Welcome to the festive edition of the Conyers Private Client & Trust Bulletin, where we update on recent matters of interest from our jurisdictions of Bermuda, BVI and the Cayman Islands.
This edition combines the practical with the technical, and a dash of regulatory comment. Robert Lindley and Wesley O’Brien consider the vexing questions of when beneficiaries can’t – or worse, don’t want to be – found by trustees, and they offer some helpful pointers. Robert has also coordinated with our Hong Kong partner Anna Lin to consider and offer some advice on the status and location of debts owing to BVI companies by deceased persons in Hong Kong. Also from Asia, Hong Kong based partner Peter Ch’ng sets out some details of new provisions there for estate planning structures and family offices to qualify for profits tax concessions. The use of family offices in the region – particularly in Singapore – is much discussed at the moment. With the possible introduction of the European proposed “global tax on corporate profits”, these types of concessions could be critical in the months ahead: watch this space. Finally, Charlie Searle, secondee to our Bermuda office, gives an update on the discussion of public registers of beneficial ownership. Privacy of course remains a major concern for us all, advisers and clients alike (as I write, last night a client informed me of news of another data leak from Cyprus).
In terms of team comings and goings, since our previous bulletin we have welcomed and now will be bidding farewell to Charlie Searle, who has been on secondment from London firm Charles Russell Speechlys. Our department has been embracing secondments for over 30 years now – Charlie is our sixth secondee. In addition to practical hands-on-deck support, of more value we find are the long term cultural connections and relationships built during these visits. It is interesting that this remains as true today as it was 30 years ago. Our secondee alumni have gone on to do many great things, including becoming a Conyers partner! So we wish Charlie all the best. Team members Grace Quinn and Satjivan Aujla are soon returning from extended leaves, and we look forward to welcoming them back. We also welcome Senior Associate Lana Dixon as the newest member of the Cayman team.
Finally, all of this is possible and happens because of our truly outstanding clients and their onshore advisers. All of the complex problems, difficult questions and tight deadlines challenge, push us, and make us better. Best wishes to all of you for the festive season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Transparency or privacy – which of these priorities prevails? A ruling on 22 November 2022 by the Court of Justice of the European Union might mean privacy prevails when it comes to the question of whether or not a public register of beneficial ownership will be legislated for in Bermuda any time soon. Read more
It will be important for the trustee to be capable of demonstrating that it has made sufficient reasonable efforts to find and/or contact the relevant person. Robert Lindley and Wesley O’Brien provide a step-by-step guide to dealing with missing or uncooperative beneficiaries.
Trusts exist for the benefit of their beneficiaries and it is to beneficiaries whom trustees owe their duties. Whether the beneficiaries have a fixed interest or not, trustees owe their duties to the beneficiaries as a whole and trustees are therefore placed in a challenging predicament when beneficiaries cannot be located. While it sounds highly unusual, it is not altogether uncommon for executors of deceased estates and even for professional trustees to find themselves administering a trust or estate, but unable to distribute to one or more of the primary beneficiaries, because such person cannot be located or is unwilling to communicate with the trustee, meaning that the trustee cannot obtain a valid receipt and discharge. Read more
For businesses that are family-owned and run in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, it is common for beneficial ownership and control of the business enterprise to be vested in the shareholders of a company incorporated in the BVI. Due to the benefits associated with the BVI’s corporate privacy laws and their particular attractiveness for high-net worth individuals and families, the beneficial ownership of the entire business may even be denominated in the shares issued by the BVI company at the top of the international business structure. Read more
Never content to be left out of the competition for wealth management of ultra-high-net-worth families from Singapore and Dubai, Hong Kong recently enacted a new tax concession regime (Inland Revenue (Amendment) (Tax Concessions for Family-owned Investment Holding Vehicles) Ordinance 2023) for qualifying single family offices to exempt its family-owned investment holding vehicles and their investment portfolios and special purpose vehicles from Hong Kong profits tax. Read more