Lindsay Leggat Smith is a Scottish solicitor who has worked in the international trust and company services field in Monaco for some 30 years. Following the recent acquisition of Carey SAM in Monaco by international professional services provider Equiom Group, Lindsay continues to serve as Chair of the Monaco operations, where a significant part of the business relates to cross-border inheritance issues, an area in which Lindsay has considerable practical experience.
What are currently the hottest topics being discussed in relation to wills and probate in Monaco?
Without a doubt, the hot topic of the moment is Monaco’s enactment in June of this year of Law No. 1.448, which brings welcome clarity to many facets of private international law. These include such matters as the competence of the local courts, recognition of foreign judgements and public documents, conflict of laws, various forms of contractual obligation and importantly, matters involving the person being capacity, marriage, divorce and separation, adoption and maintenance provisions. Inheritance (“Succession”) is dealt with at Chapter V of Section II. The principal change relates to the introduction of the concept of professio juris into Monaco law. While this principle, which allows individuals to choose the law applicable to certain of their activities, is now to extend to several areas such as marriage, divorce and separation and certain contracts, its effect is likely to be felt mainly in the field of inheritance.
Monaco is henceforth aligned with the principal provisions of the European directive, allowing choice of law in matters of inheritance, with the choice now being available between the law of the place of last domicile or the deceased’s national law. Nationals of common law countries who reside in Monaco may thus now submit the administration of their estates to their respective national law as opposed to the civil law of Monaco, their place of domicile. This can often be of interest to testators unfamiliar with local law who are reluctant for it to be applied to their estate, and in particular the civil law principle of forced heirship. Law 1.448 has the effect of extending to simple Wills the essential features of Monaco’s Law No 214 of 1935, which still regulates Will Trusts written by common law nationals in Monaco. Failure to make a choice will result in Monaco law being applied to its full effect.
What are the challenges associated with operating in this sector?
Monaco is home to individuals of 130 different nationalities, so the main challenge of catering to the inheritance needs of this clientele stems from the huge diversity of the issues which can present themselves. These are often very complex, involving questions of law and taxation, in particular in several jurisdictions at once – in circumstances where the heirs of a deceased Monaco resident are themselves located in different countries. Complex family relationships also arise in cases where a deceased may have children from several marriages. Executors and Trustees often find themselves facing questions which go beyond matters of estate administration. The work is stimulating and allows a great deal of interaction with our network of colleagues and contacts overseas.
What do you think lies on the horizon for wealth management?
Opinions will differ, but it may turn out that the effects of the seemingly unstoppable rush to transparency in all walks of life will dictate or at least greatly influence wealth management strategy for the immediate future. Beneficial Ownership and Trust Registers, FATCA and CRS automatic exchanges of information, and Legal Entity Identification numbers for securities transacting in Europe are all measures designed to track and record investments and assets held by individuals and, to a lesser extent, businesses. These latter are, however, subject to no less intrusive controls at various levels. Leakage of information through investigation, theft, hacking and the like will be exploited on social media. The overall result will be a continuing drive towards investments which are beyond reproach, transparent, fully reported and taxed, and socially sustainable.
Carey SAM recently became part of Equiom– could you tell us a bit about the acquisition?
Carey SAM in Monaco joined Equiom Group in late September but we are already seeing the impact of this exciting new development. The acquisition process was most harmonious and it is obvious that we share many common values. Equiom is a multi-jurisdictional business with offices in many leading international financial centres. The Group’s focus is entirely aligned with ours – attaining the best possible outcomes for our clients, wherever they are and whatever their needs. Being part of Equiom Group will give us that extra reach and opportunity to work with our new colleagues towards that goal.