Spotlight Interview with John Goodchild

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Why did you choose to become a lawyer? 

I made this decision when I was very young and impressionable after watching a TV drama which featured a solicitor who I thought was cool! I’m not sure the first impression was correct!

What led you to decide to be a Private Wealth Lawyer? 

As part of my training at Withers, I undertook one of my seats in the private client team. Initially it was a baptism of fire working with the brightest and the best on really interesting and difficult issues for a wide spectrum of clients from the British nobility to non-doms, entrepreneurs and captains of industry. After that nothing else really compared!

What does Private Wealth Law entail? 

In a nutshell – a great deal! You need to be technically very strong on UK personal tax law (as opposed to corporate tax law). This covers inheritance tax, capital gains tax, income tax and, increasingly these days, stamp duty land tax. If you work with international clients, as I do, you need to know about tax residence and domicile and the anti-avoidance rules that now surround offshore trusts. It also helps to know how to read double tax treaties. The other crucial aspect for international clients is “private international law” – in essence, which country’s legal system governs which issues. On top of all this you need to know succession law, trust law and the law relating powers of attorney and regulating the affairs of those who lose mental capacity but who don’t have powers of attorney. If you have any capacity left after that it is good to have an understanding of charities law!

Given the breadth of what I have to cover there is huge variety in the assignments I deal with. One day I could be putting together a plan for a non-domiciled client to mitigate UK tax and deal with his assets in multiple jurisdictions and then advising UK-centric clients on wills and lasting powers of attorney. And on another day I could be advising on the structuring and governance of a family company and then advising trustees or beneficiaries on aspects of trust law and whether or not trustees have acted in breach of their duties. Having said that, these days I tend to advise up to the borders of contentious matters and at a certain point I hand over to my colleague Carly Russell who is an expert in that area.

Where do you see opportunities for Private Wealth in the coming months? 

Everyone thought that the rate of CGT was going to be hiked in March and the Government has got to start raising money. We have a period running to December (when Treasury announcements are made) and probably next March with the current inheritance tax and capital gains tax rules and rates in place. So, I would encourage anyone who is thinking about estate planning or disposing of an asset or a business to at least get some advice and explore their options at this point.

Who should seek advice from a Private Wealth Lawyer?

Anyone with reasonable wealth who wants to plan in order to use opportunities to save tax and to avoid falling into tax traps. Secondly, anyone who wishes to make sensible arrangements for their assets and affairs. Not all clients want or need international tax planning but we recognise that every client deserves a carefully thought out estate plan and sensible arrangements that help them through the various stages of life and their family following their death.

What is your favourite restaurant in London? 

Hakkasan – a fun experience, especially on birthdays.

Favourite box set over lock down? 

“Better call Saul” – I admire lawyers who think outside the box!