An internationally acclaimed thoracic surgeon, Anthony Yim, MD was forced by poor health to give up his successful medical career. And while most people might consider a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis to be one of the worst scenarios that could befall a surgeon, Dr Yim responded differently.
Talking it through
“The experiences of Dr Yim and Alibhai show us that life-altering events can happen to anybody, regardless of one’s age or accomplishments,” says Ann Ling, Team Head of Wealth Planning (Hong Kong, Philippines and International Market) at HSBC Global Private Banking. “Therefore, it should be part of our life strategy to build a contingency plan for such occurrences.”
It’s an uncomfortable subject, and often families procrastinate, seeking advice only when a health crisis hits. Yet ageing or an unexpected illness could affect individuals’ ability to hold important conversations and make major decisions – not to mention emotions becoming a distraction and clouding judgement.
“Our role as wealth planners is to facilitate these conversations and to guide our clients to arrive at holistic solutions to fulfil their objectives,” Ling adds. “Part of growing old gracefully is to have a plan in place.”
This may include preparing a plan or wealth structure for the lifestyle and healthcare costs associated with longer life expectancy or unexpected illness, as well as wealth transfer and legacy planning. Entrusting a professional trustee with experience in managing client matters in accordance with their wishes and to act in their best interest is another option.
Changes in health also can affect the continuity of a family business and potentially the future of employees.
“It’s never easy for elder generations to relinquish control of the family business, especially when they are forced to do so because of health reasons,” Ling notes. “We also see situations where family members don’t wish to or are not capable of taking over. This is where family governance comes in.”
Succession planning when family members are still in good health means they can actively participate in the process, and decisions can be made in alignment with family values and goals. Experienced advisers can facilitate this, giving alternate perspectives and sharing best practices to establish a framework for future ownership, control and management of the family business.
Facing up to it
The uncertainties of later life aren’t always easy to think about – but nor can they be avoided.
“Planning can be a rewarding experience. It can help you to focus on what matters most in life and sometimes allow you to reflect and appreciate other family members’ points of view,” Ling notes.
A wealth plan can bolster your financial resilience, ensure a strong legacy, protect your family’s assets and support successful transitions between generations. The financial and emotional benefits of accepting that life is unpredictable and planning accordingly are therefore very significant, says Ling.
“Ageing is a process to embrace – as we get older we should accept the changes and plan for them, then we may see things differently. When you have a plan in place you have peace of mind and you can focus on your health and other matters.”
Early wealth planning can help you cope with unexpected circumstances that could affect you, your family or your business, so you can find the opportunity in life’s challenges. Read more wealth planning insight here, or contact us.