Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Helen Stewart, Thomson Snell & Passmore

Date: 06 Jul 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Helen Stewart, Thomson Snell & Passmore

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role

I have been at Thomson Snell & Passmore for over 21 years and I am a business owner and Partner within the Estates, Tax & Succession department heading up the Probate division. I lead a team of 11 specialist lawyers who pride themselves on providing excellent client service in all areas of probate work including high value estates with multi-jurisdictional assets, estates with farms and business assets, complex multiple death intestacies, non-dom, reseals and Independent Administrator work. I have particular experience in administrating estates in conflict and I am regularly asked to take on the role of an Independent Administrator through the Firm’s Trust Corporation.

The Team has grown substantially, particularly over the past five to six years and has recently been recognised for its expertise by winning Best Probate Team – London and South East at the Probate Research Awards. The firm as a whole was also recognised at the recent Citywealth Magic Circle Awards, winning Gold in the Law Firm of the Year (UK-wide) category.

In addition to my role as head of division, I also sit on the Firm’s Board addressing strategy and governance of the business.

What are the most common questions you usually receive from high net worth individuals who own estates with multi-jurisdictional assets? And what are your replies to these questions?

The increased mobility of clients and globalisation of their moveable and immovable assets means that on death assets are likely to be located in several jurisdictions. One of the most common questions is ‘how will my overseas assets be dealt with on my death and will they be able to be administered efficiently?’ The answer lies in carefully coordinated multi-jurisdictional wills and separate situs wills. This planning will ensure that there is a coordinated approach, which the estate’s personal representatives can implement without undue complications, saving the estate from having to address additional complexities on process and succession.

Another one is ‘how will I avoid unnecessary probate costs?’ Using separate situs wills can greatly assist with reducing probate costs and can strip out and save time in dealing with overseas assets facilitating more efficient estate administration.

We are also often asked ‘will my estate be taxed in more than one jurisdiction?’ Unilateral relief and double taxation agreements may come into play for those high net worth individuals holding assets in different jurisdictions.

How can your clients prepare for Inheritance Tax planning?

Simply by carefully coordinated and regularly reviewed plans being put in place to ensure that the worldwide assets can be dealt with in accordance with the testator’s wishes ensuring that the estate passes in accordance with the testator’s intentions without undue complexities becoming involved.

What does it mean to you to be a member of Citywealth’s Leaders List?

It is a privilege to be recognised in the Citywealth’s Leaders List as it demonstrates and cements a recognition of my leadership skills in the management of my exceptionally talented team of lawyers and also my own ability in my areas of specialism.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for a Head of Probate?

To listen, have empathy, communicate in a clear and straight forward way, to have an open door policy, to engage and promote a progressive environment to inspire and develop members of the team and the business.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

Don’t ever stop learning and growing as a person.

Helen Stewart is a member of our Leaders List.

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