Sangeeta is a Senior Consultant Solicitor specialising in Private Wealth, Wills and Estate planning and is actively involved in the industry. She joined us just days before the first 2020 lockdown was announced, which she admits was a little daunting as she had never worked for a firm with flexibility and balance at its core and was not entirely sure what to expect.
“I’ll be honest and say that I was worried when lockdown was announced just days before I was due to start, but Louise and Sabrina (our Managing Partners) seemed to take the whole thing in their stride. Of course, they knew what I did not know at that time, which is that the firm already had all the systems and processes in place for everyone to work effectively from anywhere – and they are a strong team. Because of that we have been able to transition in and out of lockdown without any major impact on client service.”
A typical day for Sangeeta now starts at 6.30am when she gets ready for the day, before waking her son. After breakfast and about 20 mins of listening to the reasons why school is not necessary, they head out for their 10-minute walk to school.
Mum-duties complete for now, Sangeeta switches to lawyer mode and heads to her home office. She is pleased to see an email from STEP, requesting that she join the Panel of Experts who will judge their 2021 STEP Private Client awards. STEP is a global professional body, comprising lawyers, accountants, trustees and other practitioners that help families plan for their futures.
“I was on the STEP Panel of Experts last year and it was a really interesting experience so I’m looking forward to being involved again this year. I’ve also been a member of their membership committee (now panel) since in 2018 for which I help to review and approve the suitability of peers requesting to join the organisation. It’s a great way to make new contacts around the world and keep at the forefront of developments in the industry, which is good for me and my clients.”
Full step members like Sangeeta are known as TEPs and are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience.
After consideration of urgent work, Sangeeta makes final preparations for her first appointment of the day, an urgent request to assist clients in South Africa who are currently unable to fly to the UK.
“The clients are going to be guarantors on a secured loan being raised by their UK based company. I was only asked to help yesterday evening, so I had to bring myself up to speed with the details of the transaction overnight.”
The meeting takes place via zoom with the clients sat in their South African lawyer’s office listening to advice from this side of the world.
“This is when I really love technology as I was able to witness the client’s signing without physically being with them. I will receive the hard copies in due course so that I can sign my part and the clients can guarantee the loan without needing to fly to UK. Using technology and our network of international contacts, we can help people all over the world with their wealth management, which has become more important with the current restrictions on international travel.”
The rest of the morning is spent on preparation for her first in person seminar which will take place in July 2021. Sangeeta is organising the seminar with a small group of peers who each have different skills relating to private wealth. At the seminar she will be talking about how business owners can protect and maximise their business and personal wealth, including the value of executing Business Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorneys.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting up with associates and colleagues in person, I’ve hosted webinars over the last few months but it’s just not the same. At this event we will be using a case study to highlight issues that business owners are likely to come across throughout the business life cycle from inception to sale.
I am really passionate about advising business owners on how they can use business wills and business LPAs, as they ensure a smooth synchronisation between business and personal assets, something that is too often overlooked.”
After lunch, Sangeeta takes a call from Louise Allard who has a client who is starting the divorce process and would like to execute a Will.
“If you are married or in a civil partnership and you don’t have a Will, it can be a good idea to get one as soon as you decide to separate, otherwise your ex will remain your primary beneficiary in law until your divorce or dissolution goes through. If you have a Will naming that person as a beneficiary it is also a good time to update it.” .
You can read more about that here. Next, she reviews a Will questionnaire and reconciles her thoughts on how a business owner client might use inheritance tax mitigation strategies to achieve his lifetime objectives.
The client is just starting his day in USA so it will come as no surprise that she meets him via video technology. During the discussion they consider business assets, guardianship for children and the impact the client’s dual American citizenship may have on tax and estate planning.
“Working with international clients poses its own set of challenges, given the different time zones and work cultures from country to country but it keeps things interesting. As I have used technology in this way for a number of years, I’m lucky that I haven’t had to make many adjustments to work within the parameters of the ‘new normal’ in the UK.”
Sangeeta spends some time speaking to the Court and preparing for a forthcoming trial hearing where she will be assisting a client to defend an Inheritance Act claim. The claim is being made by his late father’s girlfriend who believes that she was not adequately provided for when his father passed away.
“Inheritance Act claims are becoming more common among those who believe they have not been sufficiently provided for and this can be very distressing for other beneficiaries who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
The best way to save your loved ones from difficult and drawn-out disputes is to execute appropriate and thorough documentation during your lifetime. At the very least this means preparing a Will with a legal practitioner, but there are extra steps you can take if you think there could be dispute.
If there is still a dispute, a specialist solicitor like myself can be on hand to help resolve the issues that can otherwise separate families.”
You can read more about how to protect your estate from unfound challenges to your Will here.
Sangeeta takes a break to collect her son from school and enjoys some time with him telling her about all the great things that have happened today – is this really the same child she took to school this morning?
After dinner, she takes a call from a friend who has recently lost his brother and needs help dealing with all the bureaucracy and paperwork that comes after.
“A lot of people, including myself, have lost loved ones unexpectedly due to COVID 19. It is distressing enough to lose someone, but the background of a pandemic only amplifies the grief as the death is completely unexpected, you do not have the support network around you that you might usually and it is often the case that there is no Will. Being able to take away the pressure of the mountain of paperwork gives me a real satisfaction as I know I have made a difference to a family at a time when they really needed support and space to grieve their loss.”
With the workday now over, Sangeeta reflects on life as part of the Allard Bailey Family Law team.
“I was initially drawn to the firm because of its flexible working culture, but I have never worked in such a non-conventional structure before, so I did have concerns about what that would mean in practice.
What has really struck me during my first year is everyone’s commitment, both to clients and each other, and how we can utilise the firm’s flexible policies to go the extra mile for both our clients and our families. Having the encouragement of supportive directors and colleagues has meant that my practice has gone from strength to strength in a year that has been very difficult for others.
It’s really empowering to work for a forward thinking and tech savvy firm where you are supported to succeed without being expected to compromise.”