By Ruth Dolan, Director and Chartered Financial Planner at Tarvos Wealth, a member of Legal Futures Associate, SIFA Professional
To act in your client’s best interest is at the heart of what you do. I totally understand and here I am just laying out a few areas to be mindful of when taking a clients will instruction. Just taking a little time to consider some broader planning aspects that may improve their situation, I am sure will see you elevated in their eyes as a trusted adviser.
There could be opportunities to refer the client to other legal advisers or to bring in a financial planner where regulated financial advice is needed. By enhancing your own understanding of the broader possibilities, it will help you to identify the scenarios where you can confidently suggest that your client gets additional assistance.
There are three areas below for you to reflect on, that could crop up when you go through your will instruction meeting.
Do you ask whether the client has nominated beneficiaries on their pension plans? Yes? Good.
However, does the client know what options are available on death for their beneficiaries? Are they suitable for the client’s requirements and their families?
There are a few possible options including using the fund to buy an annuity, taking a lump sum payment or transferring the fund into a beneficiary’s drawdown scheme. Although these are options, not all pension schemes allow this in their scheme rules.
Where clients are in a second marriage with children from the first marriage, things can become difficult if the right planning has not been put in place. As an example, if the pension is left to a beneficiary’s pension for the second spouse and they do not use the pension fund, they can leave the remaining fund to whomever they choose in the event of their death. The first pension holder does not have any control over this. If the client is keen to ensure some control over who benefits, an adviser will be able to put proper planning in place, working alongside a solicitor if required.
There are different tax rules for pensions where death occurs before and after age 75 so if a client is approaching age 75, a discussion would be worthwhile to ensure that any planning can be put in place if it provides an improvement in the tax bill.
Two further points to remember regarding pensions would be where a client has an inheritance tax issue or where the value of the total pensions and any death in service benefit are close to or exceed the Lifetime Allowance which is currently £1,073,000. Signposting for advice in these situations will ensure that the client is aware of the effect of these on the pensions and any options to mitigate this.
Where you have clients with assets that exceed the inheritance tax threshold and you have exhausted any planning you can do, a financial planner could discuss and advise on the following:
- Affordability of making gifts
- Life assurance to cover potential IHT
- Loan trusts or discounted gift trusts
- Investments qualifying for 100% Business Relief after 2 years’ ownership
- Planning using pension funds which are generally IHT free
Clients in ill health
Where you meet a client who is in ill health, there may be areas of planning to benefit both themselves and their dependents, where they have pensions in place as it may be possible to access pension benefits early.
If they have a private or workplace pension fund, they may be able to begin taking income or lump sum earlier that the normal minimum retirement age of 55. The scheme rules will specify the criteria to qualify for this but usually where the client is too ill to work due to physical or mental illness.
Where a client is in serious ill health where their life expectancy is less than a year, they may be able to take their pension as a tax free lump sum.
If the client has a defined benefit or final salary pension, they may be able to start taking benefits earlier and again, with serious ill health cases, the scheme may pay out the cash equivalent transfer value as a lump sum. If this is paid under the age of 75, it would be tax free.
In all cases, it would be worthwhile to investigate what options are available from the pension schemes to ensure that the client and their family get the best outcome at what is likely to be a very difficult time.
Hopefully there are a few scenarios here that can be remembered easily when you are discussing your clients’ situations, so you can confidently suggest that they may benefit from taking advice from a regulated adviser. Remember that referring to an independent financial adviser will ensure that the client receives impartial advice, based on the best outcomes for their objectives.
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