Malcolm Rust: Steady private wealth and tax advice with a focus on the long term

The French have an excellent saying, which translates as: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” And, when applied to assisting individual clients – particularly through the turbulent times of late – nothing could better encapsulate the view of the legal adviser.

Malcolm Rust
Malcolm Rust

With unprecedented levels of government borrowing, dramatic statements about how we’ll all be paying more tax for decades are unsettling, and for many clients it is a case of planning for the worst in the hope of a softer landing.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s private wealth and tax team is focused on the long term. When looking at business structures and succession planning, it would be irresponsible to advise clients with such a focus to react to blips in markets, or the threat of rising tax rates, by suggesting cashing out – “tax tails should not wag investment dogs”.

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A steely focus on sensible, measured planning remains as true now as it ever did.

Equally, in the ambit of charitable giving and protecting the environment, we’ve seen an interesting phenomenon: clients with disposable assets, seeing the value of their philanthropic activity, are engaging with increasing gusto in socially responsible investing. We expect to see this increase as society tackles the climate crisis.

Finally, I might touch on a subject my 16-year-old son is probably better versed in than me: the digital world. Our approach to advising clients on how they can pass on their digital assets and cryptocurrency balances to friends and family has at its heart the same tried and tested tactics – have a plan, inform those closest to you of it, and ensure your will and power of attorney are drawn widely enough to allow your representatives to deal with these new-fangled assets – plus ça change!

- Malcolm Rust is a partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn

This article first appeared in The Scotsman’s Legal Review 2021