Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Julia Cox, Charles Russell Speechlys

Date: 08 Jun 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Julia Cox, Charles Russell Speechlys

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

I am a partner in the tax, trusts and succession team (within Private Client) at Charles Russell Speechlys. We are a pre-eminent private wealth law firm, in the UK and internationally.

The advice I give encompasses almost everything that emanates from the individual’s concern to secure, manage and pass on assets, including their businesses and land, usually as tax efficiently and as protectively as possible, but always (ultimately) to secure their own particular objectives. In my experience, every family is different, not just the unhappy ones as Tolstoy would have us believe. 

Most obviously my work involves tax mitigation, Wills, powers of attorney and trusts, all regularly laced with some international dimension (assets, children etc).  However, it regularly covers my clients’ family company (trading and investment) concerns and philanthropic ambitions (creating and managing charitable foundations). 

I have been really privileged to have acted for a number of clients for more than one, if not two decades now and I am often their first port of call for any legal ‘issue’. I like to bring the best of our specialists in to deliver the desired result for them in the way I know from experience that they want it (think Rolls Royce service). I highly value the relationship we have formed.

How is the Estate Planning industry evolving? Any trends?

The pandemic brought significant changes to estate planning as virtual meetings proliferated and the virtual witnessing of Wills was legislated.

It also led to heightened anxiety about increased taxation and, from there, the rising cost of living, inflation and other financial concerns.

With tough times, pre and post pandemic, I saw, and see, an ongoing trend towards succession and trust dispute.  I find myself, more than ever, stress testing non-contentious matters with dedicated trusts and estates litigators to work out the most protective things we could do to counter any appropriate ‘attacks’ and I find that incredibly valuable for my clients’ matters.

You are currently dealing with Transition of Wealth and Pre-nuptial Agreements. Could you tell us more about major challenges you are facing in these areas?

From my experience, some of the key challenges have included:

  • Within the same next generation, some have not entered pre-nups, with others now doing so (post-nups are notoriously harder for the former to enter now, with a party potentially giving up rights already acquired on marriage). This can create particular headaches with different approaches required – as well as different tax consequences to navigate – on planning asset protective succession to that generation.
  • International mobility of clients can sometimes involve having to project forward and (potentially) write appropriate agreements in all relevant jurisdictions, all the while not putting too much on the client planning their romantic wedding!
  • Finding the best way to navigate distinct wider advantages that can flow from these agreements, such as provision on a death (as much as divorce) and furthermore potential tax mitigation on the former.  We have done a great deal of work on this, where we work hand in glove in tax and succession with our leading matrimonial colleagues, and have achieved some excellent outcomes; but there have been challenges to get there.

ESG: Are your clients behaving differently in the present scenario?

Many of my clients are executives or entrepreneurs, with decision-making powers that affect the products we consume, the companies producing them, their workforces and societies; they are now (axiomatically) heavily engaged with ESG. 

Wealthy individuals can also have a powerful impact as significant consumers and are now often lighter on their feet when it comes to ESG in making their (investment) decisions when compared with institutions.  So, for example, I have a client who has, since the advent of ESG, evolved her generously endowed charity’s general charitable objects to a sustainable agenda that includes education of apprentices on a perpetual basis within a leading health hotel on a self-sustaining estate with local outreach.

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

It means a great deal; I have been recognised (with independent verification) and indeed recommended, alongside very many professional peers I greatly admire.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for an expert working in Tax/Estate Planning?

Very high amongst these is to remember that people are ultimately buying people notwithstanding we are working in Tax/Estate Planning. There’s a commercial angle to this; stress-testing cost benefit for the client, as well as the expert’s business. However, there’s also an extra dimension that involves the expert deploying their expertise and experience in order to truly understand the individual’s need and concern, seeking to address that in its unique context and caring when doing so, bringing due compassion to what are often difficult matters.  All that hopefully results in the client forming a relationship with the expert that is meaningful to both in the longer term.  That and, yes, great service!

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

“Every minute is another minute to turn it around.”  It helps combat the terrible black and white thinking that can be the innate tendency of many lawyers, I find!

Julia Cox is a member of our Leaders List.

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