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The ranks of the wealthy continue to grow and, increasingly, we live in a world of the “global citizen”. These individuals are constantly finding new outlets for their wealth with a wide range of multi-jurisdictional personal, business and investment interests. But such wealth comes with a multitude of responsibilities and challenges, ranging from evolving family investment strategies and regularly changing tax regimes, to more sophisticated family governance requirements and changing immigration laws – to name but a few.

Taylor Wessing has an international team of lawyers experienced in handling all such matters on your behalf. We can provide you with a fully-integrated legal service, not just for you and your family, but also for your business interests. Our Private Wealth clients include wealthy individuals and multi-jurisdictional trading families and their family offices, global property investors, entrepreneurs, owners and principals of private equity houses, venture capitalists, hedge funds and other financial service companies.

Areas of expertise

  • Disputes in family companies and entrepreneurial families

    In family companies it is not unusual for disputes to arise if original consensus between the family shareholders falls apart. The causes are often conflicts within the family but also questions as to the balance of power within the company which ignite disputes between the generations or shareholder groups. In order to avoid such disputes as far as possible, it is already important at the drafting stage of articles of association and other agreements in this context that such conflicts are anticipated and provided for in the relevant provisions, for which expertise in the area of disputes within family companies provides a vital contribution. If a dispute does arise it can often become emotionally charged on account of the family ties between the disputing parties. Thanks to our long-standing experience with disputes within family companies, Taylor Wessing is in a position on behalf of its clients and also the affected company, to lead such disputes to expedient solutions, which will often be an amicable settlement of the dispute, or if necessary and requested, contentious enforcement of own rights which if applicable can then lead to an amicable solution.

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  • Investments in real estate

    Investments in tangible assets count among the essential property values owned by German and international families and asset holders. The increasing attractiveness of the domestic real estate market is due to both the currently rather low refinancing interest and the relatively high pent-up demand (as compared with international figures) in the German real estate market, which is regarded as having a greater potential for value creation than other European markets. For a number of years there has been a constant, sometimes opportunistic demand from globally engaged family offices for real estate suited to any type of use. The disadvantages faced by foreign investors include limited market access, limited access to German refinancing banks, and limited grasp of appropriate property managers. As opportunistic real estate investments, often for the purpose of saving land transfer tax, are frequently made by way of share deals, close collaboration of the various specialist partners is a must. In this respect, the real estate law practice not only contributes essential know-how, but also provides market access through intermediaries. The banking and finance law segment, on the other hand, facilitates the access to financing banks. Clients can further rely on the combined expertise of the M&A partners in the field of inbound investments, in acquiring a foreign special purpose vehicle (e.g. LuxCo), and in the general mechanisms of bidding procedures. Foreign investors appreciate such close dovetailing.

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  • M&A for family businesses

    Counselling on the disposal of a family-run enterprise is clearly distinct from other types of legal consultancy services. Even if a structured bidding process is involved, the criteria will be very different from those applying to an M&A transaction in the corporate or PE sector. We take account of these differences whenever we advise family businesses, or joint undertakings including a family business, on mergers or acquisitions. The transaction volumes are typically in the double-digit million range, and the relevant processes tend to be rather complex due to the usually existing strategic component. Further consultancy aspects need to be added if the family business is partly exchange-listed.

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  • Optimisation (in regard to inheritance tax) of (international) family fortunes

    Some of the greatest risks in regard to liquidity outflows from family wealth are posed by procedures under inheritance / capital transfer / income tax regulations. Circumstances giving rise to such risks include, for example, the disposal of real property within the holding periods for tax-free private sales (“speculation periods”), holding periods under inheritance / capital transfer tax regulations for maintaining relief options for business assets, and deemed disposals such as in assessable withdrawals from business assets. Such issues are commonplace to the ordinary tax advisor, who, however, requires the advice of tax law experts in order to come up with avoidance strategies. Regardless of this technical approach, the structuring of assets and investments requires long-term counselling on tax implications, whereby either a change of legal form or a restructuring scheme may be recommended. For instance, a private collection of art or vintage cars may be spun off into a public collection in order to obtain exemption under the Inheritance and Gift Tax Act, or foreign real estate may be incorporated into a domestic company.

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  • Shaping (international) asset holding structures

    Wealthy families are highly interested in protecting the family fortune from adverse influences and in preserving it for future generations. Such influences may be exogenic (e.g. inflation, currency fluctuations, business cycles) or endogenic (e.g. divorce, patchwork family, inheritance, relocation). Just as manifold are the diverging interests of the various generations and, possibly, ancestral lines or family branches (retention of power, asset protection, distribution of dividends). The proactive planning of asset structuring in a family holding (family pool) is suited to avoiding potential family conflicts, controlling the bundling and allocation of assets in regard to all parties involved, and transferring interests in a tax-optimised manner. (International) asset holding structures − using foundations and trusts where required − will provide a cross-generational, long-term framework for family fortunes. In the event of a proposed disposal, the early establishment of international legal forms may be beneficial under tax aspects. Structuring the family pool starts with founding a GbR (partnership under the Civil Code) or KG (limited partnership) for the inheritance tax-optimised transfer of real property and ends with international holding structures including at least one foundation/trust. As such structuring typically comprises issues pertaining to corporate, inheritance and tax law, the close intermeshing of corporate, private client and tax partners is a must. In addition, where real property is to be incorporated into holding structures, the expertise of real estate partners will be required.

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  • Universal legal counselling of family offices

    Large family assets need to be managed by a professional family office. The family office, typically controlled by the family patriarchs, will formulate an asset plan jointly with the family, implement the family’s requirements regarding asset allocation, and monitor compliance with the relevant criteria (controlling). Moreover, the family office is responsible for all other commercial and private commitments of the family. Evidently, the demands made on the legal counselling of family offices are manifold, ranging from structuring the family office (establishment, trusteeship, management, reporting, BaFin regulatory matters, banking shell, agreements with asset managers, etc.) to asset structuring (family charter, articles of association, family conferences, etc.) and investments in all asset classes to asset succession and advice on the shaping of non-profit structures. The bandwidth of such legal counselling may correspond to that in the legal department of an SME. Taylor Wessing, with its partner-led approach and national and international stature, is one of the few large law firms living up to this requirements profile with a core focus on family fortunes.

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