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Legacy Planning key to protect US$3.2 trillion worth of GCC family wealth

Family-owned businesses in the UAE and the GCC countries are in danger of losing billions of dollars of wealth and assets due to lack of legacy or succession planning, when the founders of the family businesses are in need to pass on the legacy to the next generation.

Success of family businesses sometimes depends on how the family members – whose relationship are often governed by tribal or traditional values – manage their expectations especially when it comes to sharing the wealth or taking over the management of the business in case of the death of the founder of the business.

Although most UAE family businesses that started off in the 1960s-1980s have passed over to the next generation successfully, many of them might not succeed to the third-generation transition.

Legacy planning is a financial strategy that prepares people to bequeath their assets to a loved one or next of kin after death, according to Investopia. These affairs are usually planned and organised by a financial advisor.

According to Capgemini Research Institute’s World Wealth Report 2021, the population of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) – or the number of people owning more than US$1 million – in the Middle East region grew by 6.8 percent to 800,000, while their wealth soared by 10.7 percent to $3.2 trillion in 2020. The wealth of these rich people – mostly belonging to businessmen – are in danger due to lack of legacy planning.

Global financial wealth rose by 10.6 per cent in 2021 to $530 trillion, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Due to lack of proper corporate structure and corporate governance, most family-owned businesses are failing to maintain the same level of growth under the next generation as before. Many family business founders have passed away without leaving a clear succession plan, a will or legacy planning, resulting in legal disputes among the successors on their perceived share in the family wealth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an urge among most family-owned businesses to undertake some kind of legacy planning or succession planning to protect the family wealth from being plundered.

“We’ve seen more clients take an interest not only in Wills, but also in mental capacity planning by way of an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). A third type of planning, known as “lifetime planning”, has also gained popularity,” said a report by HSBC.

“Whereas a Will only takes effect after an individual’s death, and an EPA/LPA only while they are mentally incapacitated, other types of plans can be set in motion during their lifetime. Clients are increasingly considering trusts, partnerships, and family investment companies as a way of relinquishing value, control and/or influence to the next generation during their own lifetime, or as a way of introducing the next generation to the family’s wealth as a means of continuity.”

For some, the current economic climate has created an opportune time for wealth transfer, with lower asset valuations and lower effective transfer tax rates resulting directly from the pandemic. 

Some clients are not yet ready to surrender control to trustees. As an alternative structure, a family limited partnership (FLP) or a family investment company (FIC) may be considered, HSBC report says.

“FLPs and FICs can still help to coordinate and protect assets, but allow senior family members to retain greater control of assets while transferring wealth in a more gradual manner to the younger generation. An FIC is a private company whose shareholders and directors are members of the family. Shares are usually divided into different classes with varying levels of control. For example: parents own shares with voting rights, while children and grandchildren hold shares with economic or dividend rights but no voting rights.”

Saudi Arabia has the largest number of millionaires in the Middle East with more 224,000 millionaires living in the Kingdom. According to the World Wealth Report 2022 issued by the Capgemini Research Institute for Financial Services, Saudi Arabia is ranked 17th globally in the number of millionaires. There has been a 6.7 per cent increase in millionaires in Saudi Arabia in 2021 when compared to 2020 – from 210,000 to 224,000. 

The Kingdom was followed Kuwait, which witnessed an increase of 6.1 per cent in the number of millionaires from 205,000 to 217,000. Kuwait is 18th globally after Saudi Arabia.

The UAE is home to 92,600 US-dollar millionaires; 4,000 multi-millionaires worth more than $10 million; 251 centi-millionaires (over $100 million), and 14 US-dollar billionaires, according to the latest Henley Global Citizens Report.

Leena Parwani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LPH Financial Services, says. “A large chunk of the wealth might disappear into thin air, right after the death of the founder of the business as the second and the third-generation representatives of these family-owned businesses might not possess the same entrepreneurial zeal. Many of them spend the wealth lavishly in luxury, sometimes wild lifestyle.

“It is therefore very important for the Founders, Chairman and the leaders of the family-owned businesses to start doing legacy planning to protect their hard-earned wealth.”

Legacy planning is crucial to consider before a person passes away. After a person dies, the family’s wealth and possessions are passed on to the chosen successor or next of kin or to people or charities specified in a will.

If a business owner doesn’t have a plan in place for his estate, its management might go against your wishes once it is passed on. Legacy planning is important for all family-owned businesses – small or big. For a small business or farm, or any other assets that require ongoing maintenance, legacy planning is often an important financial tool.

The report further stated there was growth of 5.5 per cent in millionaires in the Middle East while their wealth increased by 6.3 per cent mainly due to technology and recovery in oil prices. The incomes of the richest people grew from 7.8 per cent to 8 per cent due to growth in the stock market.

Leena Parwani said, her company advises business owners, business leaders, family business owners in succession planning, legacy planning and estate planning.

“Most family-owned businesses do not make it to the third generation, while some start to decline during the reign of the second generation. Succession planning is very critical for the survival of businesses passing to the next generations. We have developed in-house expertise in advising family businesses with complex joint family relationship where each member has his share or stake in the business.

“It is very important to understand the family relationships – especially when they are very complex – and find amicable solutions – in order for proper estate planning, legacy planning and succession planning, so that the next generation could enjoy the fruits of the wealth as well as work together as a team to increase the wealth by expanding the family business.”

LPH Financial Services has the expertise to advise family businesses on estate planning and succession planning through a number of financial schemes including Perpetual Investment.

Leena Parwani, who started her financial services practice in 2013, has been one of the UAE’s top financial consultants for the last nine consecutive years, serving large corporations, entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Her company LPH Financial Services offers financial consultancy on personal wealth protection, estate planning, succession planning against potential risks to individuals and companies against various kinds of loss or damage.


Editor’s Notes:

About LPH Financial Services

LPH Financial Services is a Dubai-based leading financial services and insurance advisory that specialises in cost-effective risk assessment, family estate planning, wealth preservation, wealth creation solutions to corporations, small and medium enterprises as well as high networth individuals – in their estate planning, financial planning and business continuity plans.

LPH has a strong and well-balanced portfolio of business covering health, estate planning, life insurance and education policy coverage. It’s health insurance portfolio covers more than 17,000 lives and keeps growing.

LPH Financial Services is run by a team of dedicated financial planners and insurance professionals who are here to ensure that the clients make the right choices when it comes to their financial plan. It aims to become the most trusted and reputed financial consulting firm in the Middle East by leveraging on the collective expertise of its professional team and always delivering excellence.

Simultaneously, the company intends to build long-term value in the insurance and investment industry through alliances with established global partners. Its team is also deeply focused on helping create abundance in health and wealth for expatriates living in the Middle East. LPH believes in setting realistic goals, achieving them in a timely manner with coordinated efforts, and living its vision through every milestone.

Established in 2013 by Ms Leena Parwani, Founder and CEO, LPH Financial Services helps businesses, business owners and high-networth individuals with effective, customised financial planning that solutions are of great value and helps them manage their business, life and financial future better.

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