The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented and rapidly changing challenges which have needed to be addressed immediately by trustees and their advisers. But the pandemic also highlights an important wider point – in an increasingly global and interconnected world, the pandemic is unlikely to be the last occasion when trustees and their advisers find themselves facing sudden and significant changes and a range of novel issues. The thought-processes and ways of adapting which are relevant now are all too likely to be useful again in the future.
In this bulletin we have brought together briefings from around Farrer & Co covering issues which trustees and/or their beneficiaries are experiencing, and our reflections on those issues. Some of these may be highly relevant, others may provide food for thought. In any event, we hope you find this useful and thought provoking.
Immediate challenges and long-term shifts
It has taken some time for the dust to settle from the immediate disturbance caused by COVID-19, but trustees and their advisers appear now to be getting used to the “new normal” of video meetings, working remotely and dealing with the invasion of children and pets into home offices. Russell Cohen and Adam Carvalho take this opportunity to set out their top five reflections on the challenges posed to trustees by COVID-19 and how these can be (and, in our experience, are being) met to minimise the risk of long-term fallout. They then engage in some speculation as to the possible long-term effects of the pandemic on the world of private wealth. Read here.
The very different needs and wishes of property owners and business occupiers can give rise to friction at the best of times. When the squeeze is on, however, the bonds that tie the parties together can be stretched to their very limits. The pressure on commercial tenants is only likely to get worse in the short term. What is the position for landlords and tenants in these extraordinary times? Mark Gauguier and Jo Ord set out their reflections here and here.
Where trustees or beneficiaries are pressing ahead with residential property sales or purchases, what needs to be done to ensure the process is as smooth as possible? Laura Conduit and Jenna Whistler provide their top tips here.
Tax and Immigration
In an internationally mobile world, we assume that we will be able to travel wherever we choose, but coronavirus has demonstrated how easily travel plans can be frustrated, leaving beneficiaries and trustees in an uncertain position. Directors of private trust companies or underlying holding companies who are unable to leave the UK will naturally be concerned about the tax residency of their company.
We have previously examined the tax and immigration implications of (i) being unable to leave the UK and (ii) being stranded outside the UK. These briefings have been updated to reflect the evolving guidance from the Home Office in relation to immigration:
The rules governing the formal validity of wills were written in a very different time. Many beneficiaries are likely to wish to put wills and powers of attorney in place, but this is difficult during lockdown. Bryony Cove and Rachel Mainwaring-Taylor reflect upon the challenges and set out their recommendations here.
Corporate and commercial
Consideration must be given to the practicalities of conducting business and holding meetings remotely. Richard Lane and India Benjamin from our Corporate team set out their reflections (based on UK law) here.
The extraordinary circumstances created by coronavirus shine a spotlight on contractual small print and legal concepts that perhaps provoked little thought in more normal times, but may now be critical to business survival. Can coronavirus be considered a “force majeure” event? Paul Jones and Ben Longworth set out their thoughts here.
As many of us acclimatise to remote working there are important points to bear in mind regarding information security. From the hardware we are using (many will be using personal devices) to secure video conferencing, Ian De Freitas and Tom Rudkin flag some of the main considerations in this briefing. Read here.
Trustees often find themselves involved in financial proceedings where a beneficiary is getting divorced. In this briefing, Amy Radnor looks at the possibility of financial proceedings being re-opened due to the difficult economic circumstances brought about by COVID-19.
Please do stay safe and well. We look forward to seeing you in person in better times, and are happy to discuss any advice you might require in the meantime.
Please note, this bulletin does not constitute legal advice and the position is evolving rapidly. If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing, please contact Russell Cohen, Adam Carvalho, Caroline Russell or your usual contact in the firm. Further information can also be found on our website.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, May 2020