Private Client: a lesson in psychology

    Rebecca Adlington says in this week’s The Lady that her greatest fear is death, which I find strange since death is not something that you can control. I prefer Russell Crowe’s advice in the film Gladiator: “death smiles on us all, all you can do is smile back.” Ms Adlington adds that her worst nightmare would be “being stranded in the middle of the sea.” Although I am no psychologist, this to me clearly suggests a fear of lack of control, rather than of death itself. However, having spent two months adrift in the Atlantic, I may have a warped perspective.

    So much of a private client lawyer’s role involves an appreciation of a client’s psychology. Without understanding a person’s background and fears it is impossible to give the appropriate advice. The main advantage of planning your family succession is that you give yourself the choice as to what will happen, rather than being left to the mercy of the choppy seas of the Intestacy Rules or family conflict. If you do not leave a will or set up any lifetime structures, the law dictates that your estate will be split according to what is deemed fair. This means that your spouse will not inherit all your estate if your sole assets are over £250,000 and you have children. Worse if you are not married or in a civil partnership: your partner will not inherit your estate unless you make a will or set up a trust for them before your die.

    When I was training at Leander rowing club, the head coach Mark Banks would roll out the mantra “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” It is fortunate that doing a basic will does not require four-hour daily training sessions, that leave you in agony and desperately gasping for air. A thirty-minute consultation is all that is required which, I can tell you, is nothing to be feared.