John Caudwell is thinking a lot about life and death these days.

The 67-year-old billionaire philanthropist said he intends to leave most of his wealth to charity, making him aware of the need to plan carefully for how his fortune will be used beyond his own lifetime.

“Succession planning is vital,” said Caudwell, who sold U.K. mobile-phone retailer Phones4u for 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in 2006. “I just need to leave enough money to my beneficiaries for me to be happy that I’ve looked after them, and the rest all goes to charity.”

Since the pandemic began, the world’s rich have been making the most of more time at home and, in many cases, reduced asset values to outline the future of their wealth. Billionaires will transfer more than $2 trillion within the next two decades, according to research by UBS Group AG and PwC, and the virus is helping to accelerate that shift.

“We’re having a big focus across the teams in EMEA to support clients around succession and estate planning,” said Jeremy Franks, head of wealth planning and advisory for Europe, Middle East and Africa at HSBC Holdings Plc’s private bank. “It’s surprising how many wealthy individuals don’t have an up-to-date will.”

Succession Blueprints
Succession plans are vital to preserving fortunes, but only about a third of family offices -- the investment firms of the rich -- had written blueprints by last year detailing how that would be done, according to research by Campden Wealth and UBS.

Sharp declines in global equities in March prompted some of the world’s wealthy to pass along publicly traded assets to descendants, with the lower values reducing capital gains and potential inheritance taxes.

While those markets have since rebounded, prices of illiquid assets favored by the wealthy -- such as real estate -- are expected to slump in 2020, creating further opportunities to transfer wealth. Meantime, the World Health Organization warned last month that the worst of the pandemic is still to come, and flare-ups are frequent even in countries where the virus appeared contained.

The lockdown “has prompted many of our clients to reflect on their succession planning in a wider sense,” said Philippe De Salis, a partner at multifamily office Stonehage Fleming. “It has acted as a catalyst.”

‘More Focus’
Some wealthy entrepreneurs are drafting wills for the first time, and lawmakers in nations such as the U.S., Australia and Canada have relaxed rules during the pandemic to allow electronic signatures for the documents. About two-thirds of the world’s 500 richest people have self-made fortunes, with most age 40 or older, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

First « 1 2 » Next