Posted on 13 Feb 2014
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Trainee Seats: what to expect – Tax, Trusts and Succession

I’m now over half way through my six months with the Tax, Trusts and Succession team and would like to give you an idea of the work I’ve been doing.

Estate planning

Michelmores works with a growing number of wealthy international clients looking to restructure their assets, usually with a view to passing their wealth on to their children. In a department where tax is quite literally the name of the game, any restructuring must of course be done in the most tax efficient way. This might involve granting a lease of the client’s second home, or transferring some of their savings to a trust. One thing I’ve learnt from my time here is that every client is different. One client may decide to relinquish a degree of control over her home in order to reduce her future tax bill, another client might hate the idea of relinquishing control but nevertheless prioritise releasing some of the cash tied up in his home. It’s our job to listen to each client’s (often competing) priorities and structure their affairs in the way that most closely reflects what they’re looking for.

Michelmores James Eley – Trainee Solicitor – Private Client

Michelmores’ estate planning work frequently involves dealing with clients outside of the UK. I’ve recently been involved with advising a couple living outside of the UK on the most effective way to make gifts, and in order to do this I’ve had to get up to speed on the relevant country’s laws. Who knew there’s a limit on the amount of money brothers and sisters can give to each other without paying a “Gifts Tax” in some European countries? I didn’t.

“Traditional” private client work

I’ve also made a number of hospital visits to unwell clients who have asked to make new wills. Many of these clients can be close to death and their instructions need to be acted on quickly. It can be hard seeing people so vulnerable and unwell at times (and feeling like a vulture walking through the hospital corridors doesn’t help the situation either). However, there’s a sense of satisfaction which I imagine is only to be found from this kind of work (I’ll let you know when I’m a bit more experienced) in being profusely thanked by the client once they’ve signed their will, knowing their wishes will be carried out after they’re gone.

Research

Lola’s blog post on the Tax, Trusts & Succession seat also mentioned there was a fair amount of legal research involved in this seat. This is true of my experience in the team too.

Here’s a for instance. Put simply, transfers in excess of £325,000 into a trust attract an immediate tax charge of 20% – ouch. I recently researched whether some of our clients could transfer more than £325,000 into a trust by making use of an exemption buried in one of the many tax statutes. It turns out you can, and, (once again) there’s a real sense of satisfaction having conducted the research and being able to go back to the clients with an answer they’re happy with. Armed with my research memo, I drafted the documents necessary to give effect to this arrangement.

Marketing

The Tax, Trusts & Succession team works extremely hard and our international client base is growing. I’ve been working with our in-house accountant, the partner in the Tax Trusts & Succession team and a lawyer from another firm to promote Michelmores’ estate planning prowess to private banks across the country. There’s a clear vision of where the major opportunities for growth lie within the team, and lawyers make regular trips to Jersey, Guernsey and further afield to ensure we keep growing in this way.

What else?

In addition to the above, I’ve worked with one of the lawyers in the team to convert a charity into a “Charitable Incorporated Organisation” – one of the first conversions in the country. I also administer a charity and have worked closely with a vulnerable elderly client to relocate him from a hospital’s emergency care to a different nursing home.

So what am I trying to say?

Working in Michelmores’ Private Client team is anything but dull – there’s a huge variety of work and every day is different.