and automatic exchange of information UHNW individuals can no longer hide their assets in dark corners hoping they will not be found. However, not all wealthy families set up offshore structures driven by greed.

Alice lives in an apartment with her son Michael and his two children. The apartment was put into an offshore structure by Alice's late husband Giovanni, who as a Jew living in continental Europe remembers the atrocities of Nazi invasion and the importance of secrecy. If Giovanni's father had not squirreled the family's wealth into Switzerland during the war the family would have been left with nothing. As it was they had been able to keep some priceless art and a small fortune, which remained in Switzerland.

Giovanni bought the apartment in which his wife and son now live more than twenty years ago through a trust and company structure based in Jersey. Over the years the trust had been tweaked. Fifteen years ago Giovanni, anxious that the trustees had too much power over his loved ones and family wealth, restricted their powers, such that they could not dispose of the assets in the trust without the consent of a 'Protector'. He appointed a prominent lawyer (Alberto in Switzerland) as the trust Protector, but since his death twelve years ago Alice has not heard from Alberto and does not know where he was or how to contact him.

The trustees have not had to do much for their annual fee, and as far as Alice was concerned the trust was protection for her and her family, but dormant.

Alice like so many others was taught the value of privacy and for her husband it was paramount. He witnessed so much needless suffering due to religious ancestry and the loss of fortunes by those foolish enough to let information fall into the wrong hands.

For Giovanni his desire for privacy had little to do with not wanting to pay tax, he simply did not want his family wealth confiscated. Non-payment of tax was an added benefit of paying to keep wealth in an offshore trust and company structure. However Alice appreciates that tax laws have now changed and non-disclosure is not an option worth pursuing.

Over the last few years Alice has become increasingly distressed, not only does she have to pay the administration fee but in addition the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings which is rising steeply year on year. She is aware that she needs to dismantle this structure, but was reticent to do so without an independent opinion.

For her, everyone has had their snout in her trough and she wants now to clearly understand her options and how to plan. Firstly I needed to talk to her about her concerns and priorities and allay any misunderstandings she has or expectations as to who was likely to do what. We settled on the following.

She needs to:

  • plan for her succession; Michael was a responsible father so it made sense for her to separate her apartment into two leases, one for her and one for her son and family
  • do things in the right order – two years ago one family were advised to continue to own their home through an offshore trust and company structure, but for the company to hold the UK home as a nominee. This family now faces an immediate and substantial inheritance tax charge because the trust now holds a UK situs asset.
  • understand that her offshore trustees could not dispose of any trust asset without the consent of the Protector, Alberto.
  • understand that her trustees would not go out of their way to track down Alberto. They may have grown fat on trust and company administration but this would not incentivize them to track down Alberto who would bring this structure and their fees to an end
  • decide how complicated she wants her structure to be, and has decided not to take out a mortgage or life insurance.

Once we had worked out a plan, Alice has decided that she wants to continue to use her advisers to implement it, confident that the plan is in her best interests.

There are many people like Alice. Over the years they have paid good money to advisers and professional administrators only to find that as the landscape changed, so this money has produced no value.

Alice was exhausted following advice blindly. With the explosion of information she wanted to clearly understand her options and anything she did not understand she wanted explained to her. This is why she had sought out independent, impartial advice from me.

With a plan Alice feels confident to instruct her existing advisers, knowing that she was in control of her wealth and circumstances. She also knows what is needed to done before 1 April, not least for her to track down Alberto immediately without whose consent nothing would get done.