Families, like countries, should have a constitution, says Halsbury Chambers associate, Mikia Cooper.
She believes a constitution or financial framework is a practical and powerful planning tool that sets out a family’s expectations, and helps to avert conflict or even litigation, particularly in cases where there is competition for an estate’s assets.
Fresh from an international conference on private wealth, Ms Cooper, who specialises in family law, estate planning and litigation, said the better the family’s plan for trusteeship or wealth management and estate planning, the less likely they are to call on her – or any other attorney – for litigation skills.
“When there is a death in the family, a family member of the deceased, a beneficiary or other interested party often finds there is a conflict that cannot be easily resolved and, feeling no other way out, they turn to litigation,” said Ms Cooper.
“Often that conflict can be avoided by prudent planning that not only sets out the wishes of the family member but creates a framework for fiduciary responsibilities and expectations.”
The idea of a family constitution was one of several concepts discussed at the first annual Private Wealth Latin America and tThe Caribbean Forum held in Miami in late October.
Ms Cooper was among a Bahamian contingent that included the minister of financial services, Ryan Pinder, and the Bahamas Financial Services Board’s (BFSB) chief executive, Aliya Allen.
“A family constitution is the equivalent of having a legal agreement for family governance,” said Ms Cooper. “This is not a luxury; it is simply practical advice. In the case of a death, where the deceased has placed utmost trust in the trustee or personal representative to manage and protect property or other assets, it eases the burden of the trustee or attorney to play referee instead of asset manager.
“The less involved the beneficiaries are, the easier it will be to ensure the best long-term results for the estate.”
Ms Cooper added that it was vital to ensure that clients have a clear understanding of what is involved, and it was vital to establish a solid relationship with the spouse to understand what his or her expectations are.
More than were speakers at the Miami forum presented information and promoted jurisdictions, but Ms. Cooper said The Bahamas was impressive and widely regarded as being home to one of the best developed financial services sectors in the world with some 6,000 professionals in the relevant industries of banking, law, accounting, insurance vehicles, securities, asset and wealth management.
“In an age when information is available instantaneously, and what happens thousands of miles away impacts every day decisions affecting personal and business plans, Halsbury Chambers invests in resources, time and energy to ensure that every member of the firm is informed,” said its founder, Branville McCartney.
“Clients benefit from the dedication to a combination of basic tradition and immediate response to evolving law and jurisprudence.”