Tax and estate planningWills, trusts and probate

My Six-day Journey Through the Sahara, and Why Succession Planning is a Multi-Day Marathon, Not a Sprint! – Part 2

Climbing up a sand dune during the Marathon des Sables

Last month I wrote about my recent experience of completing the Marathon des Sables, the six-day race on foot through the Sahara. There’s plenty of time to reflect as you’re hauling yourself from one check point to another in the punishing sun. In fact, I found that having something to think about helped me forget about the daily torture we were putting ourselves through. At one particular point amid the shimmering heat-haze, with thirst scratching at my throat and blisters growing on my blisters, I found myself thinking about succession planning.

This wasn’t just the heat playing tricks with my faculties. It might not be obvious at first, but there are plenty of parallels between running a multi-stage marathon and succession planning for you and your family. Let me explain.

Preparation and Planning are Everything

It goes without saying that a Saharan multi-stage marathon involves a great deal of training – physical and mental. As we had to be entirely self-sufficient over the six days, we had to carry everything we needed in our backpacks. There’s plenty of sand but not so many shops in the Sahara, so any bad decisions simply had to be lived with. Carefully planning which food and equipment to take, by breaking the marathon down into manageable, identifiable stages, was vital.

Succession planning is about structuring how your family’s wealth should be passed and preserved effectively across the generations. But it’s also about making sure you have the means to live comfortably into your own later years. My advice would be to think carefully about all the stages of your own life and don’t give away too much of your wealth too soon to try to mitigate Inheritance Tax for the next generation, as you might need access to this value yourself.

Get the Right Advice for You

In the desert, we all needed food and a rucksack and a plan for the race, but the rucksacks varied a bit and the food varied a lot. The experienced endurance athletes needed a different race plan to the plodders at the back. We all had individual needs and aspirations. What I found when preparing for the race is that there are almost as many opinions as there are people offering them and, importantly, that there is no direct correlation between the person most willing to offer their opinion and the quality of that opinion.

Succession planning is an art not a science, which means there will be different approaches for different people, even if their goals might look the same on paper. For example, if you’re making a Will, it should be structured to make sure your personal wishes are carried out after your death according to your own aims and priorities, and not be an off-the-peg, one-size-fits-all creation.

Teamwork Without the Tears

A big theme of the Marathon des Sables is supporting others. The desert is a hostile environment, so we were always on the look out to ensure everyone was OK. Despite the strictly limited supplies of food, you would often see people sharing what little they had if someone needed help or just a boost. Sharing fruit pastilles at the top of a steep climb could easily bring the biggest and strongest of men to tears! In planning for future generations, think carefully about the team of advisers you surround yourself with and make sure they create a plan that has your best interests at heart (preferably without reducing you to tears).

Adapt Your Plan Depending on the Conditions

Before entering the Marathon des Sables, you have a rough idea of what it might be like but no real feel for how it might play out in reality. Which meant that sometimes your plans would need to change at short notice. The conditions, the climbs, the temperature, the isolation – all could force you to adapt. (I am told that more men proportionately drop out of the race than women because women are better at adapting and altering their plans…). Being pig-headed about a plan can really backfire, especially in an environment like the desert. It’s okay to be wrong about something and fine to change your mind about the best approach. Both are much more sensible than carrying on regardless.

If you’re part way through an Inheritance Tax planning exercise and it’s not working for you or not delivering the sort of outcome you were looking for, it would be foolish to implement it. Just like when you feel a hotspot on your foot in the desert, you need to know when to make a change if things aren’t working.

At Progeny Private Law we can help you prepare effectively for all the stages of your own life while putting a succession plan in place to preserve your wealth for future generations. We might even inspire you to run your own Marathon des Sables, if that’s your dream. To discuss your plans, please get in touch.

The content of this article is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Progeny Private Law Ltd accepts no responsibility for the content of any third-party website to which this article refers.

Frances Davies

Associate Director, Private Law

Frances specialises in tax and succession planning for high-net-worth multi-generational families, and for business owners seeking to protect their assets and to find ways to pass their wealth on to future generations.

Learn more about Frances Davies