Posted: Friday, 9 April 2021 @ 12:04
I can clearly remember my personal trainer telling me years ago that as Human Beings we are creatures of habit and continually looking for a routine – and once we find a routine that we like we continue that routine as it becomes easier the more, we do it. At that moment in time, in the gym, out of breath, I remember thinking what a load of rubbish – you are just trying to make me do some horrible exercise that will nearly kill me off.
However, over the years since then the comment has always stuck in my mind leading me to look at things in different ways and eventually coming to realise that he was absolutely right. As the late Robin Williams stated...Change is not popular; we are creatures of habit as human beings. 'I want it to be the way it was. 'But if you continue the way it was there will be no 'is'.
This is backed up by a whole plethora of scientific articles by psychologists who quite rightly point out that we are literally speaking, creatures, animals - albeit sophisticated ones. But like all animals we are made of flesh and blood with a complex machine for a brain. It is now widely accepted that our daily lives involve repetition of activities, we shop at the same supermarkets, sit at the same seat at a dining table, get fuel from our usual garage ,mostly totally unaware of the details of our actions because a habit is an automatic behaviour that we carry out subconsciously.
The New Scientist stated that “WE HUMANS suffer from an advanced case of self delusion, according to Alex Pentland. We like to see ourselves as free-willed, conscious beings, self-governing and set apart from other animals by our capacity for reasoning. Yet watch people closely, says Pentland, and you find that we are more instinctual and a lot more like other creatures than we care to think”.
So, you may be wondering why on earth this is important? What does it have to do with estate planning or the advice that we give to our clients? This is where we need to critically analyse our own behaviour, our own routines, advice and our own business success.
2020 saw the biggest change to our lives that many of us have ever and will ever experience, but this did not come into effect through our own choice or control, but in contrast it was a change forced upon us by nature. Ask yourself how have you reacted or adapted to that change? Or indeed have you made any changes at all? Have you sat still and waited for things to ‘go back to normal’ so you can fall back into your usual routine?
I personally reacted to the change forced upon us within 4 weeks of the first lockdown and have been continually doing so ever since, perhaps the advice in the gym all those years ago can be credited (partially) with some of the successes I have experienced over the last 12 months – I certainly think so. But would I have ever made those changes if Covid-19 had not happened? We all love a comfort zone, but in business a comfort zone will never get you to the top, if that’s where you want to be. Many people do not want to get to the top and are happy just be ticking over, making a living, and that is fine if that is truly what you want – but if that’s the case, don’t complain when you see others thrive.
Too many people talk the talk about how they are going to set the world on fire – I have seen it a thousand times before, followed by …… nothing, but the harsh reality is any human being can set themselves goals, push themselves out of their comfort zone, embrace change, look at new ways of working and be more successful, rather than simply doing things the way you always have –just because that’s what you have always done.
As a retired solicitor I admit I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology, I love paper files and reading actual books and documents, but this year I have embraced technology – partly because it was forced upon me due to the pandemic. I am also a people's person I like meetings, shaking hands and being tactile – but for the last 12 months I’ve been unable to do this so I have been forced to zoom (which I hate to admit but I had never done before this pandemic) which is actually so easy to use and actually from a commercial perspective is far more efficient, no more wasted hours on a motorway travelling to meetings, valuable time can be put to far better use. The same applies with my wonderful team of consultants, they can speak to clients more efficiently using and embracing technology, because they have been forced to adapt – we all have. Will things ever go back to ‘normal’ who knows? What was normal – was it a habit or routine?
I for one will certainly retain some of the changes I have made in my business life as we have seen efficiency and will things ever go back to ‘normal’ who knows? What was normal – was it a habit or routine? I for one will certainly retain some of the changes I have made in my business life as we have seen efficiency and productivity increase substantially through changing our working practices and I must be entirely honest some of which would never have happened had it not been for the pandemic, so I will be embracing and retaining some of the changes we have made.
Technology is now my best friend (well that may be an exaggeration I still get frustrated when my computer says no!) so much so, I am working on new projects with the wonderful team at Willsuite, (who I must say have been wonderfully patient and fabulous with an old technophobe like me) and my future plans have certainly changed direction purely down to the changes forced upon us by COVID-19. I can now reflect and look back at some of the old processes we had in place, amazed that I had not changed them before – I had not as they were part of my business routine – what we had always done, and probably would have continued to if the pandemic had not occurred. We humans are all the same – creatures of habit in one way or another but we can change and once we do it is truly eye opening.
Another area we fall into habits is the advice we give to clients, we fall into the same pattern, same recommendations (obviously tailored to individual clients). I have seen so many advisors over the years who do not even talk about certain trusts or options with clients because they as an advisor don’t understand or ‘don’t like’ certain products. This attitude isn’t only doing yourself an injustice, but it is also not acting in your client’s best interest.
Acting in your client’s best interest is ensuring you outline all available options and allow them to make an open and transparent decision based on benefits and disadvantages, as well as a costs analysis, by not discussing all relevant options because of your own personal bias is a dis-service to your clients. You can remedy this with change, change your attitude, change your perceptions simply by learning. If you do not understand a certain Trust – then make a change – book a training course, do research, speak to your peers, not only will it change your understanding and knowledge, but it will change your business.
Law is an area that is continually changing by its very nature, through case law and statute, therefore, as an industry we must fight our innate human desire to resist change, it is your responsibility to your clients to be aware of change and adapt to changes to ensure any advice given is fully up to date and accurate.
Speaking of change it was anticipated there would be substantial change to the Inheritance Tax regime following Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech last year, where he promised to do ‘whatever it takes to support the economy’. After a year of the government spending in an unprecedented manner whilst it battled with the Pandemic, many thought IHT would be an easy target to help replace the coffers.
There are mixed feelings within the industry regarding the proposed changes put forward by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inheritance & Intergenerational Fairness, both recommending various forms of overhauling the IHT system.
However, it is plain to see that the current IHT system is unfair and unnecessarily complex, the introduction of the residential nil rate band in 2018 only served to increase the complexities.
It therefore came as quite a surprise that the budget did not bring about any of the proposed changes, such as the removal or reduction of exemptions, a dramatic hike of the rate of IHT charged in line with post world war 2 levels of 80%, or the question whether gifting into trust or intergenerational gifting would survive or if a lifetime gift cap could be introduced?
It appeared extremely likely that the government already desperate to re-coup funds spent on the pandemic would grasp the opportunity provided by these two reports to increase revenue. So, no changes at the moment, which provides an opportune window for individuals to maximise longer-term estate planning. However, the question remains - how long before the inevitable change occurs? The lack of any announcement by Mr Sunak only serves to postpone the inevitable overhaul.
Our very own Trevor Worth was involved with the OTS discussions and we hope to continue to be part of any working initiatives regarding proposed changes to IHT in the future ensuring the IPW is at the forefront of the estate planning industry.
It is hard to see how the government already desperate to re-coup funds spent on the pandemic cannot look at these two reports and see an opportunity to increase revenue at some time in the future. Someone asked me recently if I’m nervous about potential changes, I’d be fibbing if I said no – but I’m also excited, all change brings those emotions, but in the legal industry our role is to find solutions to problems, I expect there to be significant changes on the horizon for our profession – but those changes will bring about new opportunities, different methods of planning and different solutions for our clients, that is the way the law works and I for one am ready to embrace the change –are you?
Written by Council Member, Sarah Williams.